“Joy, you only have one earring in,” Dylan, said, as they got into the backseat of their father’s car. Their plane had been delayed en route to DFW and then rerouted as they tried to return from their Grandmother Wilson’s funeral. It was nearly midnight. Joy reached up and found that the earring in her right ear was, indeed, missing. Without asking permission, she jumped out of the car and retraced her steps to the baggage carousel, then the bathroom. Her brother was standing at the bathroom door when she came back out. “TSA made Dad move the car out of the taxi lane. He’ll be back in a few minutes to get us. C’mon.”
“They were the bead and porcupine quill earrings that grandma made me.”
Joy’s fifteen-year-old brother grimaced and shook his head. Joy understood it as “sorry.”
Joy had been misplacing little things since her grandmother had gone into hospice three weeks ago. Though Joy lived in Texas and her Grandma in New Mexico, they had become close in the three years since Joy had taught her to text one summer. Joy had known something was wrong when her Grandmother hadn’t texted to say, “Good morning.” Known so strongly something was wrong she hadn’t wanted school to end that day, to see her parents and be told what had happened. Since that day she had misplaced a glove, a favorite mechanical pencil, and a science paper. Luckily she had been able to reprint the paper moments before class started. But the first important and completely irreplaceable thing that she had lost was her journal. She had left it behind on the plane she and her mother and brother had taken to the funeral in New Mexico. She had been so careful not to set the journal where her mother could read it, or even her younger brother, for that matter. She had even chosen not to leave it at home, afraid that her father would find it.
It’s not that she had written anything incriminating, but they were her private thoughts, some she had dashed down “in the heat of the moment” as her mother said, and she found she was not so proud of those entries when she reread them. She couldn’t believe she had both left her diary on the plane and not noticed until she got to her Grandparent’s house. It was the closest thing she had to a best friend and she
had forgotten it. She got online and filed a lost item claim with the airport, daring to hope, even before she went through her two bags over and over.
There was no doubt it was missing.
All weekend she wore the pair of blue and white beaded earrings her grandmother had made her. She checked her phone constantly for the e-mail from the airlines that never came about her journal. She reached up regularly to check to make sure her earrings were still in her ears. She had meant to get some of those little plastic cylinders you could stick on earring hooks so they were less likely to fall out, but she always forgot to buy them when she went to the kinds of stores that sold stuff like that. It had seemed important to wear them when she packed for the funeral. Now she only had one sad earring. She took it out of her ear and put it in her purse’s side zipper pocket.
In the front seat of the car her mother was crying and her father was trying to drive and comfort her at the same time. Joy swallowed her own tears and pulled out her phone. She filed a second lost item claim with the airlines. She uploaded a picture of her lone earring, the photo not doing justice to the care her grandmother had taken with the the triangular shape at the top of the earring, the palette of various blues, dark to light, and then the drop of the porcupine quills, that ended and reversed in loops of the same blues, reversing light to dark.
Once home, she slept fitfully. All day at school she obsessed on the journal and the earring. She vowed she would be more conscious, more present, convinced that she could cure herself of her carelessness. She was thinking about the earring when she opened her locker up after lunch and saw a blue and white porcupine quill earring on the locker’s floor. How had it fallen out of her purse without her noticing?
he missing earring had been ever-present in her thoughts, but she had also talked herself through all her actions, noting, “Now I am putting my favorite pen in my backpack.” “Now I am taking my phone out of my pocket.” “Now I am returning my phone to my pocket.” All day she had been so careful of her things. Yet, there her lone remaining earring sat. She had never taken it out of the pocket of her purse the night they had gotten home, though she had meant to. She had planned to treat it as the irreplaceable reminder of her grandmother it had become. But now, it lay in the bottom of her locker.
She pulled her purse from her backpack. The side pocket was still zipped. She turned the purse around in her hands to check for a hole the earring could have fallen out of, but it was untorn.
Curiouser, she wondered.
She unzipped the flawed side pocket. There jingled the other blue and white earring.
“Curiouser still!” she said, this time aloud.
She put both earrings in the pocket, zipped it up and returned it to her backpack. Throughout the afternoon, she would take out her purse to make sure both earrings were still there.
When she got home that afternoon, she took the earrings out and hung them on the scarf above her dresser where she put all her favorite things.
She sat down at her desk and thought hard about her diary. Maybe her luck would extend to that. She checked her phone and was thrilled to see an e-mail from the airline. However, when she opened it, it was simply updating her that the item’s status remained unfound.
She heard her father call her brother downstairs to get his luggage. He dragged it up the stairs, banging the wheels unnecessarily on each step. A few minutes later he hollered, “Joy, come here.”
“What?” she yelled back.
“Just come here.”
“aaaargh,” she groaned. “What?” she said, standing in his doorway.
“Guess what I found?”
Joy’s stomach began to knot as the thought of the missing journal. She prayed Dylan hadn’t read the things she had written about him.
“Give it here!” she snapped, looking around his room. Had he had her journal all weekend?
He gave her a funny look.
“Give it to me!” she reached out her hand.
“Jeez, I thought you’d be happy nice, not psycho about it,” he slapped something small and sharp into her hand. Joy was surprised to see her missing blue earring. The shock registered on her face. “Where did you find this?” she said.
It was in that weird pocket on the back of my carry-on. You must have dropped it after we went through the metal detectors.” He paused and looked at her, “What did you think I had?”
She held the earring up and turned it, examining it from every angle.
“Hey,” he said, repeating, “What did you think I had?”
“Did you make this?” Joy said incredulously.
“Did you make this? You know, to replace my earring so I wouldn’t feel bad for losing the one Grandma made?”
“Joy, I haven’t done beadwork since we made those tin cans covered in pony beads at camp in elementary school and I sucked at that. Now, you think, that I spent the last eight hours making an earring to make you happy?”
Joy shrugged and made an “I don’t know” noise. Then she turned and went back to her room.
She took all three earrings to her desk. She examined them until she thought she could tell which two earrings matched exactly. It was the losing that let you know how important a thing was, wasn’t it? Had the losing of her grandmother bound Joy to the earring and brought it back to her?
She stopped thinking about her diary and focused on her Grandma. She held the missing earring in her hand. She pictured her Grandmother squinting at the needle as she wove it between and through shiny blue beads. She closed her eyes and brought the earring to her lips, pressing it gently to them. She thought she smelled the piñon wood her Grandma loved to burn and felt her chest fill. Joy wondered what the chances were Grandma would fit into her locker.