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The Weight of Lost Objects, by Dawn Raffel


The bracelet—a double, really, made of two gold strands—was a college graduation gift from my elegant great-aunt. This was at the end of a decade when everyone my age wore ruined jeans and tees, when jewelry, if any, tended to be aggressively fake. Gold belonged to old folks. My wrists were (and are) as thin as a child’s; bracelets get in my way. But this one was exactly the right size and skimmed weightlessly over my pulse.

Five years later, the bracelet was stolen from the first apartment where I lived with my husband in New York City, along with a cameo dinner ring that had belonged to my grandmother. We changed the locks; the theft was most likely an inside job in the building, but there wasn’t much else worth stealing. Many years later, I bought myself a similar cameo ring online. But although I have often thought about that bracelet, have imagined it on my wrist, I never sought a replacement. The aunt who gave it to me remained effulgently lovely well into her eighties, then shrank into delusion, losing words and sense until the day she vanished.

Her niece, who was my mother, died the following year. She went to bed one night and did not wake up in the morning. Next to the bathroom sink, a wristwatch lay in an ashtray. My mother did not smoke but held an affection for ashtrays and for all things glass, for things that caught the light, for things that could hold other things.

The watch, with its gold and silver band and its deep blue face, was too big for my wrist. During one of the many trips I made to clean out the house, I took it with me, almost as an afterthought. A while later, I recognized what should have been obvious, that a jeweler could remove a few links to make it a perfect fit.

My mother’s blue-faced watch held my wrist every day and then it disappeared. When I noticed my wrist was bare, I went out in the street and retraced my steps to no avail. At home, I looked in every likely and unlikely place, off and on for years. I waited for the watch to turn up, in the way lost objects do. It never did, although I still have the extra links.

Somewhere in the world, there is a blue-faced watch that may or may not tick, and a delicate gold bracelet made of two strands slender as dreams. Perhaps there is someone who loves them.


  • Dawn Raffel's most recent book, The Strange Case of Dr. Couney, was chosen as one of NPR’s best books of 2018. Previous books include a memoir, The Secret Life of Objects; a novel, Carrying the Body; and two story collections, Further Adventures in the Restless Universe and In the Year of Long Division. Her writing has been published in O, The Oprah Magazine, BOMB, New Philosopher, The San Francisco Chronicle, Conjunctions, Black Book, Open City, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, Arts & Letters, The Quarterly, NOON, and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. She currently works as an independent editor for individuals and creative organizations, specializing in memoir, short stories, and narrative nonfiction. She is also a certified yoga instructor and teaches embodied creative writing.

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