We moved into our townhouse in El Monte, California about four year ago. The townhouse is fairly new, not even 20 years old, although El Monte is one of the older communities in southern California. Late in the evening as I was lying in bed I'd hear footsteps running up and down the stairs, but I never thought much of it. We shared a common wall with one neighbor who had two younger children, so I just figured it was their son running up and down their stairs which shared the same wall as ours (the floor plans of the townhouses were mirror images of each other). Although it sure did sound like someone running up our stairs.
Now as probably happens in many houses the world over, items in our house would disappear, often when they'd been left in plain sight, like on the kitchen table or counter. We'd search high and low but not find them, but a couple of days later they'd be back; sometimes lying in plain sight, other times under a newspaper or a magazine, even though we were positive we'd looked there several times.
Last week my wife woke me around 2am when she came to bed. She asked me what I'd done with the book she'd been reading that afternoon when she took her nap. I told her I hadn't seen it when I came to bed, nevertheless I was forced to get out of bed and conduct a search for her book because she just has to read before going to sleep, even at 2am. The book was nowhere to be found and my wife reluctantly abandoned the search and climbed into bed.
Over the next few days, when it occurred to us, we'd look around for the book. I even lay down on the floor and looked under the bed and under our bedside tables. I did this a few times over several days. You know how it is. You've looked there already, but maybe, just maybe, it will be there this time.
Last night my wife excitedly showed me the book. She'd found it under her bedside table. Now the gap under our bedside tables is rather high, so anything lying under them should have been immediately apparent. And remember that several times I'd lain on the floor and been at the perfect level to see anything under the bedside tables.
Not only had the book been under my wife's bedside table, but she said it had been standing up on one end, not unlike when you have it on a bookshelf. Somehow over several days we had both failed to see the book, standing up under her bedside table, despite it being something we'd both been actively looking for.
That night around 2am I was woken by a tapping on my shoulder. I rolled to face my wife and asked her what was wrong. With her head buried in her book my wife did not reply. What did you want? I snapped at her, grumpy and annoyed at being woken in the middle of the night. My wife raised her head, puzzled, and asked what I meant.
Why did you tap me on the shoulder? I asked her.
I never touched you, she replied.
Still annoyed, but possessing the enviable gift of being able to return to sleep at a moment's notice, I rolled over and was back to sleep within seconds.
Perhaps I imagined the touch on my shoulder, perhaps it was a remnant of a dream I couldn't remember, although it must have been a dream where I was awoken by a tap on my shoulder.
And how on earth could the book have stood up, under the bedside table, for an entire week, and not been seen by two people turning the house upside down looking for it. It wasn't the first item in our house to disappear and reappear days later, and I'm sure it won't be the last, either. Did we somehow overlook the obvious, unable to see the forest for the trees? Or had someone, or something, borrowed the book for a time?