When I realised that you were missing, I went looking. For hours, I chased your ghost through back alleys, across piers in provisional beach towns, along winding Mediterranean roads, down narrow Gothic Fleshmarket passageways, into and out of the heart of suburbia, across fields and hills and oceans, and yet still I could not find you.
I retraced my steps and found myself at home. I began my search again. I looked for you at the corner of the sofa, where you curled up, cat-like, after a long day. I sought your sound on the stairs, the sonorous stumbling run as you came to greet me home. I traced the endless path you paced in the garden, and found every twig-like cigarette you dropped on your route, as you walked and thought and smoked and talked. I sought you in our room, now my room – your side of the bed was quiet, and I found no forwarding address pinned next to the note on the bedside table. “I love you xxx.”
No matter. I kept searching. I dropped everything and hit the road. I told myself if I searched hard enough, if I pushed myself, if I was determined, I’d find you. I would keep looking until I did. It was as simple as that. I sat in cramped train carriage seats, and watched the countryside flash by. I searched for you on the Brighton seafront, as the sea air spattered me with salty spite. I headed North, and walked the path to Crammond Island and back a thousand times, hoping for clues.
Perhaps you did not wish to be found, the thought occurs. Very well then. I resolved to wait, and sat up late, burning incense, sipping my way through a bottle of GlenLivet, with a good book I nervously pretended to read across my lap. Perhaps I’d drop off and you’d come in the door, and find me, waiting for you, and you’d know I cared. Knew I’d always wait up for you. Night after night I did this. The whiskey was drunk and I read a dozen books without recognising one word of prose, and still you did not return.
Days turned to weeks. Texts went unanswered. Facebook messages were seen and not replied to. I went back over our thread – 3,500 messages over two and a half years. Ranging from the intimate (“I miss you so much it hurt.”) to the functional (“Am outside – where you at?”) to “Mun þú mik,man ek þik. Unn þú mér, ann ek þér.” Those messages come from “A Facebook User” now. Calls to your number go straight to voicemail. A searching email returns, apologetically, with an out of office. All I get from you is silence.
I wished I could dance back across your timeline, find every traumatic moment that made you afraid, and place myself as a human shield between you and the world. I wished I could have known you as a child, when you were frightened, and I could have knelt down and said “Do not be afraid. I will love you, I love you, I will always be there for you, years from now. We’ll meet outside the college library and then a year later we’ll hold hands for the first time late on a Tuesday night after we’ve both been crying. But I promise you, I will be there for you.”
That conversation will never happen. In the same way as the children we planned in all seriousness will never be born, or named, or raised by two people with fucked up childhoods who wanted to give a better life to someone else. Our proposed road trip around the Greek coast will evaporate, and exist only insofar as the hastily scribbled notes we made.
When I realised you were missing, it put a pinprick in my heart. When I knew you were gone, and you were not coming back, it tore into a hole. The hole wasn’t fatal but I felt myself thudding around the gaps as I went through every day. Nothing can fill that terrible absence. It is deep, and it is dark, and it is silent.
When I realised that you were missing, I went looking for you, and I came back alone.