Date: 27/12/2008 02:02:22
Subject: Where are you? Where are you? More importantly, how are you? Safe, I hope. I’ve called and left messages on your answering machine; I’ve sent innumerable texts. I’ve contacted all your friends both here and abroad. I’ve exhausted every number in your phone book but no-one seems to know where you are, or perhaps they’re not telling me. I’ve visited your Mums more times than I’d like to admit. My knocks go unanswered, the house is silent, and despite calling there at different times on successive days the curtains have been shut. All my attempts to contact you either directly or indirectly have failed, miserably. What’s gone wrong? What have I said or done to compel you to leave, without warning, without a bag, without a word? I’ve now spent three sleepless nights in the flat alone worrying about you, a woeful experience given the time of year. My stomach, twisted up with knots has rejected every morsel I’ve sent its way.
If you’re able, please have the heart to contact me…if only tell me that you’re safe.
Date: 29/12/2008 04:55:23
Subject: Where are you?
It’s been five nights and six days since I heard the door almost rattle off its hinges. The din lingers in the hall. I’m still not sleeping properly. I’m still not eating and still my calls, my texts, my messages are go unanswered. The flat feels uncomfortably spacious, empty in your absence. This place isn’t home without you. Presently, I’m sat on the sofa surrounded by a crowd that comprises, among other things, a recent edition of vogue, your favourite mug…our wedding photographs. It mocks and jeers. It reminds me that you’re not here. I am alone.
In a determined effort to avoid falling into the trap Carter and White (1987) set for their bears; I ventured into work today, an unseasonal step. On my way to the railway station, I caught sight a walking along the high-street toward the bus stop. She wore a green waxy trench coat. I shouted across the street. My calls hastened rather than arrested her steps. As I continued my walk I tried to shrug off a hunch that the woman was your mother. She was the right size; she walked with a familiar gait and that coat was a facsimile of the one your mother wears. It must have been her. The resemblance was uncanny. I was being ignored. I arrived at the station, found a bench on the platform, sat down and since no one was around I voiced my thoughts aloud. Thinking out aloud is the best kind of thinking of all, I’ve found. It provides thoughts the room they need to grow, space ill afforded by the silent confines of my head. “Suppose”, I began, “Just suppose Beth is perfectly well and safe”, a relief. “Suppose further her friends and family know exactly where she is but for some reason are refusing to tell me. If there is any merit to this idea, it might go some way to explain why the Police declined to investigate Beth as a missing a person. No doubt they went door-to- door, just as I encouraged them. So they must have visited Auntie and Uncle; Ali and Vince; Beth’s mother; who in turn fed them same convincing story that Beth had had a recent bust-up with her new husband and was recuperating somewhere; the police naturally then ruled out the need to investigate the matter further.” I paused for moment to reconcile myself to the deception of my suppositions. “Now, where would she stay? With friends in Zambia? With Ali and Vince? Who? Perhaps she’s been at her mother’s all this time” my voiced thoughts continued, “It all fits. The closed curtains, the silence. Trench coat woman had avoided me to conceal the lie”, I concluded. Then, as my train pulled up, I blurted out the most baffling question of all “Why?” When the carriage doors opened I climb aboard and consigned myself to the nearest seat, head in hands, elbows rested on knees and began thinking again, this time silently. As the carriage swayed gently from side to side and the bogies clickety-clacked along the rails beneath; my already over loaded brain was broadsided with a barrage of questions: too many to make sense of. My head, loaded with munitions, like the gun decks of the HMS Victory was liable to explode at any time. Then emerged out of the chaos two questions: “What had Beth said to convince her family ignore me? What, heinous act or acts had Beth fabricated?” The broadside ceased as the train pulled up at my stop. I lifted my heavy body and strolled unenthusiastically into the lab. The Christmas holiday had kept everyone but me away. The lab felt cold, unwelcoming, and it too joined the crowd reminding me I was alone.
