There are places, here in our World, which seem to be out of it. Like taken apart, they do not fit nor match this reality, as if they were placed in a different time-space. The so called milk bars, located in the suburbs, where one can eat pancakes, or a soup, or have a fruit drink. These bars with elderly people wearing grey, shabby coats. These bars, where those elderly are mixed with young (and not too rich) students or even with whole families, tired of life.
At these places, I usually only have a brief glance through the window pane, never going in, as if I were, sort of, afraid of being embedded, of being taken from the city rhythm and put over a table with a pea-and-butter plate. Well... Perhaps in me there is some kind of internal fear of losing my personal life-status which I have. From the other hand, huh..., I am afraid of finding out that the very same pea-with-butter would be so delicious, that I would be ready to change my everyday schedule, putting into my agenda a daily milk bar visit. And thus, to literally dwindle within the gray human mass.
A place of mine, shrouded with secrets, which I was afraid to go into for many years, was stuck deep within a train station hall's abyss, called... “Found & Lost Office”. In fact, not << lost and found >> but << found and lost >> or even lost to be precise. And this lost place, together with its lost items, intrigued me for years. Everyday, when I was coming back home from my work, when I was passing through the train station tunnel. I was always, yes always choosing the most distant city train hub, and was one of the few ones passing there by. People were usually taking different shortcuts. Me... I was happy to dive into that kind of forgotten platform hub area. As you may guess it, the hall's abyss was secretly hiding its treasures: old window panes of an arcade and flipper game saloon, covered with dust and dried water marks (or was it water...). An arcade game saloon trying to lure any passenger by its numerous flashing cabinets and its characteristic chiptunes. I have never seen a single person, a single player inside... or perhaps I was not a good observer..
A little further on you could notice another computer artifact, or even a relict – an Internet cafe, with separated boxes for users and players who could not or were not yet connected to the World Wide Web. The “Found & Lost Office” was placed between the two mentioned places – the Arcade Game room and the Internet Cafe. In fact it looked like an entry with an ARROW, informing where one should go. In this alley, or even cul-de-sac as the French used to say, there was a hidden haven where lost items have found their peaceful rest. I was wondering, if I could ever find there one of things I lost in the past. Well, I have never lost anything, but such a thought was very tempting, I must admit. The thought disappeared as soon as I left the tunnel and mingled with the anonymous crowd, returning home after a whole day of work..
That one day it was different, though, as instead of passing by the arcade saloon and then the office sign board and the Internet cafe, I stopped in the middle of the way. The writing on the sign board was quite old, which could be concluded from the scratches, but I must admit, still looked being taken care of, as if someone was cleaning it daily, letter by letter replacing all the missing spots of paint.
It took me five steps to enter a narrow passage, and another five led me to the corner. A turn of 90 degrees and another five steps. There I saw an arrow indicator asking to turn left to continue. The passage, artificially lighted by a row of fluorescent tubes, was unnaturally long, longer than one could think. That light, so homogenous, no flickering tubes, was giving particular ambient, as if everything was precisely finished with every detail to become ideal. Even a screen of my mobile phone has never been so evenly lighted.
The door at the end of the corridor had no sign, nothing. No intercom button nor a bell. It looked like a perfectly rendered computer game object.
I knocked on the door. No answer. I knocked once again, and pushed the handle. There, the door opened and gave a view at a not big but neither small room, where I noticed a desk placed in the middle, with a perfectly matching chair. No living person inside? I looked around and, I think, I might have heard a brief flush of tap water. Yes, and the spoon, as if someone was mixing something in a mug.
“I will wait”, I said to myself. Soon, the author of this small etude will show up himself... or herself, surprised by an unexpected visitor.
- Good morning, Madame – I elegantly greeted the lady. She was in her middle ages, although you could not tell precisely. She was subtly hiding her age behind her black corner glasses and her carefully done chignon.
- Good morning – she replied – What can I do for you?
The silence drew longer and longer. I did not know what to say, and how to explain my presence. So, rapidly, I chose the most obvious and easiest explanation...
- I am looking for....
I did not even finish my sentence, when she interrupted me while setting down on her office chair.
- Could you give me, please your first and last name? Your birthdate, and your parents' names?
I answered automatically giving her all the personal data she needed. She did not answer, occupied with filling all the gaps in a PC application. At the very same moment I had an impression that the room we were together... moved. But hey, it must have been an illusion, an optical one...
- Do you know the rules? - she looked at me waiting for my answer.
- N... No... - I answered truthfully.
- You may read it and sign the shortened version, please. The complete text of the rules... I will send you by an email.
She handed me a sheet of paper, printed on two sides, and I dictated her my address.
Well, to tell the truth, there was nothing surprising nor special about these rules... Even though that... in fact the “Found & Lost Office” was functioning rather as a lend office. Yes, they were lending items which had been lost. One could lend virtually any object one desired or wanted to have, and could keep it... for one day only. Otherwise, if that rule was not respected - the lender become its new owner and the office ceased to testify its services.
- Well, fair enough - I said to myself and put my signature down on the paper sheet. Soon, my mobile phone informed me about a new incoming mail.
- Please feel welcomed and follow me – I heard. And one moment later we were both behind something which looked like a ship bulkhead, heading to the main depository. After going down the stairways, we got to the same level as the train platform. A few more steps and the lady drew out her magnetic badge and opening the door. She welcomed me inside.
- Once you are ready with your choice, she said, please push the ring button. Here, close to the door. Please, do not go out on your own, she continued, as you really risk to get lost, Sir. The word << Sir >> seemed drowning behind her, as she was already at the other side of the door.
I was alone. The boxes were everywhere, occupying three walls from top to bottom.
I approached a box in front of me, quite a big one. It looked like a one meter long and one meter high cube. I pulled it out, without any particular effort, and put it on the table, placed close to the main door. With a bit of excitation and thrill I opened it. I was... I was... I felt SURPRISED.
It's been ages since I saw << this >> box. Dusting off the small styrofoam balls, I was discovering an old, forgotten, a little bit shabby picture picturing a space fighter, a Formula 1 car, an unknown football player... A little bit deeper I found another few boxes and cassette tapes. I opened one small box without much thinking and pulled out a bell.
A couple of minutes later, with a borrowed bag, I was coming back home happy as... I do not remember since when... I guess since my childhood...
For the reason of flexible adaptation, the text was, in some places, slightly modified by the translator.
Translation: Sim / Wanted Team, Lamers, Resistance, Titan...
Additional corrections: Fei.