Mark was finding the situation disturbing as he listened to Oren’s tale. Had Oren finally lost it? He certainly felt that his friend had become somewhat entitled over the years. Everything was just almost given to him, so when something like this happened, where he had no control over the situation, Mark felt he might take it harder than most people who have learned to lose at life on occasion. His natural and uncanny ability to play multiple instruments and sing with such a wide range had contributed greatly to his moderate success, and Mark felt, had led to him thinking things were always supposed to be okay for him. Oren liked to be in control of his life and he didn’t seem well when he wasn’t.
“So, I assume the cop came back here this morning?” he asked.
“Yeah, yeah, he came back. Looked around the house. I even gave him Perry’s phone. I just wanted to be able to look at it first.”
“Look at it? I hope you didn’t erase anything. Cops can find shit that you’ve erased from your phone.”
I didn’t erase anything, and I was quite compliant. I also answered questions, even when our lawyer told me not too.” Mark always thought it odd when Oren referred to things belonging to both of them. Mark certainly never considered Morris to be his lawyer and had only used his services once, in his divorce. Oren had paid for it.
“So, is he fine with all you answered? You said he seemed upset about the drugs.”
“Who cares really? I just wanted time to get information for my own. I got about six hours to read through Perry’s phone and call people.”
“Who’d you call?”
“Every single person in Perry’s phone. I also had to write down all their phone numbers, even my parents’ number, and yours. I don’t memorize phone numbers anymore, as they are all in my phone, which still isn’t working, or they were on Perry’s.”
“So, is the cop cool with you?”
“I guess, he was here for hours. He kept asking the same old things, over and over. I forgot to tell him that I found some of Perry’s clothing in the trunk of her car, and put them in the backseat. So, I just didn’t bring it up again. He had looked back there, I guess. He kept asking me the same shit, over and over, until Morris told him it was enough. That’s what they do, you know, keep having you repeat stuff, in case you change your story.”
“Yeah, I can do without them.”
“You know who the cop is? He is the same inept ass that couldn’t find your kid. Hornblende in missing persons. How can he find my wife? I want to hire that private investigator again.” Subconsciously, Mark often pushed back thoughts of his missing child whenever they bubbled to the surface. He rarely felt like dealing with them.
Mark had been getting ready for work when he had gotten what he assumed to be a call from Oren’s wife, Persephone. Upon answering the phone, he realized that it was his best friend, Oren, using his wife’s phone. Oren had merely stated that his wife was missing, and asked him to come by as soon as he could. Mark said he was available after work, and had come by at that time. Oren had explained to him in great detail what he had told the cop, and all that he had been through the day prior, and even the early hours of the day they were still currently in.
“Shit, man, I’m so sorry all this happened. Is there anything I can do?” asked Mark.
“Not right now.”
“Have you eaten anything? You really look like shit. I know you don’t want to hear this, but you should probably get some sleep too.”
“Yeah, I’m finding it difficult to sleep, I’ve been drinking coffee all day, but I’m about to hit the booze again, and take a sleeping pill.”
“Well, you should sleep.” Mark knew exactly what Oren’s response would be if he warned him of the dangers of mixing sleeping pills with alcohol, and didn’t bother to do it.
“Yeah, I know I should, that’s why I am going to chemically force myself to.” Oren looked tired, dark bags drooped under glazed and bloodshot eyes.
“You want anything to eat?” asked Mark.
“No, I have a question for you, though.”
“Will it get an easier, if she doesn’t come back. How do you deal with it? I know losing a kid is different to losing a spouse, but does it get easier? Better? If she doesn’t come back... I can’t do this.”
“You know, maybe it’s all a mistake, maybe she will be back when you wake up.”
“Fuck off with that shit. I asked you a question.” Oren didn’t necessarily seem angry, just tired, defeated.
“There was nothing to go on when we lost Mattie, nothing. No one saw anything.”
“That seems to be the case here, too. How does someone just disappear off the side of the road?”
“To answer your first question, it never goes away, but it gets easier. Time is the main factor there, it heals all wounds, supposedly. Time separates all the good stuff that you had, the pleasant memories you had, when you were with the person, the time you had, with the future without. The more time that goes by, the easier it gets. I think that’s a defense mechanism built into us all, a way to deal with the loss.”
“I don’t want a future without.”
“Man plans, God laughs.”
“I know the cops and the private detective we hired,” Oren always with his we, when it was certainly all Oren that hired the private detective, “They failed.”
“Yeah, neither could find their ass with both hands. In fairness, there wasn’t much to go on.”
“But... I might have a bit more to go on than her just disappearing. Maybe there is something else to go on with Perry.”
“What do you mean?” Mark asked.
“How long have you been sober?” asked Oren, seemingly ignoring Mark’s question. “How many years?”
“I just got my five-year chip last month.”
“Do you miss it?”
“The alcohol? Not usually. I do miss it on occasion, but for the most part, I am quite happy with my progress. If I had a drink, I would have to start that shit all over again. The first year sober was the worst. I know I might be able to go forth normally for a few weeks, maybe even a few months, but eventually I’d have to quit again, and that would put me back at day one instead of year five.”
“I’m going to do a little drinking in front of you if you don’t mind.”
“Knock yourself out. I was going to get going, actually.” Mark paused for a few seconds, “Uh... unless you need me to do anything else for you?”
Oren remained quiet for a few moments as he walked over to his liquor cabinet, grabbed a glass and a bottle of Johnny Walker Black, and headed back to the couch. He remained quiet as he unscrewed the cap and generously poured himself much more than two fingers. Still not saying anything, he took a long drink, paused, then took another before setting the glass down on his coffee table.
“Uh...anything else, man.”
Oren sighed. “Yes.”
“I need to tell you something.”
“Okay,” said Mark, quite hesitantly. “Go ahead.”
“I told you all that I told the cop, Hornblende. But there’s more. That’s not all that happened. It’s just so crazy, I feel weird even bringing it up, saying it out loud. It was less than twenty-four hours ago, but it feels like it is some ancient dream that happened long ago, almost feels like it happened to someone else and not me.”
“Well, it can’t be that crazy,” said Mark, taking a seat on the couch. “If you want to talk some more, that’s fine.”
“I went back.”
“You went back. What do you mean?”
“I went back down into that fucking stinky, hellish wash. I saw some crazy shit.”
“You mean crazier than snake sounds, moving slime, and people breathing on you? That wasn’t crazy enough?” Mark joked.
“It was much worse than that."