Blog: Mental Muddles

I fear I’m losing my mind. Literally.

In the past month, I’ve lost car keys and credit cards. I’ve missed appointments, been late for social occasions and bungled recipes. What’s worse, I appear incapable of comprehending much of what Frank says to me.

Here’s a typical exchange:

FRANK: When you stop by the grocery later, would you please pick up three eggplants?

ME: We have plenty of eggs in the ‘fridge.

FRANK: Who said anything about eggs? I said “eggplants.”

ME: Oh. Got it.

FRANK: Also, I’ve got a meeting on Nevada this evening.

ME: In Novato? Better leave early to avoid traffic.

FRANK: What? Why would I be going to Novato? NEVADA. You know, the street that intersects ours? Where the Indivisible group meetings are held?

ME: Oh. Got it. Say, how about going to see the sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth” tonight?


ME: Well, you don’t have to shout. I’m not deaf.

Yesterday, per Frank’s request, I stopped by Mollie Stone’s to purchase eggs and other edible sundries. I slung my purse and canvas grocery tote over my shoulder, locked the Subaru and headed into the store.

Finished with my shopping and back at the car, I fumbled for my keys, only to come up empty-handed. I turned my purse inside out and unpacked the egg-filled tote. Nothing. I trotted back inside the market and made a beeline for the produce aisle. Fifteen minutes ago, I’d snagged two leeks from a high shelf in a display case. In the process, I managed to topple a half dozen onto the floor, which in turn nearly toppled an elderly man edging past me toward the broccoli.

Surely, I thought, you dropped my keys during the leek incident. I groped through the leeks – and, for good measure, the bundled broccoli too. Still nothing. I retraced my steps four times around the store, peering behind loaves of whole wheat bread and manhandling packages of skinless chicken breasts. I crouched down onto my hands and knees to search under a pallet of artfully displayed boxes of crackers, only to discover that Mollie Stone’s was woefully behind in its dust-mopping.

My mind was racing, my anxiety meter spiking like a meat thermometer under a flaming broiler.

You see, it was only three weeks ago when I’d called Frank from a trail high in the Marin Headlands to inform him I couldn’t find my car keys. Given that we only own one car, this meant that Frank had to slog two miles from our house to the parking lot at the trailhead with a spare set. Which was highly inconvenient, given that he had a meeting that afternoon in either Novato or on Nevada, I forget which. Five minutes before he arrived, I found the keys under the car.

“Next time you hit the trail,” he’d warned me, “I’m going to staple the key to your forehead.”

I gave up my search and approached the friendly cashier who’d tallied my purchases less than a half hour earlier. “Has anyone turned in a set of car keys?” I asked.

She gave me a measured look. By now, I had raked my hands through my pony-tailed hair so many times it resembled a tangled thicket of brown yarn. I’d come to the store straight from working in the garden, and my worn out yoga pants and green t-shirt were liberally splattered with mud.

No doubt feeling pity for the disheveled wretch before her, the cashier left her post and accompanied me on another fruitless search of the store. Then she spied the manager; he was rearranging cartons of diced fruit in a refrigerator case. “Wait here a sec,” she told me. “I’m gonna ask him if anyone’s found your keys.”

I couldn’t hear their exchange, but imagine it went something like this:

CASHIER: See the crazy lady over there? The one who looks like she just crawled out of a mulch pile? Says she lost her keys.

MANAGER: I know the type. Probably lives on a rowboat in the harbor and hasn’t owned a car since Reagan. Just humor her – and try and hustle her out of the store pronto, OK?

CASHIER: No prob.

By this time, I was fingering my cell phone, thinking about the call I was about to make to Frank.

Recalling the staple threat, I considered my options. I could concoct a story of premeditated thievery, perhaps involving the elderly man and his broccoli. Or claim I’d been forced to throw the car key away because its battery had exploded.

But in the end, whimpering slightly, I called and fessed up to my sin. Once again, Frank hoofed it to yet another parking lot, spare keys in hand. On the way home, I made a mental note to hide the stapler the minute his back was turned.

We stopped by the market again this morning. I wanted to scope out the area where I’d plucked a plastic bag for my leeks. Maybe, leeks in one hand, keys in another, my brain had decided the bag was more important than the keys, and so had instructed me to ditch one for the other.

I was stomping back and forth in front of the tomatoes when a fifty-something woman with frowzy, dyed-blonde hair and patches of beige foundation on her cheeks intercepted me.

“Lose something?” she asked.

I told her my sorry tale. “Trust me,” she said confidently. “I can help.” Like a magician reaching into his hat for a rabbit, she plunged a hand into a side pocket of her bag and rummaged around. When the hand emerged, it was holding … a tarot card. She considered it for a second, then waved it in front of my face, which made it difficult to discern the image. But I thought I detected a gowned woman looking down at several golden tubs (or urns?) drifting around her feet.

“Aha!” she exclaimed. “Your keys – you left them right here!” She looked around wildly, perhaps believing the tarot card had summoned the keys from their hidey-hole.

“But I’ve already combed this entire area!” I wailed.

“No matter,” she responded briskly. “The cards don’t lie. And, by the way, never claim you ‘lost’ something. Say instead you ‘mislaid’ it. It’s got a much more positive aura.”

I spotted the manager, who was, once again, sorting pre-packaged fruit. “Yeah, I remember you,” he said to me. “Found your keys just a few minutes ago.” He nodded to a crate of watermelons mere feet from the leek display. “Buried in the melons.”

Now, I rarely buy watermelon, so how my keys had ended up in a barrel of them was beyond my ken. But then again, it’s entirely possible I’d mistaken the melons for, well, leeks. Or eggs.

My psychic puffed out her chest like a pigeon. “I knew it!” she said. “Or, rather, the cards knew it.”

Later, while Frank drove us down to Los Gatos, I pondered the image on my psychic’s tarot card. Curious, I emailed my editor (who, coincidentally, is a bona fide tarot reader) a quick recap of my key caper and a sketchy description of the card I’d glimpsed.

She replied almost immediately:

Likely, the card was the Four or Five of Cups.

The basic meaning of the Four of Cups is that you are literally not looking at something that is being offered to you just out of your field of vision.

The basic meaning of the Five of Cups is that you’ve LOST something (usually at an emotional level, but, well, keys!), which is illustrated by several toppled cups in front of the main figure, and you are mourning that loss, but that if you turn around, you’ll see two cups still standing behind you waiting for you to acknowledge them.

Either way, what a cool interpretation that the keys were right there! Plus, watermelons could definitely equal tarot Cups.

I’m not sure what she meant by this last line. To my way of thinking, watermelons and cups are about as similar as eggs and eggplants.

But more to the point, who would’ve thought a chance encounter at Mollie Stone’s would prove the eerily predictive power of the tarot? Could a tarot reading solve my cognitive dilemmas? Or would it only confirm my worst fears: that a neurological virus was gnawing its way through the synapses of my brain? My condition would worsen to the point where I can’t distinguish Frank from a stapler. I won’t be allowed to drive, and will spend my days sequestered in the house, fondling car keys and pouring over maps of Nevada.

Maybe, I comfort myself, you’re simply distracted: by the men digging fence holes in the backyard, by the thought of the two dozen eggs in the refrigerator, by the worry that at any moment San Francisco will be the unfortunate recipient of North Korea’s nuclear gift to Donald Trump.

But for now? The 101 freeway beckons. If I could only remember where I left my wallet…



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