My legs were beginning to ache as we rounded the corner near the checkout stands and started yet another lap around Target. I was the wind pushing a tiny red boat in front of me with two young lookouts inside. One to port, the other to starboard, each checking down every aisle as they passed.
“No… No… No…,” came Lydia’s monotone chant in regular rhythm, announcing her findings. “No… No… No…,” like the beating of oars in the water to help us along on our onerous journey.
We were searching this endless ocean of commerce for the lonely sailors’ mother and oldest sister, two castaways which had gone adrift in a raft some 30 minutes earlier (in the direction of the restrooms), and hadn’t been seen or heard from since.
We turned the corner and Lydia, who was counting our revolutions around the store, stated coldly, “Four.”
“Yes,” I confirmed for her. “That completes number four…”
She gave a sigh, and continued her duties, her chin resting on her hands as they grasped the side of the cart. Several hundred steps later and the little girl’s eyes rolled back in her head and she collapsed onto her back. “I’m so tired of walking in circles!” she called out to the sky. Which was a strange thing to say really, because it was really only me that was walking in circles. She and her brother were just riding around in a fancy wagon. I let this point slide.
“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I know. We’ll find them soon. Don’t give up hope.” I said this more for my own encouragement as I did for theirs.
She sighed again. And then her face brightened. “Hey, I have an idea!” I was excited by her sudden energy. “Maybe if we knew what they look like, we could know when we find them!”
I was smiling, and as my brain tried to comprehend what she was saying my smile froze on my face in an awkward sort of grin. “What?” is all I managed to say, after several long seconds.
“If we knew what they looked like, they would be a LOT easier to find, right? Then if we see a part of them we would know they were somewhere nearby” She was practically jumping up and down with excitement.
“I…” I ran a hand over my face and physically erased my smile. “I don’t know what to say, Lydia. I mean, for one, I really hope we do not find pieces of them lying around, because… well gross. But also, what do you mean when you say that you don’t know what they look like. I mean, we are talking about two people that you spend your entire life with. You know what they look like more than anyone in the world.”
She blinked at me. “Wait, Mom?”
I blinked back.
“We are looking for MOM? Mom and Clara?” she widened her eyes in sudden realization. “Ooooohhhh….”
“Lydia, we have been walking in circles for a half hour and you didn’t even know who we were looking for?”
“No, I guess not,” she shrugged.
I spun in a circle and threw my hands in the air. Was everyone trapped in this weird Twilight Zone story, or was it just me? Was I really still in Target, or had I stumbled into a sort of purgatory of lost souls where grown men are doomed to wander in endless circles searching and searching for something which they can never find. Blinded and lead by the hand behind a guide who didn’t even know what we were here to accomplish. I saw a few other men, holding babies, waiting next to carts while their girlfriends looked at clothes. Other men, all lost in their own unique way. One looked up at me and we shared a tired nod.
I hung my head and mustered the strength needed to push the cart downstream again. The little girl tumbled forward, then she repositioned herself on the edge and quickly continued her chanting of “No… No… No…” I angled the tiny vessel and hurried it in the direction of the edge of the world, in the hopes that we would find a hideous sea monster there or a cliff dropping off into quiet oblivion.