Four Rules for Finding Things

a short story, by Emily Iannuzzelli

Photo by Becca KuenyWHY I AM HERE? Because I’m your sister, that’s why. Because I love you. I care about you. And because you need to be in court, like right now. I was waiting for you outside the courthouse, like we talked about. Everyone’s there right now waiting for you. I tried calling, Mom tried calling. You weren’t answering – even Brian tried calling! The judge said he’d wait exactly 15 minutes. Did you forget about the custody hearing? Good. I didn’t think so. Let’s go.

You can’t find Max’s school records?! That’s why you’re barefoot. And still in bed. And not dressed and already at the hearing. Really? It’s not because you fell asleep two hours ago and aren’t ready to emerge from your drug induced coma? Joking! Just a little sister joke.

The school records? I’ll look for them while you get dressed. Just because you can’t find them doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. We have to believe, here. We have to follow Dad’s Four Rules for Finding things. I don’t care whether you hate them. They work.

Rule Zero: Lose Something

For example, you lost Max’s school records. Do you have any other evidence? The receipt from the YMCA for his karate classes? You can’t use that as evidence! I took him to all his karate classes! There was also a letter from his babysitter? And a bunch of other stuff? Like what? Ok, ok ok. We’ll find it.

Are you worried the evidence is lost? No, I meant, like lost and gone forever, like it flew away in the wind, or got thrown away. Yes, I know, we could spend a lifetime talking about what it means to lose something. Like when grandma died and all the people said “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Do you remember when Carol, her neighbor with the tattooed eyebrows, said that? And you yelled, saying that we didn’t lose her, she’s dead, and slammed the door on her eyebrows. That was cruel. These rules don’t apply to that kind of loss anyways.

Your shoes are under your bed, by the way. Under a blanket, under a shirt, under your bed.

Losing the bad guys chasing you? That’s a good one! Yeah, I guess you could lose something by escaping from it, whether its a person or a demon: lose the police, shake the addiction, ditch the makeup. How about when you lose your way? I don’t know if these rules help with that either, but if they do, that’s good, because if there were ever a way for you, you have long since and certainly lost it. Again, it’s becoming clear that these rules will only help with your misplaced things, and not with all your problems. Like remember when you “lost your lunch”? I do. I was next in line at the pharmacy, getting Max’s epipen when you called. You sounded like low tide, sunny and calm, to say you were having a panic attack. I asked if you were high, and you nodded over the telephone. I came back right away, without your son’s medicine, and you yelled at me, while throwing up into the recycle bin. I think that’s when I realized that I have lost you, lost my sister. We didn’t even laugh when I said you couldn’t recycle vomit. I pray, sometimes, that Dad’s rules for finding things will help me find you. I pray, every day, that you don’t die or kill someone in a car accident, so you can find control over your life. So you can find things you’ve never had before. Do you like spending all your time searching for things you’ve had already and lost? Creeping from one need to the next? Do you think that’s what we’re here for? On earth? You could’ve been a mailbox, or a hamstring, or a wave.

Stop screaming at me. I’m not crazy! I’ve had a lot on my mind. Fuck you. I don’t give a shit either. And you better pray these rules help when you lose Max today. What? Stop screaming! I literally don’t know where your shoes are. The blanket/shirt under the bed was a guess, I had a feeling and it didn’t pan out. It’s ok. That happens sometimes, and we just move forward. It got your torso out of bed didn’t it? You can wear one of the other pairs of shoes you own. Yes, yes you can. What do you mean they don’t go with your outfit? You’re in your underwear! Plus, remember, we’re not looking for your shoes!

We are looking for the school records and other stuff that you are going to use as evidence of your ability to take care of your son, another human being! And you can’t even find the evidence! Do you think that might be a sign? Possibly that you are not fit to take care of him? Was there ever any evidence? You’re hunting for a unicorn, you know.

Don’t say that. Don’t tell me I’m acting like Mom. She’s not on Brian’s side. Nobody is on anybody’s side. She just wants to take care of Max. And you.

Get out of bed. Do rule number one:

Rule Number One: Move Your Fucking Body

Sorry. Sorry, sorry.

Rule One: Move Your Body

You can’t even sit up properly. Get up! Jeez, seriously? Get up. Stop crying. Walk around the room. Look at your surroundings from a variety of different perspectives. Here! Is this the folder? No. No, but here is the water bill from 5 months ago you thought you lost and had stopped looking for. See? The benefits of searching.

There’s so much crap everywhere. Let’s move onto to rule two.

Rule Two: Move the World Around You…

Wow! Did you really have to move your bed in front of the door to look underneath it? You are making a mess. That’s not what rule two is about. Stop throwing all your clothes out of the closet, you’ll never find them when you need them!

Rule Three: But Make it Better Than Before

What does that mean? Organize shit. That’s what it means, ok? I know it will take forever. But guess what? We’re addressing a root cause. Your black shoes are definitely not the problem right now, we’re not even technically looking for them, we’re looking for Max’s school records, and those are not really even the problem. You’re losing so much more. We’re filling in an underlying issue of loss here, because you wouldn’t have lost the records if your house wasn’t a mess. Your house wouldn’t be a mess if you got to bed at a reasonable time instead of doing whatever it is you do all night, if you “clean as you went” instead of pushing everything everything off until later. If you wouldn’t lose yourself into the better feeling of being high. Don’t bring dad into this – he’s right about cleaning as you go. It’s a good rule. My car? Leave my car out of this. I know it’s not perfect, but it will get you to court! How many cars have you totaled since I bought mine? I’m not the one who’s barefoot and sobbing and supposed to be in court in negative 10 minutes. Yes! We have 5 minutes. Can’t you read a clock?! Are you kidding? Go put your contacts in, then. What are you thinking? No, you don’t have time for a shower. I’m sure. I’m positive. No!

You turn on the shower. A teeny part of me hopes you drown. The rest of me moves onto rule four:

Rule Four: Sometimes You Have to Give Up

Usually, Dad says you have to give up because whatever you’ve lost is probably waiting for you in the next place you would have gone, anyways. Ha! Probably not in this case. I laugh out loud, thinking of your shoes, and Max’s school records, neatly placed on the court bench. Representing you in your absence. Somehow telling the bold faced lie which you plan to unfurl before the judge. You drip back into the room.

It still makes sense to give up. You will lose so much more today. Back to rule zero. More to lose.

Photograph by Becca Kueny