You try and shrug it all off. After all, perhaps life has the occasional continuity error. Maybe the universe has periodic existential glitches, rare quantum events. Finally you heard of the “disappearing object phenomenon” or DOP, as paranormal sites on the net have called it, happy to not be alone — but still the cause, or causes, remain unknown.
The last hypothesis you would have suspected to find yourself entertaining is that of the complete dissociation of identity, where amnesia is instilled in you, the host, for the time in which an alter personality is at the wheel of the body. Indeed, the switching may fly beneath the radar of one’s life for enduring periods of time, it is suggested, so how does one go about ascertaining whether one is possessed of this level of duality in consciousness?
The first red flags that waved unambiguously to me (when I read a good portion if a book and then proceeded, as is chronic in my life, to fall past event horizon into the surreal bowels of my obsessive-compulsive Internet research frenzy) dealt with instances involving objects. These came in three types. There are objects that mysteriously come up missing, objects that mysteriously pop up among your belongings and objects that disappear for some time before reappearing in an unlikely place.
As for objects that have come up missing, there is, to begin, that childhood incident involving the timer.
Growing up, my parents never resorted to physical violence with my two younger sisters and I. Instead, mom would sentence her disobedient little larvae to that dreaded place the three of us kids knew only as The Corner.
I saw it often enough. Left there alone to study the subtle contours of the paint, I would stew away at the absence of justice and grow mad in the overwhelming boredom thrust upon me in a prison limited to the narrow, banal space where one wall met another. If matters were mot bad enough, the duration of my term of torture was measured by the irritating, persistent tick-tick-ticking of that blasted oven timer. Boredom only ended with its angry, frantic ringing. In a way, all this was preparation for schooldays to come.
Clearly I hated that unholy, piece-of-crap timer with that steady, mechanical pulse serving as the soundtrack to the agony of unrelenting boredom. So on the day my mother discovered that the wretched oven timer was missing, disappointment was not my reaction.
Sadly, my capacity to be thankful to the kind hero who disposed of it took a back seat to defending my own innocence. After asking me in steady mantra in a voice of growing volume where I had put it, her fury growing with my every denial, my mother made me tear apart my room looking for it. This went on for some time. I was looking through my toy chest when she finally told me to stop and made me turn around. Facing her now, she asked if I was ready to tell her where I had put it. Even today, at 34 years of age, she operates under the same faulty assumption: that it was me.
After we moved, sometime around seventh or eighth grade, there was a sort of sequel to the timer incident. Strangely, this incident never seems to stick out for my parents like the previous, but it was considerably more plaguing for me.
It happened when I suddenly became hyperconscious of my appearance and social image. I wanted to feel like I belonged, be looked at in a different way, and it was all a disaster, but my determination had yet to run dry. Of particular focus was my hair. For years I had wanted my hair to look like Luke Skywalker’s after he emerged from being pulled down in the watery trash pit by that weird creature in that scene from the first Star Wars movie. To make it easy for you: his hair was slicked back. I liked that look and it was what I wanted, but I could never get my hair to do it.
Then came eighth grade, and I became even more obsessed about my hair. This time, however, I wanted my hair cut in such a way that it would grow into the hairstyle Edward Furlong had in the movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Once a week it seemed I would grab the stool, scissors, mirror, towel and other supplies and bring them into the dining room, where my mother had promised to cut my hair. Trim a little here, clip a little there.
More and more often I would also grab my father’s electric hair clippers, which he used to trim his beard. He kept it inside a small cardboard box inside the plastic cabinet above the toilet in the downstairs bathroom. In the basket there were perhaps five of six clipper cartridges which you could put in or take off the clipper to trim at varying lengths.
How many times I grabbed the clippers and returned them until the cartridge went missing, I do not recall, but when it happened, it brought back a strangely familiar sense of frustration.
