I’m not sure when I first noticed it was missing. I woke up early one morning, and it wasn’t there. I didn’t find it in the rumpled bed linens as I made the bed, or in the stacks of laundry waiting to be folded on the dresser. It wasn’t on the kitchen counter, or lying in a heap on the bathroom floor with his work clothes. It’s not in the stew bubbling in kitchen pans or the pipes that drip slowly within the walls.
At one point the dog was barking outside, but when I walked out onto the porch, there was nothing there. I stood for several minutes staring at nuthatches as they bounced down the tree trunk on their toothpick legs. Were they looking for it, too? Was it buried somewhere beneath the bark of that old tree? Wrapped in sap and covered with tiny armored creatures?
I can’t smell it anywhere — the sweet mix of cedar and river water and red clay. Sometimes I think I almost taste it when the wind blows just right; soft and warm off the prairie from the southwest.
I haven’t told him it’s missing, but he knows. He sees me looking for it, trying to imagine what it would look like, or where it could be found. He shakes his head, and we argue a bit before both deciding silently that we are of different earth.