Dispatches

Scavenger Hunt for Losers

Natasha Greenblatt

1. Find a lost heirloom, like your great-aunt Gertrude’s pearls you lost that summer in North Hatley when your father was acting in that play you saw twenty-seven times and you stayed up late into the night in the creaky old house, your room the only one still lit up, reading 1984, lonely and terrified of being eaten by rats. Where did you put those pearls? Does anyone else remember the blue velvet box and perfectly round orbs of the sea you loved but could not keep safe?

2. Find a childhood illusion, like the belief in Santa you lost when your older cousin whispered with her full red lips and hot breath in your ear, you know it’s a lie for babies, which you vigorously denied, but underneath you knew, had known before, had only hoped it wasn’t true. Or perhaps the impression that you had the perfect family; two parents, three kids, a dog and a cat, misplaced a year before the divorce when your mother told you it was coming, when they started sleeping in different rooms, when you could see clearly that the thing your friends had envied, the thing you’d been most proud of, was an act and the show was over.

3. Find your virginity, which hopefully you lost somewhere special, somewhere perfect. Like your first love’s father’s one-bedroom shed behind the brick co-op on Bartlett Street on a Thursday night before your 11 p.m. curfew. The only thing you remember about that night is sitting on the subway on your way home thinking, no one on this subway knows but I did it, I did it, I did it, your smile bursting between your fat cheeks. The glow of that night will wear off when, two weeks later, your first love calls to tell you that, although he’d said he was in love with you a few months ago, he’s not anymore and he’s decided he doesn’t want you to come visit him in Montréal.

4. Find something intangible, like the sense that love is permanent, or that you’re someone worth loving, or that people mean the things they say when they want to have sex with you. This may take a while to find.

5. Find a lost archive, like the box of tapes your father recorded of his mother before she died, telling her life story of being orphaned in New York and experiencing antisemitism in the South when your grandfather was training for a war he would never see in person, a war that killed the entirety of your mother’s grandfather’s family, a war you would later read about obsessively. Does your father remember these tapes? He’s never brought them up in the decades that have passed since you lost them. You only listened to them once. You didn’t appreciate the gravity of the stories they held, but you loved the gravelly sound of your grandmother’s voice, a voice you didn’t remember, the soft rolling vowels and sharp mischievous laugh.

6. Find the most important loss. The one that turned your life into before and after. Find him in the streets you used to walk down to go to school, his small sticky hand in yours at the cross-walk, telling him to look both ways, like you were his mother, not his older sister. Find him in the spaces between people, the cracks in everything, and the moments of silence when no one is searching for the right words. Find him in the water.

7. Find a missing alphabet, like the Hebrew you learned in the basement of the synagogue, from that cantor who always wore a suit and a fedora and taught you the melodies by rote so that, although you could technically read the Torah on the day of your bat mitzvah, following the shapes with a silver jewelled pointer, by the time you arrived in Jerusalem years later, with a busload of twenty-somethings who wanted to party and fuck soldiers, you could no longer make out the letters on the street signs, or read the names at Yad Vashem, the place where everyone wept, including you, although you couldn’t help but feel manipulated by the museums and stories and the buffet breakfasts with mounds of hummus and boiled eggs and impossibly delicious tomatoes and cucumbers, so that when you left the trip, the alphabet was no longer the thing you were looking for, but something more complicated, like the feeling you are the victim, you are with the good guys. That feeling is nowhere to be found.

8. Find the four phones, two wallets, three sets of keys, eight sets of headphones, ten chargers, sixteen pairs of sunglasses, and hundreds of single socks and mitts you’ve lost over the years. Find the bag of makeup you forgot in the community centre in a refugee camp in the West Bank, the 35 mm camera you left on the plane to London, the sweater you abandoned on the subway after a night of dancing in Toronto, the innumerable books once treasured, then lent to someone whose name you can no longer remember, forever missing from your shelf.

9. Find what you might consider an insignificant object, like the fork, which is actually a symbol, your partner tells you, of the nice things he can never have because you will inevitably lose or break them. The fork is also a symbol of the poverty of his childhood, when he didn’t get to have nice things because his parents were immigrants and struggling, and your parents were not. We didn’t have nice things either, you might retort, because we didn’t care about those kind of things, we never had a matching set of cutlery and my mother lost everything too, like her computer and our dog, and we didn’t have money, they were artists, I come by it honestly, that’s my culture. This doesn’t impress him, and the fork is almost the downfall of your relationship, but it isn’t and you’re still together, and planning on having children despite his fears that you will one day lose or break them, too.

1. Find all the things that will inevitably get lost as you grow older, and presumably more, not less, forgetful. Find the Post-It notes you will stick on the wall to remind yourself to turn off the stove and lock the door, find the promises you will make not to yell at each other, find your wedding ring or some less heteronormative symbol of your commitment. Find your commitment, which may get lost in the sea of diapers and tantrums and sleepless nights. Find your child’s favourite stuffed animal. Find your ambition. Find the words you can’t remember, like strainer, lethologica or tumbleweed. Find your parents, whom you will one day lose, even if you don’t like to think about it, but you hope, for their sake, you do lose them, and they don’t lose you first. Find the friendships that will wane, then disappear, and the memories, which are already fading.

Losers: you have a lifetime to hunt. A lifetime to lose and find and lose again. If these items are indeed lost forever, consider printing their names on a piece of paper or drawing a picture of them. When you’ve collected everything, each object, memory, or belief, bring them back to the group where we will calculate your time and the quantity and quality of your losses to come up with your overall score and declare a winner of the Scavenger Hunt for Losers. Do not despair, dear Losers, for your score does not reflect your absence of mind, lack of foresight, or overall disorganization, at least not completely. For although it may feel like disaster, we only lose things we have to begin with. On your marks, get set, go!

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Natasha Greenblatt

Natasha Greenblatt is a writer, performer, producer and educator whose plays have been produced in Toronto, Kitchener and Winnipeg. She is developing a performance piece called Apocalypse Play and working on her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph.

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