Everyone’s Columbo, everyone’s Sherlock Holmes, and they all peg you the culprit. They did not catch you red handed, sure, but the trail of blood leads to you. You are guilty until proven innocent, and it is up to you to prove the negative. This becomes understandably more difficult on the second occasion a cartridge goes missing after you have used it and, I promise you, entirely impossible on the third such occasion.
Frustratingly, the only possibility you are in the position to know is not true is what the other party takes as a given actuality for what you must confess are perfectly legitimate reasons.
I feel certain that there is an internal logic to the universe, but I feel equally certain that it feels no obligation to fall into accordance with the human-made logic with which we strive to understand the universe. All signs can point to Yes, but the answer is still fucking No — our Magic 8 Ball brains be damned.
I know I didn’t take the timer just as I knew I had put everything back just as I had found it after my mother helped me customize my gnarly mesh of gourd follicles. Even in light of all that, as you tear apart the bathroom looking for a little black plastic clip of detachable trimmer teeth you hope but somehow know is not there to be found as you have done this three or four times before, you really begin to question yourself.
There was, so far as I can recall, only one personal instance in which the reverse occurred and an object mysteriously appeared amidst my possessions. I believe it happened shortly before moving out of my parent’s house in 2003. A book ended up in my room that I had never seen before, and no one else in the house knew where it had come from or would have put it there. The book was the 1994 book It’s All In Your Head: Remarkable Facts About the Human Mind by Jean Stine and Camden Benares. Though it was a good many years until I began reading it, it proved to be full of intriguing entries dealing with all matters of the brain.
Lastly there are those objects that disappear and then reappear. As a sort of subcategory here we might mention objects that appear in unlikely places, as the numerous times I have woken up with the phone beside me in bed, and have even found it in my hand. Sometimes I wake up with my head on the opposite side of my bed, too.
Only on one occasion do I recall an object disappearing for a time and then reappearing, and this happened rather recently, during the first year my roommate and I moved in. I had a heavy, black, felt button-down shirt that seemingly vanished, and then one day I walked into my room and it was laid out on my bed. Thinking I had perhaps left it in my roommate’s car and he had seen it and put it back in my room, I asked him about it, only to receive a confused negative. The confusion came from the fact that if he had not done it, I must have, but I most certainly did not.
This brings me to an incident that occurred when my friends and I were still living in the last house we shared together. I awoke one morning and went to make a pot of coffee when I found the funnel you put the grounds in missing. It seemed strange that my roommates would play a prank on me, at least like this, and they denied it when I asked them. Eventually, I found the damned thing in the microwave.
Something similar but slightly more interesting had happened a few weeks prior. I was going through my usual insomniac routine one evening and watching a movie alone in the living room. Suddenly, for just a moment, I distinctly smelled brownies, and this transient olfactory hallucination inspired me to get up off my lazy ass and actually make some. As they baked I watched my movie and when they were done I had a few, placed the napkin over the top, and went upstairs with the hopes of lapsing into a coma.
Upon awakening, I meandered downstairs, saw my roommate and his girlfriend in the living room and turned the corner to grab a brownie before making my morning pot of coffee. Lifting the napkin, I found a barren desert of a pan plastered with dark, brown crumbs. After confronting my roommates in the nearby living room, my prime suspects, they insisted that it had, in fact, been me. Ever open-minded, my response was, “Bullshit.”
They were not joking, unfortunately. Evidently I would come downstairs, grab a brownie, and walk back up the stairs. I did this multiple times. After I got my coffee and returned to my room, I found three butts in the ashtray I could have sworn I emptied before crashing the night before.
That got me a bit worried. People can sleepwalk, sleep-talk and even engage in complex activities and conversations during sleep without remembering it. As far as I can tell, an alter would appear to be just a highly developed rendition of it all.
In the brownie instance: was this was not merely an instance of something disappearing, but suggestion that an alter inspired me through an olfactory hallucination to produce the very thing that was destined to disappear? The hallucinated scent of brownies that had spawned my post-midnight baking — could that have been my sleepwalking self who, having already planned to take the wheel of the body as soon as I conked out, thought he might manipulate me into making him a little snack?