A perfectly mundane poster. Black ink on white letter paper, a black and white puppy with spotted ears. A few hand-scribbled words above that ask:
Do you recognize this dog?
A poster like the hundred others plastered around it, along the sidewalks of this street. Except this one is the only one hung within a seven-year-old’s reach. A closer look at the picture itself reveals the dog is a stuffed toy. The title contains a spelling mistake, the description below reads:
My dog answers to Danilo and likes animal crackers with his tea. His birthday is on the 4th of April, same as me. We go everywhere together, even school; in class he hides in my backpack. He does not know how to do any tricks, except keep secrets well. At night we both do not like the dark, but he guards my bed when I sleep.
He has a heart shaped spot above his nose, and got lost the day before yesterday, at the movie theater. If you recognize him, will you please help him find his way home?
The same poster hangs, at the same quaint half height, in clusters and odd angles on this street’s walls and poles. And those of the intersecting road as well, apparently, and the one parallel to that. Hip height at the entrance of the metro station, the grocery store, pharmacy, bakery. Since the day before yesterday, the whole neighborhood knows a little boy has been missing his dog.
Since the day before yesterday, seven years ago, I have been missing someone too. My poster would show a bean drawing of a boy, with blond hair and a crown. A smiley face, pink cheeks, a round button nose, and very big honey eyes. I do not draw well, but if you saw him in the street, would you recognize this boy?
His birthday is on the 4th of April. He would be fourteen this year. He liked sprinkles and animal crackers, and the yellow apples only. His favorite colors were all of them, except for black of course. He loved karaoke, rabbits, soap bubbles and treasure hunts.
He believed I could do anything, left little notes and scribbles in my bag. At night, he was afraid of the dark, but not if he was sleeping in my bed.
He loved dogs and had a little stuffed one that went by the name Patapouf. A loyal companion who got lost one night, in a movie theater too. He must have gone off to look for it. Or to Neverland, I don’t know.
He is the most wonderful little boy in the world, and has a beauty mark behind his left ear. If you see him, will you please tell him we are missing him here at home?
I saw him last in this same kitchen, feet dangling from this same blue chair. He wore blue and gray pajamas, and drank his tea with two sugars, as I ruffled his hair. I carried him upstairs and we read a story in bed, of a bear who had a tummy ache, but felt better the next day.
In the story, the bear’s mother feeds him rainbow colored jelly beans. In square, round, tube and star shapes, some sugar coated, others shiny. I promised the little boy that night that I would buy some for him the next day. But he got lost when I left in the morning and I have been missing him since.
Since the day before yesterday, seven years ago, I lost a few more things. The ability to flip pancakes as I make them, for instance; I no longer make pancakes at all. I no longer sing in the shower or read bedtime stories. I no longer find notes in my bags. I am no longer sure I can fix everything, either. Perhaps I got lost too.
Little prince, if you can hear me, I am sorry I changed. I have your jelly beans, but if I brought them to you, would you recognize me? My birthday is still on the 21st of November, I am still afraid of the dark. Lucky charms are still my favorite cereal, I still eat the rainbows last. I still know how to laugh and hunt for treasure, and most of the words to the songs we used to sing. I still miss you, still love you as much as ever. That will never change.