When I was thirty-four, I lost my mind. It had been ten years since the last time, and I found myself ransacking my bedroom for the map—torn up and burnt—which would guide me toward my bearings.
Outside, the air was gathering up its new identity. Its nametag of Winter had been removed and thrown away; it was now calling itself Spring. The yellow daffodils, though beautiful, were just confusing to me. All I could see and feel was emptiness.
The last time, which was not the first time, I was twenty-four.
The first time, which may have not been the first, was when I was newly sixteen.
I have lost my wallet once, dropped during a bike ride in Boulder, Colorado. But a considerate Samaritan returned it to me, several hours later. They knocked on my front door and handed it to me.
I lost my favorite red scarf somewhere in the Museum of Natural History during the first week of January. Then, I found it near the photo booth by the bathrooms. A few months later, I lost it for good somewhere in the halls of a community college.
Losing a mind is tricky. You can’t exactly retrace your steps or ask a friend to ask their friends to keep an eye out for it. You certainly can’t put up fliers or ask the subway conductor to make an announcement:
“EXCUSE ME, PASSENGERS, A LOST MIND, WEIGHING IN AT ABOUT THREE POUNDS WAS LAST SEEN IN CROWN HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN WEARING A NAVY BLUE SHIRT. PLEASE CONTACT LOCAL AUTHORITIES IF YOU LOCATE THIS MIND.”
When I lost my mind at sixteen, my mother found me. I was sliced up and unconscious. My mind slowly crawled its way out of my body. I was gathered up and sent to stay in a hospital for twenty-one days.
I was confused how I would retrieve my mind in a place that caused me to lose it even further. It grew blurry and the signal was weakening. I was around others that encouraged me to remain lost. I was given tiny capsules to swallow that slurred my mind into curious shapes. My appetite, that I coveted, was lost as well. It simply vanished, leaving me bony, translucent and weak.
Six years ago, I lost a brown, corduroy cap, which I had borrowed from my then-girlfriend. I left it somewhere between a thrift store dressing room and a bike ride throughout downtown Denver. That night, when I told her of this loss, she cried. It had been in her life for a long time, with memories stitched into the fabric, visible only to her. She asked me to go and look for it. By then, it was nighttime and all the lights had been turned off, but I jumped on my bike and began retracing my steps. I begged the moon to point me toward the direction of this hat, but it was barely a sliver of light that night. When I got home, we mourned the loss of her hat and slept in silence.
When I lost my mind at thirty-four, it was due to various factors colliding. It felt like a gang-bang of bad news. I had lost my partner, then my therapist, and the dark in me was growing like persistent ivy all throughout my body. I could feel my sense of direction weakening. Food, which once gave me such pleasure, was making me sick. I couldn’t chew. My skin was beginning to show imprints of my wandering mind. My white skin with old scars was turning red with new scars. My tongue was no longer being utilized and my spit dried up. I may have stopped swallowing; what was there to swallow?
One day, on my thirty-fourth year, I awoke deciding to no longer search for it. My mind was gone and I could feel myself slowly slink away, like a snake slithering out of its skin. But I was not looking to regrow anything. Instead, I was ready to disintegrate.
When I was somewhere between eight and ten, I lost a moccasin in a brook behind my best friend’s house that we weren’t allowed to wander in, so I couldn’t tell anyone of my loss. I can’t remember how I explained my arrival that night with one bare foot. I can’t recall if anyone even noticed.
When I lost my mind, no one asked me if I wanted help looking for it. People don’t tend to talk about this kind of loss.
I got it back. My mind. My skin of scars. No more new ones though. I’ve given up on the pills, so I’m free from the side effects. I’ve got my appetite and my voice back. I wouldn’t say I feel complete ease that I’ll never lose track of my mind, but I’ve hoarded enough maps to make sure I’ll at least find my way back to it sooner, if it tries to bail again.