She was looking for the belt that said Jim on the back of it, the belt with the scorpion belt buckle. It was black-and-grey leather, handmade in the ‘70s, the name Jim lovingly tooled on the back, leather x’s stitched on the border, a classic; it had been a find. The scorpion buckle didn’t mean anything. She just thought it was badass, and her older daughter liked scorpions. And now she couldn’t find it.
“Did I leave my belt there?” she texted him.
She didn’t want to text him. She’d left her earrings there the first time, her “go big or go home” earrings, brass and copper, from Africa. He’d said he’d mail them back to her, but somehow, they had ended up together again, and he gave her the earrings in person. She thought maybe that had been his intention to begin with, to give them back to her in person. Plenty of time for him to mail them to her, like she’d asked, but he hadn’t made the effort. They weren’t in an envelope or anything, just sitting on the bookcase where she’d left them, on top of a pile of books about music and poetry.
Or maybe he was just inconsiderate. She’d lost a pair of glasses like that a long time ago, black frames, very Breakfast Club. She left them at a guy’s trailer by the beach. She turned down that guy for sex, and he was angry. She asked that guy to mail them to her, but he wouldn’t. So, she’d said goodbye to that pair of glasses.
This was different. The name on the back of the belt was her dad’s. She was named after him. Half the kids in her family were named after her dad. She’d even tried to give the belt to her dad once on a visit home, but it was too small for him. Her dad had tried to get the scorpion belt buckle, though, but she said, “The buckle’s no good without the belt and the belt’s no good without the buckle.”
So now, she thought that if she had left the belt there, he might think she had done it intentionally. But she hadn’t. She would never do that, not even unconsciously. She remembered putting it on while they were talking.
“Was I putting it on while we were talking about it?” she texted him, but he didn’t answer right away.
Later on, he replied, “Nope, no belt.”
That was all.
So, she looked in her drawers: the workout wear drawer, the shorts drawer, the socks drawer, the underwear drawer, the special underwear drawer, the leggings drawer, the scarf drawer, the pajama drawer. Nothing.
Where was it? This was her favorite belt. Fuck. Did he take it while she was in the shower? He wouldn’t do that. She distinctly remembered talking about it with him while she was putting it on. She racked her brain. Had she worn it during the week? If she didn’t know where it was, did he think she’d worn it somewhere else and taken it off somewhere else and left it somewhere else, in some other man’s apartment? She hadn’t. She didn’t want him thinking that, even though he probably had other women over to his place. Maybe some other woman had taken it thinking it was his and wanting a memento of him. But his name wasn’t Jim and that was paranoid thinking. He wasn’t like that, taking things. Other women, she didn’t really know about though.
What she hated the most was that he probably thought she was trying to get him to say, “Come over,” when she wasn’t. She was trying not to contact him at all. Trying to figure out why she even went over there a second time, a third time, a fourth time, when clearly all he wanted was sex, and she knew she wanted more than that. It was just that each time was so sweet.
He asked her questions about her life, her dad, her family, her children, her divorce. How could he be so sweet and intimate one minute, and then cut off all connection the next day? He always waited for her to connect with him first, a text, an e-mail. He’d call her, before saying, “Do you want to come over?” Clearly, he didn’t want a lasting connection, just someone to hold things in place for a little while. Not just sex, she knew. Comfort, too. He was recovering from a bad breakup. He told her things about himself. Read poems to her, although she knew this was a favorite tactic of poets.
She looked in all the laundry baskets. Hadn’t she been wearing her black jeans and cowboy boots? She’d already washed and folded those jeans. She went downstairs to the laundry room. Wouldn’t the belt have made a huge clanging sound in the dryer? Fucking belt, where was it?
She looked in her daughter’s room, asked her other daughter if she’d seen it, but the belt didn’t fit either of them. She knew they didn’t have it. She was always losing things, she had a hell of a time finding her dogs’ collars when they wanted to go for a walk. She always put the collars in the same place on the shelf outside, but sometimes she didn’t take the collars off right away, and one of her daughters would take them off and set them down somewhere, and somehow, they never made it to where they were supposed to be. The poor dogs would look pleadingly at her for a walk, whining the whole time she searched.
She always put her belts in the belt drawer. Would Jaime believe that she was always forgetting things? His name was Jaime. She couldn’t remember the names of artists or movie stars or even her students. She kept worrying she would call Jaime, Javier, because she had been dating a Javier when she met Jaime. She was worried he would think she was a racist if she accidentally called him Javier instead of Jaime. It was no joke. She kept telling him her dad was an undiagnosed dyslexic. Her mom had to read things to him. Her dad was forgetful too, Jim.
What kind of things did he forget?” Jaime asked her.
“He gave me a dollar for my birthday once. I had to beg him for a present when he got home from the bar. Then he taught me how to hypnotize a chicken while he was lying drunk on the grass.” It was a funny story even though it didn’t sound funny to some people.
She looked through the drawers again. Then she lay on the bed and cried for about ten minutes. Then she called her gay husband, Roger, and told him what was going on.
“Why is he still in your life?” Roger asked. “He’s not too young for you. That’s his issue. You need to figure it out.”
She didn’t want to go on Our Time, a dating site for singles over fifty. She wanted to date a younger man, not just have sex with him. Problem was, most people encouraged her. When she texted her sister, “He’s a bad habit.”
Her sister texted back, “A good bad habit.”
They didn’t know how unhappy he was making her. She wanted to want men her own age, but they all had high blood pressure, pot bellies, or no stamina. Over the last four weeks, she’d trickled pictures of her younger self to him. One of herself now, posed in jeans and a blouse, another of herself in an aerobics outfit from the ‘80s, and recently one of herself when she was five, her strawberry-blonde hair in waves around her face and her lips wet and ruby.
“Is that you? Shirley Temple comes to mind.”
She didn’t know why she was digging out these pictures of herself. She’d hidden them away, embarrassed. She didn’t want someone seeing her in her younger days. That wasn’t it. She knew that wasn’t it. She wanted someone to see her, all of her. They had been joking about something she was writing and she said she was writing about all of her lives, her new life, “Life Number 1000.”
“Well, first I was a child.”
“Really, you were a child?
They laughed and she replied, “Yes, I was a child.”
So, she had sent him the picture of herself as a child, “See, I was a child.”
She told herself not to worry, to go to sleep. It’ll show up, she said to herself. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to say goodbye to that, too. She’d said goodbye to lots of things, to the glasses, her husband, lots of loves.
When she woke up in the morning, a song was running through her head. Goodbye to the age of worry, goodbye to the age of … she couldn’t remember the rest, or the artist’s name, and then her sleepy brain began filling in words, a trick it liked to play on her, wake her up in the morning with cheesy made-up lyrics.
Goodbye young poet, goodbye to youth, goodbye to wine and song, hello to what was there all along.
Corny. Then, she got up out of bed and looked in her closet, and there, hanging by the scorpion belt buckle on a hanger, was the belt.