Once, on a beach in Brighton a few years ago, to tease me, my friends started adding up all the money I have wasted over my lifelong career as a loser-of-things, breaker-of-things, forgetter-of-things. I've lost cash, for instance by putting it down in a shop while I packed my things, and then leaving it there; or simply by losing my wallet (we'll estimate my losses of wallets at a conservative ten, with an average of, say, 11 pounds in them each time = £110). I've lost bank cards. I've lost or broken my mobile phone at least eight times: let's estimate a minimum of £50 to replace an insured phone, over £100 to replace a non-insured phone. I've lost clothes; keys to my house (£10 for every new set of keys I've had to have made = £100); train tickets, passports, bills, books, CDs, a laptop, an iPod.
Factoring in bills I have forgotten to pay, which have then accrued interest over a number of years, and other miscellaneous objects, what my friends had begun as a lighthearted moment of bullying became a devastating itemisation of thousands of pounds' worth of fuck-ups; a veritable assassination of my character as an inept, compulsive financial self-harmer. I stopped laughing about half-way through the exercise. Since then I have decided to turn my life around, but totally failed to do so and continued to fuck myself in the eye.
How stupid have you ever been? Maybe you've locked yourself out of your house once or twice. I've locked myself out of my house at least twenty times. I've locked myself in my house once. I've locked myself out of the house and my housemate in the house once. I've locked myself in my bedroom once. I've locked myself in my stairwell once, for a period of three hours - without: a phone or anything to read; with: a full bladder. On at least seven occasions, at five different addresses, I've had to break into my own home, usually by climbing up a drainpipe at night and shimmying along a ledge before reaching my window and levering it up with my fingertips from the outside. (One of the flats I lived in was mercifully easy to get into from the outside, by climbing on top of a bin and hoiking yourself up onto the balcony by the railings) When breaking into your own home in broad daylight, it's best to notify the neighbours that you're about to do it. "Hiya! Hey, yeah, it's me, from next door - I think you've seen me going into that house a few times? Yeah, you know me. Phew! Yeah, so, just to say, I'm about to climb up the outside of my house right now, due warning!"
I've got on the wrong train at least four times, ending up at places up to a hundred miles away from where I was supposed to be going. I've missed flights, buses, taxis, concerts. The list is quite possibly endless! I've seen a bank card through to its expiry date just once in my adult life; by contrast I've lost a new bank card within the space of a week at least three times. My record for losing a new bank card is 33 hours (still breaking records in 2017!!). I once broke my phone three times in one month (smash; toilet; pint). Once, in the spring of 1994, I lost one denim jacket a month for three months. I've left my coat on a train four times. Here are some everyday things that you may own but which I, Caspar Salmon, can never own: a watch; an umbrella; sunglasses.
How did I get like this? Is there a way to change? My propensity to lose, break or forget everything I come into contact with causes me extraordinary anguish on an almost daily basis. Figure this: I suffer, as everyone does, the cold-running of blood around my body when I realise I have ballsed something up, which will ruin my day or week and cost me in time and money; this nervous feeling sits in my frame for hours. This is routine and commonplace (but I experience it more than other people). What makes me different is the anguish caused by never being certain that I haven't forgotten something. It's a constant, very real possibility, at every hour of my day, that I have omitted to do something that will screw me over in a couple of hours. Even if I haven't locked myself out of my home, there is always the chance that I might have. I can never, but never, be sure that I've done everything right. This causes me to be on edge quite a lot of the time, and almost certainly compounds my errors.
I want to change, although I'm reluctant to expend effort on taking meaningful steps to do so, such as by going on a mindfulness course. I also entertain a very slim, ridiculous apprehension that part of what makes me who I am is contained in this propensity to lose stuff; that if I were to educate myself out of it, I would somehow lose my originality, my quiddity, what makes me liked by people. My fuck-uppery might be to my character as Samson's hair was to his strength. I might lose all my loopiness, my humour; my life might be depleted by want of struggle, by failing to meet and engage with the good people of banks, lost-and-found offices, passport services. Perhaps, I sometimes muse, my losing stuff is karmic penance for my otherwise absurdly charmed life, my wholly unearned good fortune.
I don't know exactly when it all began - in school, certainly, when I almost never had the right pens, exercise books, sports equipment or bus ticket to get home with at the end of day, leading me to resort to begging from friends. It seems to have become worse over the last few years, perhaps as a response to my inevitable accumulation of responsibilities as I get older: I believe that having to concentrate on my children has, hilariously, led me to bollocks up other aspects of my life concomitantly. Remember to have nappies in the house for when my child comes to stay? Fine. But this will be balanced out by a huge whoopsie in the days to come. The positive and negative columns have to even out. If I am mindful to pack all of my kid's clothes and all of mine and get us on a train on time, and not leave him on it or lock him in a toilet, I can be certain that I will throw away a stack of old letters containing an urgent missive from HMRC in the coming week. Om shanti om.
There is no smart lesson to this. I haven't learned anything, I cannot make it stop; I don't believe that I'm able to get better. I'm sort of able to make peace with my idiocy, my fallibility; kind of apt to cope with the constant disruptions to the steadiness of my life. But after a while, to those who know you best, mining your pathologies for laughs starts to wear thin, and they see behind the gauze, to the depleted being you are. My problem is not that I can't stop losing things, that my quotidian life is a shambles; it's more that I've become less certain how to spin it.