It would have been considerably less distressing had you told me that your mother has been harbouring you as a stowaway all this time, but at least I now know you’re safe, which is some comfort. Perhaps you could shed a little light on the situation?
Date: 03/12/2009 03:16:47
Subject: Where are you?
It’s been nine nights and ten days. My waist line is shrinking at a rate of knots. Restorative sleep eludes me. My health is on the precipice.
In a desperate attempt to maintain some kind of connection, I scan our photographs daily, particularly those of our wedding and honeymoon. It’s a pointless self-destructive exercise, each image adds a voice to that crowd. Your unrelenting silence, though punishing, has done little to discourage my attempts to contact you. It’s had the opposite effect. I’ve redoubled my efforts. I’ve changed my routine to fit in with the one you maintained before vanishing. After a poor night’s sleep I wake abnormally early and leave the flat at the time you did. I trace the route you habitually walked with the Funk Bunch, hoping we’ll bump into you each other. It’s a long shot. Half way around I sit on a bench at Top-Church and wait a while for you to walk past. You never do. I leave dejected and complete my journey to the railway station to begin my daily commute via your mother’s house. At the front door I pause. The curtains are shut. They’re always shut. It’s early. I knock gingerly, once twice and for a third time a little harder. My knocks go unanswered, though I suspect not unheard. In the evening, with my days’ work done I repeat this routine but in the reverse order just as you did. I visit your mother’s house; it’s silent. The curtains are shut. They’re always shut. I find my usual bench at Top-Church and wait in vain. It’s another non-show and I leave more dejected than I did in the morning. The flat, our home, will be empty upon my return. Why are doing this? What are you hoping to achieve? If you have a problem, surely it’s more constructive to talk than to remain silent?
Date: 07/01/2009 13:05:03
Subject: Where are you? It’s been thirteen nights, fourteen days. Still nothing. No contact. I imagined we’d fall to earth with an almighty thump after losing the baby. As predicted, we did with catastrophic consequences, it seems. The cottage holiday, the wedding and the honeymoon, deployed as the main canopy, arrested the fall for a while but I knew the chords wouldn’t hold out for long. The events I arranged for our return were intended to act as the reserve shoot. I reasoned that any residual grief might be ameliorated by diverting your attention. It was stroke of luck then that a break-dancing show – just your kind of thing – was playing on the weekend we arrived back from the Azores. I immediately booked two tickets and reserved a table at your favourite bay bistro. It would be the perfect date, I thought. I envisioned a scrumptious dinner, drinks, followed by the show, a cab ride home, rounded-off by a night of, well, of whatever you fancied doing. No such luck. Another imagination-reality mismatch. Without explanation you refused to come. Eldor was the delighted pro bono recipient of the tickets. I brushed myself off, dusted myself down and tried to bury my disappointment. Just two weeks later I bought a pair of tickets for Dvorak’s New World Symphony. In wistful tones you once mentioned you’d never been to an orchestral concert. It gave me great satisfaction, therefore, to share this first time experience with my new wife. As before, I made a reservation for dinner and I imagined a similarly romantic evening. Again no such luck. At the very last moment you refused to come, again without explanation and again Eldor welcomed the free tickets I supplied him. His ability to show his dates a good time without denting his pocket has never been better! More brushing and dusting down. More time spent pre-occupied with trying to understand why you’ve been reluctant to engage with me in a positive way since our return to the UK. In the grand scheme, the money I spent on tickets was small but I was loathed to give them away. They were intended as a treat to spoil you.
Two disappointments should have been enough to dissuade me from arranging or booking anything else. Not so. I took my vows seriously. As your new husband I considered it my duty, my responsibility even, to make you happy. Occam’s razor reminded me that there may be a more parsimonious account for your failures to attend the other two events that I simply overlooked. Ever the scientist, blinded by the truth right before my eyes. It remained a possibility, however improbable, that despite your vast collection of Hip-Hop and Break Beat; popping, locking, backspins and windmills were really not your thing. It also remained a possibility, however improbable, that you feigned an interest in orchestral music to keep me interested in the early throws. An even simpler explanation is that you wanted to avoid hearing the Czechoslovakian’s 9th for fear of making your ears bleed, to use one of your phrases. A possibility, though improbable.
