Sharon is an Asian-American content creator based in Austin.


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The Bright Orange String

Zilker Park is a picturesque and calm location to read while friends play with their dogs and sleep in hammocks. The endless greenery around Rock Island, capped at one corner with sand volleyball courts and encircled by a perimeter of trees, is where you can get a beautiful shot of the skyline, and this expanse is also quite the prime location to lose personal effects.

The field would completely engulf a 5.4- by 2.7-inch phone. Think of the parched distances between strategically placed Camelbak water stations at ACL. Think of how you would ask a friend to refill your water bottle for you so you don't lose your spot at the railing an hour before the show. To search within this context requires acting on the slightest glimmer of hope with quite significant determination.

One past weekend, after a small trek to find appropriately distanced trees for hammocks and dry ground, we snipped a particularly long bright orange string in half for the hammocks, brand new. Ali and I sat through a mini knot lesson by Brian, after which we individually read and took naps. While highlighting sections of a recent book, I also kept an eye on our pups, who would occasionally wander into the street, get shooed away from soccer-themed family photos, and plop down in mud and shake it all over my phone.

Afterward, while walking to my car with a towel, phone, water bottle, and keys in one arm and two leashes in the other, the two dogs trotted toward a young couple who was having a photo session, their babies crawling in the lush patch of grass. Their parents scooped said babies up in protection.

I scrambled to get the dogs back on leashes when the photographer dreamed up the opportune possibility of adding the dogs to the session. How brilliant! It would really make such dynamic photos to integrate these chance happenings.

My desire to leave immediately was outweighed by the couples’ willingness and trust of their adventurous photographer. Why not? I humored them and myself by throwing all my objects nearby on the floor.

For the next 10 minutes, the babies cooed at 65-pound Shakes with fascination, while their parents put on a kind show and pet him with several fingers in his process of drying from a muddy puddle. I encouraged Shakes to sit, but in agreement with his loyal, submissive demeanor, he repeatedly rolled onto his back in general puppy fashion. My roommate’s dog split promptly, distracting herself with more alpha-like interests. I'm not sure how the shots came out, but before long the novelty of the opportunity began to fizzle, and I politely pulled the pups away to the car.

In the back of my CR-V, I funneled all of my loose objects onto the seat, but my phone was nowhere to be found. Surely I had just overlooked it; I searched the floor. I searched the front seat, and the back seat again, and settled on the dim likelihood that it was out in the field.

The husband, with concerned eyebrows, shifted his baby over to his other arm while dialing my number, but my phone was silent because of our earlier nap. The wife looked within a small peripheral of the tripod, but soon I released them from searching and they bode me good luck. Three kids around my age pulled up on road bikes, leaning them against a tree and moving toward the field with a frisbee golf disc.

Ali and Brian back at the hammocks sympathetically offered to help me look after packing up, so I got a head start by retracing my steps: giving a wide berth to a large mud puddle, cornering a couple playing ping pong in swimsuits over a small tennis net, and passing by the edge of the frisbee tossing.

While passing the frisbee corner, I considered asking one of the players about my phone, but talked myself out of it. I continued to walk.

I was just about to be out of earshot when I surprised myself, turning around and calling out to the guy in the cap:

“Hi, did you happen to find a phone around here?"

"No, sorry.”

I asked him to let me know if he did, to which he immediately agreed, but I knew that the chances of that in the next few minutes were slim. I turned around and continued, debating what I would do when getting home and mentally kicking myself for not having a password lock. I began to emotionally prepare myself for the separation and began to run through every list I had made on my phone.

I barely made it five steps before a voice abruptly interrupted my thoughts with “Is this yours?”

The voice was a gal’s, and I turned around to see a pair of sunglasses and a shaggy head of hair paired with a black tank top. She was actually the frisbee player the farthest from me in the triangle, and as she walked toward me, her arm was extended and holding a rectangular object. "Yes, that's it!" I said, before we were even close.

"I happened to look down and saw it at my feet,” she said. She must have been at least twenty or thirty feet away, out of earshot, yet must have anticipated what I had asked him. I liked that she was paying attention.

I grasped the mud-stained screen in my hands and thanked her with exclamations, because within fifteen minutes, I had already began the coping process of loss. I thought about God’s provision and realized I've been looking for opportunities lately to doubt him, perhaps that even he would do that for me, today. My small faith was disappointing; it is never a small thing when something lost is found, or even when something valuable is stumbled upon. The mud was easily cleanable, after all.

As I returned to the other two with good news, I felt happy and grateful as they verbally cheered with me. As I drove off, I spotted them strolling across the field, their silhouettes gradually panning as my car circled around the loop, but it was actually the bright orange string that my eyes went to first.

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