Friday, May 12, 2006

The Sound of One Glove Clapping

As you know, I’ve been dealing with the loss my right glove for several weeks now.

I’ve tried to rise above it, evolve into a different reality by telling myself that one glove is better than none, that I can make do with wearing one glove, keeping the other hand warm in my pocket between braking and shifting. For a long time I continued to look for the glove along the route that I lost it – which was becoming tedious, actually. But then something happened that put an end to that misery. –a strange and unlikely event, which I’ll get to later.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t just go buy a new one (or a new pair, I mean, because of course they won’t let you buy just one, which is really annoying). But it’s not that simple. First of all I don’t take easily to new things – I always want the old thing, the one that has conformed its shape to my use, the one that has become a version of myself, the one I’ve befriended. The other problem is that if I bought a new pair, I’d then have three gloves, which I’d find equally disturbing. Eventually I’d lose another one, but it would be the right one again -- right? and I’d be left with two left ones.

I thought about that a lot. Two left gloves. I imagined how as a joke I’d donate them to a thrift shop and the thrift shop staff wouldn’t notice they were both left hands and would set them out for sale. A hapless customer would try one on and snap them up for only a dollar fifty, delighted at the bargain. Weeks later they’d go to put them on and discover they were both for the left hand, and they’d stand there staring at them, apoplectic, immobilized by confusion. Already they were dealing with their teenager wanting to change genders, in addition to their terminally ill father they’d been taking care of for eight long months now deciding to marry that slattern of a housekeeper who now sat poised to nab the inheritance.

That on top of everything would be the last grain of rice in the burrito’s saddle bags and the person's mind would snap and they’d plunge into the abyss of schizophrenia that they’d been verging on all these years, and it would be my donation of two left gloves to the thrift shop, my idea of a joke, that nudged them over the edge. Meanwhile I’d be going along my merry way, occasionally remembering my hilarious prank and chuckling happily, oblivious to the actual result.

How could I run out and buy a new pair of gloves with that hanging over my head?

The loneliness of it also bothered me. Not my loneliness, but of the two gloves, each separated from its mate. Who knew what fate had befallen the lost one? Had it been picked up by a slobbery dog and been carried off to be slowly gnawed to death in some hairy dog-bed? I tried not to let myself think of it.

As for the one I still had, I lived with an acute awareness of its suffering. But deep inside myself, I noticed that along with the loss of one glove came a strange freedom – the freedom to leave the remaining glove in my bike basket while my bike waited parked around town. I waltzed in and out of shops and workplaces like a woman without children … to return each time and find the glove still there.

The loss of one glove liberated me from two of the many accoutrements I must carry around and keep track of every day as a bicyclist. What was it, exactly, that set me free? The belief that no one would steal a single glove. This allowed me to completely abandon that basic human fear which is the driving force behind so many of our daily routine actions: the fear that someone is going to take what we have.

But my reprieve from that insidious reality was rudely ended when the unthinkable happened: Last week, someone stole the right glove out of my bike basket.

That, my friends, was the strange and unlikely event I mentioned above that put an end to my misery. Not a total end, because of course I’ll have to live with the almost sure knowledge that both gloves are separate and unhappy. But at least now I can stop looking for the one I dropped as I bike along my route to work. And at least now I could (if I can get up the courage) buy another pair without the three-glove problem looming over me.

Somewhere in Portland roams an individual whose particular mode of reasoning allows him, unencumbered by guilt or remorse, to hear the sound of one glove clapping. And presumably that individual has found some degree of happiness in the acquisition of my left glove.


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