An entirely different approach was needed. You seemed relatively happy on our honeymoon, if a little languid. With that in mind and on the premise neither of us had visited, I booked flights to Barcelona, a beautiful apartment overlooking the Balearic Sea and made all the other necessary arrangements, in secret, in the hope that a surprise might have a bigger effect. That trick had worked for Dad, why not me? It was an all-expenses paid holiday, certain to add bounce to your sluggish strides and certain to return a long-absent feature to your face. Thankfully, you came willingly…a minor breakthrough…
The flight was pleasant and you seemed unusually upbeat, a disposition which prevailed for the stifling hour we waited at the carousel and during the equally hot taxi transfer. When we arrived at the apartment your mood deteriorated rapidly for no justifiable reason. Or at least that’s how it appeared. I was dumfounded by a refusal to unpack, bemused you’re your threat to return home on the next available plane. Cue another heated argument, began, admittedly by me nothing more malicious than mere frustration; ended abruptly by a shuddering slam of the door as you left the apartment hastily. Would you return? I wondered. My head spun. Unsure about what to do next, I too left the apartment and went for a walk. I ambled along the narrow streets. I turned this way, that way, until I found myself sitting on a windswept beach half-watching surfers catch waves, a welcomed and much needed distraction. When the light had faded, the wind abated, the tide had withdrawn and when I saw the surfers head for their camper’s, I laboured to my feet and began a reluctant walk back to our accommodation. Heavy with thought I became lost in the unfamiliar streets which looked different in the dark. After a series of wrong turns I eventually found the correct street and as I approached the apartment I gazed up to check for signs of life. To my surprise I saw you there, feet rested on the balcony rail, leaning back in a chair holding a glowing cigarette in one hand and a beer loosely in the other. At least you were there, I consoled myself.
I realised my mistake as I reached for the door handle. You had the only set of keys. What is it with me and keys? I asked to be let in. No reply. “Please let me in” I repeated quietly, politely. “It’s late. I’m tired. I’m hungry” I added. “Why should I care? Stay down there where you belong, you FUCKINGLITTLESHIT”, you bawled in reply. It was the beginning of a hateful tirade, punctuated by missiles of spit, spent bottles of beer and cigarette butts. Fortunately, in common with mother your aim was poor. Just two gob’s full of spitbeer cocktail hit their intended target. I was unhurt, physically at least. All my attempts to quench your anger failed. My words vanished like air pumped into a tyre with a gaping whole. It took two hours of intense negotiation to pass through the front door. It took a further two hours for the abuse to finally stop, in early hours of the morning. A horrid night.
That first night in Barcelona set the die for the remainder of the holiday. You began the following day by exchanging a breakfast of watermelon and salamis for beer and cheap cigarettes. You stubbornly refused to the leave the apartment. I spent the day taking in the sights alone. The magnificence of La Sagrada Família, La Pedrera and Casa Batlló were lost on me, just as I was lost without you there to enjoy them with. I returned to share an evening meal, only to discover a comatose Beth on the bed surrounded by empty beer bottles. The apartment was dense with a stench of stale smoke. Day three was a repeat of day two with one exception. After much cajoling you actually left the apartment and agreed to join me for a walk around La Rambla. We finished the day off with pizza, washed down by authentic rioja. Delicious. It was a relatively successful day, all things considered, until we began walking back to the apartment. First you refused talk. Then you refused to walk by my side, preferring instead to hover either in front or behind. Then you refused to share the same path and staggered across the busy Passeig Colom to use the footpath other side, regardless of my requests to the contrary. When I finally navigated the traffic to join you there a sit down protest ensued on the pavement. You slumped to the floor, where you remained fixed, silent, for a while. I was perplexed by what I observed. It was an exhibition performance of the very worse tantrum I’d ever witnessed. Terrible twos behaviour and then some. Let’s call it “Ferocious Forties”, for fun. Obstinate, resilient. Nothing I said or did coaxed you upright. When, and only when, a small crowd of passers-by had gathered – your timing was impeccable BTW– came projectile verbal vomit. Underserved and damning phrases like: “Leave me alone you FUCKINGLITTLESHIT”; “BASTARD”; “FUCKINGBULLY”; “Get your FUCKINGFILTHYHANDSOFFMEBASTARD” and the real clincher “FUCKINGWIFEBEATER, FUCKINGLEAVEMEALONE!” filled the early morning air. I had a sinking feeling that the audience to which you falsely played victim might believe you and lynch me. It was a nervy 15 minutes or so until, to my out-and-out relief, a young woman with a strong mockney accent spoke out and said “Blimey mate you got ya work cut out there”. Presumably she formulated then solved the equation: sun-burned shoulders plus sun-burned décolletage plus slurred speech plus foul language equals archetypical Brit-abroad. Her remark was enough to sway the crowd, who, thankfully, empathised with my position rather than yours then dispersed quickly. It was then, and only then, that you found your feet. A reprieve. Actress’s need audiences suppose.
