Just before my last move I dropped in on this downtown Japanese gift shop. It specializes in ceramics and porcelain. I wanted a kitchen knife, since the one I got at Target fell apart immediately, the blade corroding and the wooden handle practically melting. Whenever I buy a knife I feel vaguely guilty, like it's going to be used as a murder weapon and traced back to me if I'm not cautious.
I picked up three tiny ceramic pieces, glazed in jade green. They were shaped like traditional Japanese structures: a gate, a bridge, and a pagoda. I figured I could use them in a fish tank or maybe a small garden, but I had no real use for them; I just found them irresistable. The old man who worked the counter wrapped them up in pieces of crinkly green-blue paper. When I got home I stuck them in the junk drawer and forgot about them.
On an evening eight months later I was packing for another move. I hadn't expected to stay where I was more than a month, and almost everything was still boxed. During that time one of the wrapped pieces strayed from its junk box and was sitting on the counter; I made to reunite it with the others.
But only one other package was in the junk box. I dug around for the third, emptied the box's contents, searching for the distinctive green wrapping, to no avail. I searched a couple of boxes containing fragile things. Nothing. I widened the search, looking through every container I knew contained odds and ends, but the package was not there.
I returned to the two I had, felt their contents through the paper. One was definitely the pagoda, while the other felt like the gate. Where was the bridge? Had I even bought the bridge? I asked myself. I must have... they all went together. I searched the fragile-thing boxes again, through all the kitchen drawers and cabinets, standing on my toes to feel around the high shelves, opening everything that had contained glassware. Still no bridge.
After relenting a couple of hours I gave in to compulsion. Had it been wrapped in blue-green paper like the others? I searched more boxes, including still-sealed ones. I even sifted through bags of styrofoam peanuts in case I'd accidentally dumped the package in. It did not turn up; I decided to let it go, again. I must have lost it someplace... it's rare that I lose anything, but it happens from time to time, even to me.
When I finished the Clive Barker novel I'd been reading, the sun was up. The feeling that I'd read this book before nagged me a few times, and as I reached its conclusion I understood that I had, but had for some reason forgotten most of the details. This too was unusual. The first reading was followed by an irrational creep-out days later... I'd attributed it to the book. This time I just thought it was cool.
Finished now, I put the book down and wandered around my apartment in the early morning light. Though I understood I should go to bed I found myself looking for the bridge. There were still places unsearched.
As the morning carried on I pored through every box in the storage room; I looked inside boots and between books and up cardboard tubes; I searched the shelves of my closet, behind the socks and underwear. Sleep deprivation had overtaken me, and the edges of things were becoming unreal, which is when I'm at my most lucid.
"If it isn't where it was supposed to be," I said aloud, "and it wasn't in any of these other places, then I guess that means you lost it." That was the end. I went to take a leak before bed.
It was a shame about the bridge being lost. The pieces went together so nicely. Then I had another thought.
I opened the box containing the two paper-wrapped packages, peeled back the tape of the one containing the gate, and unwrapped it. Inside was the gate, and the bridge, nested together within the crinkly green paper.