Dial Tone

To start, sorry for not posting this on schedule. I forgot to schedule the post. This is one of the first things I wrote this month for Nanowrimo, and is the story of a dropped phone call, and a missing person. its a little odd, and I find the ending a little unsatisfying, but this is where it is for the moment.

“I think he’s in the house.” Was all I heard before the call dropped. I called back three times, and when I didn’t get an answer I called the police.

Mariana was gone. The house was empty when the police showed, and as far as they could tell there was no signs of a struggle. At first they tried to blow me off, but when one detective found Mariana’s purse, phone, and keys left behind, even the doubter’s among the police had a hard time saying she had just left on her own.

A quick call to the bank, and it was confirmed that no cash had been withdrawn from her accounts, and with no car, and no cards it seemed pretty unlikely she had gone far.

They started with a canvas of the area, and when Mariana wasn’t found, my best friend officially became a missing person.

It was surreal at first. This is the kind of thing that happens in TV shows, happens on the news, but to other people. You say things like “she could be my sister, or my best friend” but you don’t really believe it.

You feel a little guilty about it, but you assume certain things about those people. You assume that hat they are into the kind of things that get you taken, or that there is a jealous ex, or they just ran off. It’s only when you are sitting there at 3am in a police station outlining every single interaction you have had with someone, that it occurs to you that a lot of those missing persons from the news probably had friends and family who sat in a station like this doing the same thing. They were scared, and confused, and had no idea who would wanted to abduct that person, they were nice to everyone.

At first the news cycle is kind, they run it as a good woman vanished without a trace. A victim you must help to stop yourself from being next. It runs like that for a week, and then it tapers off. and when it comes back, the muckraking starts.

Every bad decision Mariana has ever made is blown up out of proportion, until if I didn’t know her, I would assume she was a drug addicted prostitute. My shame at all those past missings grows as each mostly falsified story airs. Just enough actual truth that litigation isn’t possible, and the police tell me to look on the bright side. With every new revelation, every new sling of the mud, they are putting Mariana’s face back on the television, and people will see her. This is one of those horrible times, that all press is “good” press. Good, as an alternative to being forgotten entirely.

Each lead raises my hopes, and then dashes them again as they all fail to pan out. After six months the case is called cold, and Mariana, with no family to speak of, is no longer a priority. I held on another two years, but one day I look up at the support group of broken people, and I realize something; The only thing worse than Mariana being gone, maybe in the permanent sense, would be to lose me too.

So I put a google alert on her name, pay someone to monitor the boards and follow up with the police, and I try and get on with my life.

It was pretty much impossible at first. I had alienated my other friends and missed too much work to just pick up where I left off. A year later I moved across the country for a fresh start, where no one knew that I was the best friend of the woman who went missing a few years back. Eventually I was successful, and found a job. Then I got married, had two kids, and made a life for myself on the west coast.

That was 35 years ago, and to this day, every time a line cuts, or someone doesn’t answer the phone, I get that deep feeling of dread. Until I can get a hold of them, I can’t breathe, and I wonder if that will ever go away. I wonder if I will ever find out, what happened to Mariana Goldberg?


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