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Once years ago at the only gay/lesbian bar in Contra Costa County, I lost an earring.  My friends and I were dancing (one of my students was a dancer at the club and asked me to come and he was dancing, too, but in far less clothing than we had on).  It was crowded and hot, and we were having fun, jumping around and bumping and grinding.  By the time I got back to the table, I realized that one of my earrings was gone.

It wasn't a great earring--14 K gold plated cheap metal--but it had belonged to my sister, the one who died.  I scrabbled around on the floor, my friends assisting me, but a dancer probably kicked it under a table or chair or into the corner behind a curtain somewhere, and I gave up.  I stood, shook my head, and went back to the table.

I had to sit there quietly for a while, just think about the earring and then consciously letting it go.  I had to stop wanting to find it.  I had to force myself to stop thining every two minutes about going back out there on my hands and knees and searching.  I managed to leave the club and managed to shrug it off, kind of.

But here I am, seventeen years later, still able to feel the heft of that earring in my hand.

It's not the earring that I lost that bothers me, of course.  It's the fact that it was something of my dead sister's, an earring that she wore.  It was the fact that our life together, related, connected was over.  And now, seventeen years since I danced to some techno beat, I can actually feel the heft of the earring more clearly than I can remember my sister's laugh. 

At some later point, I forced myself to let go of the orphaned earring, the one without a partner.  I donated it to a costume bag at the kids' school or threw it away.  I picked it up and took it out of my jewelry box and tried to let it go, too, out into the world where it could have some kind of single earring life.

But no matter my attempt, I was still that lone, partnerless earring, the one without the other half.  Just the way I felt the moment I lost the first one.  There I was on the dance floor without my earring and without my sister, the biggest loss I'd ever faced, bigger than losing my father because I was an adult when my sister died.  This time, I knew that the pain was a subterranean well of forever sadness.  Losing the earring opened a fissure, allowed the waters up and out.  Giving away the second one--instead of closing the fissure--cracked open everything.

Now I sit here, the waters a trickle, my sister dead almost 18 years.  But still, I'm on my hands and knees on the dirty floor of a club, my half naked student gyrating on the stage, my friends next to me, all of us searching for something that no one would ever find.