Have you lost it?

Painting by Alexander Gunina

I still use the words lost and misplaced interchangeably. We look for something and do not find it. Has it been misplaced? Does it not amount to placing it somewhere and not knowing about the location? How then is it misplaced when it is we who are unaware about the placement?

There have been times when I've said X is lost and I've been comforted with the words "no, no, X has been misplaced". It is as though there is a finality to loss that is not there in the case of misplacement. In the latter there is hope. But what if we never find out the location? What if the location itself disappears? The pillow case goes to the wash, the package is thrown away if it appears empty?

Why are we less chary of misplacement ("faulty position", as per the dictionary) than of loss? I find loss less deceptive. You know you are deprived; there is no false hope. Of course, hope — false or otherwise, although technically hope cannot be true because it is not based on facts but on the premise that something could, should happen because we want it to — is a good thing to keep handy. But there is no evidence to suggest that misplacement offers more hope.

For me, when I can't find a thing it is lost at least for that moment when I need it and am looking for it. We feel loss most when we want something, not in its mere absence.

Talking of absence, is it a loss or a misplacement? If Y is not there, does it mean it is lost to us or have we just placed it where we can't remember? Or did Y take itself away into a sphere where it would not be accessible?

It is possible, then, to wonder whether Y too can claim misplacing or losing us. Given that such loss is restricted to objects rather than the animate, the objects cannot miss us. Do we misplace people, even though we might lose them to mortality or distance or a rift, or just evolution?

Can't find a number, an email address? Don't know what has happened to a college friend, an ex, a relative? We have misplaced details, not the people. More often than not, we have lost them. They have lost us. It is essentially the same thing. That's what I like about loss, no pussyfooting. And an equaliser. If you lose X, there is no chance that it is not X's loss too, for you will not be around. So when we say it is X's loss too it happens to be the truth.

What I also like about loss is that it is more romantic, more tragic. Misplacement makes one feel like an idiot. "Where did I keep the darn thing" mocks at you. With loss, you can feel the pain, and let the emptiness settle in your eyes.

I am writing this because I have lost a pair of earrings that I did not even know I had. It was while looking at some photographs that their existence registered. So, where are they now? I am not searching just yet because I wouldn't know where to. I could start with the clothes I was wearing, the location...but clothes don't last as long as jewellery and places change. In all this, I realised that by assuming the longevity of those earrings they have become eternal.

That's what loss does: Enshrines the lost.

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