Where Is My Towel?

I was surprisingly upset with the loss of my towel. It was a generous, blue and white-striped beach towel, the kind that I could completely wrap around my body, like a warm cape.

I had turned my back to comb my hair for just a minute in the locker room and the towel was gone.

'Is this yours?" the teenage girl closing her locker asked, pointing to the polka-dotted blue and white one, rolled up neatly, with frayed worn edges sticking out the sides.

"No, that's not mine."

Could the thief have taken my towel by mistake? Not likely, Polka dots and stripes are too easy to distinguish. Besides, mine was almost too thick to roll up.

Who would steal my towel and why? I could put up a notice on the bulletin board. "Lost Towel. Will the person who took my new towel and left their old towel please return it?" Sounds petty.

For days, whenever I went to the pool I would look for my towel. Would the towel thief be bold enough to bring it back to the pool? I feel a bit silly looking suspiciously at innocent girls carrying towels. Even if I caught her, towel-handed, she might deny it.

I know I'm becoming obsessed by my lost towel. I have two other fairly new beach towels which I can use. It's only a towel. I can easily buy another one, probably on sale now that it's the end of the season. But I want my towel back.

The locker room is believed to be a safe place. We women are discreet in the locker room. We try not to look directly at one another as we're getting in and out of our bathing suits. There is a level of intimacy. We have short conversations, about how good we feel after having exercised, what the weather forecast is and someone's new bathing suit and occasionally about a tragedy or a comedy that happened the day before or might happen the day after. We act like friends, even if we don't know one another well enough to be friends.

None of us would steal from one another. My towel thief betrayed us. She had gotten away with it. She took my towel and left me something in return that I did not want; a worn thin polka dotted towel, and a frayed sense of trust.

Come now, I tell myself, get over it. It's only a towel.