On a Saturday evening in September, my running buddy and I were having a drink with my brother and his partner at the bar next door to their vacation beach house, down the coast from here, at the western extreme of Asturias. We sat on the terrace, just a line of four tables against the building, with a dirt road in front that led in one direction on along the bluff and past their house above the ocean and in the other down the hill to the beach. Across the road was a railing and just beyond, the cliff, with a path zigzagging down to the water. It was evening, the moon wasn’t up yet, all was dark out at sea, nothing to catch your eye except the distant light of a lone vessel. The temperature at nine was the same as it had been at three that afternoon, a mild 66. I sighed with pleasure at the serendipity of my brother and his partner—in effect, my sister-in-law—being at their beach place on the same weekend that my running pal and I were in the area for a half marathon, the gratification of their going to our race, the pleasure of our returning with them to their bar.

The next afternoon, back at home, I got a call from my sister-in-law. Had we by chance found her bag in the car? She’d ridden with us briefly, from one parking lot to another, after the race.

We hadn’t that night, I said, and had my friend found it after dropping me off at my house, he’d have let me know.

“I’ll just have to look harder around here,” she said with a laugh. She’d used the same tone the previous evening, talking about gardening with her injured foot. Some people exaggerate their disappointment or crankiness when sharing a story, worry, or complaint, and some like her exaggerate the ease of everything.

Losing money is a drag, but losing your ID is a big hassle, no matter how you make light of it. “I hope it turns up,” I said. Except I didn’t say exactly that. I was speaking Spanish, so I said, “Espero que aparezca,” I hope it appears. Appear: to suddenly, unexpectedly, magically, be present. To materialize out of thin air. To be restored through a trick, through some slight-of-hand of an unknown agent at work behind the scenes. You’d do well not to worry but to forget the loss until the object appears on a hook in the back hall, under a cleaning apron, as the bag eventually did.

Turn up, on the other hand, like come to light, suggests lost things buried, probably quite close by. When I lose something, I never doubt it’s at my fingertips, not gone, just disguised by its surroundings. It’s one of the laws of conservation—nothing is ever lost, just out of sight in the accumulating sediment, the shifting sands, of one’s life. Dig for it all you want—I was in the car, I sat in the back seat, I set my bag on the floor—but the digging usually exposes everything except what you’re looking for. Instead, just go on about your life, and when not expecting to, you’ll come quite by accident across the thing you’ve lost, right where you left it, right where it was the whole time, at the bottom of your afternoon or day or week, where lost ideas, good intentions, forgotten promises, old desires and hopes, pens, pencils, coins, paper clips, and unrealized good deeds accumulate, bump, shift, and drift along in your wake.

Six months later, about to run another half marathon, I remembered that earlier one, that mild evening beside the ocean. A month after that, when my next half marathon was canceled, due to the coronavirus, I again remembered September, the race, the meeting up, my brother beside me nudging his beer toward me because he could tell I wanted a taste even though I’d ordered water, my sister-in-law’s report on her foot and her practiced tone of minimizing inconvenience, her refusal to whine, my running partner’s kindness in stretching out his evening for me, that vessel far out at sea, my readiness, after half an hour of talk, to depart from that pleasant evening and leave it behind to grow smaller and smaller, an island on the horizon, then a bump, then gone. Home was a little more than an hour away. I stayed awake in the car just long enough to notice the moon was up. It hadn’t shown up or turned up or even appeared, but just was. “Good old moon,” I thought, and closed my eyes.

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Clellan Coe, a writer in Spain, is a contributing editor of the Scholar.


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