During the remainder of our painfully slow stop-start or start-stop journey back to the apartment I was bombarded by a constant stream of abuse. The diatribe, unremitting, continued inside until the sun began to rise the following morning. Astonishingly, not even sleep stopped your insults! An amazing talent you have there. Or do you suffer from some kind of Parasomnia Tourettes Disorder? Brilliant. Just great.
On day four we returned to the UK. The holiday had been a wash out, a complete and utter waste of time and money. It was the Austrian trip all over again. And for my “appalling behaviour” I was punished with the silent treatment during our flight back. I’ve never liked that feeling of déjà vu. The silence continued all week, until, that is, you demanded I “hand over the money” for a pampering session at Eric’s on the weekend, like a “Decent, loving, husband should”. Under the circumstances, I felt obliged to pay if only to build a bridge over a river of silence. The “Eric effect” lasted just a few days after which quiet, interspersed with the odd grunt, returned to the flat.
I tried to break through the silence again by taking you on an all expenses trip to London. I foolish move, as it turned out. More Déjà vu. Though you agreed to join me there, you declined to participate in the holiday when we arrived. Instead you drank and smoked, alone, in the hotel bar. All very disappointing. All too familiar. Bewildering. Disillusioning.
And then there are the gifts I’ve showered you with – small, large, some more costly than others, all thoughtful – that have met ignominious ends. They’ve been smashed up, trampled on or trashed. And what about the bouquets of flowers I’ve delivered to the flat, to your office? All binned. Why?
And that just about brings us up-to-date. I had wanted to make our first Christmas together as a married couple special. Difficulties aside, I considered it worth celebrating. I took my usual approach and pulled out all the stops. For months I listened intently, trying to pick-up on any hint about what you might like as a gift. There was much too choose from, which made the task more difficult than I had expected. One gift wouldn’t do the job so I settled on buying several. I set my mind to giving you an over-sized, over-filled Christmas stocking, crammed with all your favourite things. It was a watertight plan that could not fail. My preparations were meticulous. Christmas morning would begin with a breakfast of lightly toasted, lightly buttered bagel, dressed with a bed of wild rocket, the finest Scottish smoked salmon, pouched egg – yolk runny – topped with homemade hollandaise sauce and freshly cracked black pepper; a glass of bucks fizz, bubbles supplied by Heidsieck and a short coffee; all served up on a tray, delivered to your bed, accompanied by your first gift, that beautiful necklace you pointed out in the shop Sex-Bomb worked. It wasn’t cheap, but your reaction when you opened the box was priceless and you insisted on wearing it immediately. A fitting reward. Then came the oversized stocking, packed, overflowing, with the all the gifts I had put together. They included the missing volumes of Calvin and Hobbes needed to complete your collection; a bottle of Prada; a selection of sweets to conjure the more delicious episodes of your childhood. There was a Curly Wurly, Drumsticks, Refreshers, jacks to make your tongue black; Tooty Fruity’s; strawberry flavoured Hubba Bubba and a plethora of other sugary and chocolaty delicacies I can’t remember the names of. The stocking also contained the Etch-A-Sketch you asked for when you were six, but never received, an authentic 1970’s Adidas t-shirt and track-suit top of the same brand. There were stocking fillers and stockings to fill too! It was a thoughtful treasure trove and a glowing smile told me you loved everything, well almost… After a bit of rummaging your fingers found the final gift, packed tightly in the toe of the stocking. Once liberated, it was poked, prodded, rattled, weighed and measured. The look you gave suggested it was the right kind of size and shape. I was hopeful that the finale to this gift-opening extravaganza would end with a metaphorical bang. And it did, but it the wrong kind. With the Initial examination over you carefully unpeeled all the sticky tape, to avoid tearing the paper, then peeked inside. That brief glimpse cued a nuclear meltdown.
