DO AS THE ROMANS DO, OR NOT

by Penny M 

Have you ever been lost?My definition of lost goes something like this.  What should be there is not.  Either I moved, it moved, or somebody else moved it.  When it comes to little things like earrings or car keys, frustration evaporates like the squeak of a bus at the end of the line when you find them.  The brakes hiss and the engine sighs.  The driver shifts his hips around the gear stick, pulls his bag out of the cubby and releases the doors.  It’s over, the ears are balanced, the keys jangle and I disembark.

Losing bigger things isn’t quite like that; the missing bit can endure several bus trips.

I was lost myself recently.  My mobile phone was of no use; the people who would look for me didn’t have their phones switched on so I couldn’t tell them I was lost.  Nobody had moved the walkways, shops and restaurants.  The car was still in the same place wherever that was.  I wasn’t.  To make things more confusing, shops of the same name were positioned at opposite sides of the centre. I walked fast for a good three quarters of an hour in various directions but couldn’t locate our borrowed vehicle amongst the vast open air car park beyond.

My mother always told me to wait by the door if I got lost.  This shopping centre didn’t have any doors.  It was a configuration of little streets.  There were no security guards, no familiar faces.  Nobody could help me anyway.  Although most drawled in English, I couldn’t even tell them in sign language what my destination was.  A sea of faces, t-shirts and baggies merged into a kaleidoscope of moving carpets.  I willed the roundabout in my brain to stop.  It complied after a few deep breathes.

Reason began to return and I realised that I was a moving target.  It would be wiser to stand still. Somewhere in my subconscious was a glimmer of direction.  “All roads lead to Rome,” was a little off-the-wall given the century we live in, but it dawned on me, after taking four or five different paths, that each arrived at the fountain in the centre.  The doors theory wasn’t working for me and neither was the Apian Way but the patter of water spouts, splaying their drops in the afternoon shadows, was enough to lead my missing person back to sanity.

Ten minutes later, with eyes adjusted to the dwindling crowds, I spotted my rescuers sauntering towards me.  How had I got lost?  I’d walked out of the mêlée on the wrong side of the centre.

The bus stops here …

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