I feel slightly sheepish writing this. The grief I feel over losing my friend, Zoupi, pales in comparison to the death of a human friend or a living pet. It seems unfair to even compare them at all. But People and pets die and we sort of accept that is going to happen some day to everyone. Zoupi was never supposed to exit my life and I feel the loss keenly every single day.
Zoupi is my stuffed elephant. He came into our family in 2000.
He disappeared, along with my laptop bag, at LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal on August 23rd after we landed from Narita.
Before getting off the plane, I’d put him in the laptop bag so he’d have more room – my purse was almost full and I wanted to have my water bottle at hand. I kick myself now that I lost Zoupi because I wanted a drink of water.
At the baggage carousel, our suitcase came out tangled in someone else’s luggage. I chased it around the carousel to free them. I had a moment of panic as I realised I’d left my backpack sitting unattended, but when I looked over, there it was, perfectly safe, in a bright shaft of sunlight, even. I didn’t give a second thought to my laptop bag; I’d had it on my shoulder consistently until then. I don’t know if I’d left it with the backpack, sat it down somewhere along the carousel or what. Maybe it was even still with me and I lost it when I shouldered the backpack to leave. I really do not know. Not knowing isn’t like me at all.
At any rate, whatever happened exactly with the bags, that is when Zoupi went missing.
The story goes on from there as I panicked and we tried to find the bag, got shuffled from place to place within LAX, filed lost and found reports, made phone calls, filled in more forms online, made more calls. Every option returned bad news. I kept having hope at every turn the Zoupi would come home somehow. Secretly, I still do.
I cried every night for two weeks. I still cry sometimes.
When I got home, I had to tell the other elephants that Zoupi wasn’t coming back.
Every time I ride the bus, I pass Zoupi’s favorite stop, Roku-ji Zou.