The gift, instantly rejected, was tossed across the room and slapped Custard square in the face. That poor dog squealed like a pig. “No Jon, the watch I wanted – the one I pointed out – had a brown leather strap, not a black one. For god’s sake you’re meant to be my husband! You should know what I like” Hysterics and a distressing display of verbal and physical abuse followed. I’d seen it before. It was just like the night you told me about the hospital games. The flat got beat up. I got beat up. You beat yourself up. Amid the screaming and the shouting, my wedding ring was yanked from my finger, thrown to the floor and stamped on, flattened. I went for a walk to cool down. By the time I returned you’d vanished. Perhaps I should have ended the present giving extravaganza with the necklace rather than starting with it, then we might have enjoyed the Christmas I imagined. Yet another mismatch. I realise the miscarriage has hit you hard. That one event seems inadequate to explain why you left the house on Christmas day and why you’re ignoring me now. It’s unlikely that buying the wrong watch was responsible. Perhaps the hospital games played a part. Perhaps there’s a simpler explanation. I’ll never know if you don’t talk. Please contact me, if only to tell me you’re safe.
Date: 08/01/2009 18:42:12
Subject: RE: Where are you? All lies. Leave me alone.
Date: 08/01/2009 18:45:16
Subject: RE: Where are you? Four words comprising sixteen letters. That’s an average of 1.14 letters per day since you left the flat and our marriage. It’s a start, I suppose. A fair warning. A good dose of frustration is about to work its way from my brain, through my fingertips and onto this electronic page.
Do you remember when you recited these words? “I give you this ring as a symbol of my commitment to you, and from this day forward I promise to love and honour you, to remain faithful to you, to cherish and care for you and to share with you all that the future may bring”
I do. I recall the recital vividly. I remember the love I saw in your eyes, the honesty I heard in your voice. I made the same promises with the same honesty and the same earnest love. I’d like to keep my vows, but you have to let me. I’m truly sorry if I have hurt in you in any way. Leaving without a word and ignoring me is not part of a solution that will draw us together. It will only serve to drive us farther apart.
Relationships are hard work, full of challenges, small and large. They can be rewarding too. I believe whole heartedly that this one is important, worth all the time, all the effort and worth fighting for. I wouldn’t have married you had I thought differently. I implore you to open up a dialogue with a view to reconcile.
Date: 09/01/2009 17:50:32
Subject: RE: Where are you? Stop trying to manipulate me! Your emails are offensive. You’re offensive. When will you get that?
Date: 09/01/2009 18:05:15
Subject: RE: Where are you?
It’s promising to see the word count increasing! If I’ve said or done anything to hurt you in anyway, whatever, I’m deeply sorry. I’ve never manipulated anyone, not intentionally or otherwise for that matter. My social brain is not sufficiently well developed to achieve such cunning. Even you can agree to that.
I’ve accepted you as a whole. Good and bad. How about doing the same for me In return? Isn’t that what marriage it about? Celebrating the best in each other, accepting the worst…
Where ever you are I hope you’re safe & well.