The Man Who Lost Himself

The man who lost himself woke up one morning,
an ordinary morning, just like any other.
And realised he had lost himself.
Well, perhaps not lost – perhaps just ‘misplaced’.
Perhaps, just ‘overlooked’.
He checked all the usual places he might be –
in his bed, because it was still quite early –
throwing back the rumpled covers.
And, of course, on the veranda
where he always liked to sit
and watch the changing light.
But there was no one there,
no one anywhere,
no one smiled, and sprang up
to shake his hand…and say, “At last, there I am!”

Later, that evening, at the concert, he even
looked for himself under his chair.
And tried to find himself reflected
in the eyes of people in the street.
It’s true, they looked a little like himself,
yet were, clearly, not him.

He tried to remember where he might have put himself,
and wrote a list of all the possible places,
back-tracking over his movements of the day –
to recall the very last place he was
when he was with himself,
before he lost himself.
Yesterday, in the shed, sorting timber off-cuts,
then . . . matching pairs of socks from a drawer.
And, yes, he had noticed some muddy footprints
from the garden to the birdbath.

Then he had an idea:
perhaps he hadn’t lost himself at all.
Perhaps he was still here, with himself, even now.
It wasn’t a matter of loss or of gain, perhaps,
but of remembering.
Recently, he had noticed just how much
he was starting to forget.
Dates and names and faces, anniversaries …
even quite exquisite memories he had a strange
feeling he had once treasured, but were now gone …
or, at least, going
places, people, times, journeys, meetings, partings,
fading backwards into themselves,
becoming fainter, unfamiliar.
Perhaps he simply just couldn’t remember
he had put himself.
So he checked his wallet,
then took off his shoes,
and shook them, peering at the soles;
read out the name on his credit cards,
and removed his jacket, and looked
at the label, for a long time.

Had he carefully hidden himself from himself,
as one hides something valuable,
and perhaps had been too successful –
had he simply hidden himself far too well?
Perhaps, one day, while not even looking,
he would find a note – all underlined,
marked and circled – a note which said:

“Just in case you forget the place
where you hid yourself,
you will find me in the garden,
behind the summer house,
in the rain, in the sunshine,
I am waiting for you there.”

John Jenkins

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