Missing Person

It happens a lot. Janey will be sitting there reading or preparing a meal or even getting one of the kiddies ready for school and will suddenly drift off to who knows where. The Virginia Woolf will drop into her lap, the chopping knife will sit motionless in her hand, school blazer and cap  remain hanging in the hall. And then whoever is with her sing outs, “Missing person, missing person, dee daa, dee dah, call the police,” and she’ll snap out of it, look slightly guilty and smile and say, ”Sorry, mind’s on something else,” or similar.

It does affect our lives. Some people may be led to think she doesn’t care for us, for me and the three young ‘uns. But she does, oh yes, she does. Very much. It’s just that there’s a void, a gap. Something’s missing. And it makes us sad.

Of course it wasn’t always like this. It started only eighteen months ago, around the time Bertie Alexander died. Well, committed suicide, actually. No note found. It’s hard to express the shock we all experienced. It was so unexpected. So extremely sad.

Bertie and Lizzy were particularly close friends of ours. In and out of each other’s houses, weekends away together. Kiddies of a similar age. Lizzie and I would partner at bridge from time to time – she’s a better player than I am so I was usually reserve. Bertie was Janey’s tennis coach and mentor and helped her win the club title a few years ago. As I said, we were close.

Nobody really spoke about how close Janey and Bertie got. I didn’t nor did Lizzy. I didn’t challenge Janey, and Lizzy didn’t raise it with Bertie. It’s not that we thought it would simply blow over. We didn’t think either of them to be so shallow as to be casual about their relationships. In some ways we were happy for them. And my relationship with Janey didn’t change. At all. We were the same as ever. As were Lizzie and Bertie. There was no jealousy, no tension when the four of us were together, or when we by ourselves. It’s not that we were being “civilized” about it. It was because of love. Probably true love. Pure love. We loved our partners, we loved each other.

In retrospect we should have said something, brought it into the open, given it our blessing. We didn’t, of course. We thought no harm would be done, that we were sharing in their happiness, that our restraint strengthened our friendship.

We don’t know what went wrong. As I said, no note was found, and at the inquest, there had been no mention of Bertie and Janey’s love for each other. You see, officially, we “didn’t know”. And now we don’t know why he took his life. Or Lizzy and I don’t know. Perhaps Janey does. So we have all been left in some sort of limbo, sometimes angry, sometimes sad.

Well, Lizzy could grieve openly, and grieve she did. Privately and publicly. Great outpourings of genuine grief. The sort you would expect and respect from a loved one. For Janey it was different. Her sorrow has to be contained. It has to be seen to be less than Lizzy’s although, to a degree, it can be more than mine. And mine’s considerable. But it isn’t enough for Janey. Unlike for Lizzy, there’s no public catharsis. Her grief has to be contained, bottled up. Private. It’s too much, would be too much for anyone.

And so she suffers. And we watch her suffer. And sometimes she goes missing. Safe and secure at home, or in genteel middle class shops, or in the middle of a game of tennis. It happens.

She knows why and I know why. One day I hope we can find a way to discuss it. To tear down the posters. And bring her back home.

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5 Responses to Missing Person

  1. Elaine Peters says:

    Patrick, don’t know if you’ll see this, but my PC isn’t allowing me to post anything on Cake this week so I’m checking to see if a comment will reach another WordPress site.

  2. Sarah Ann says:

    This is strong and powerful. I can’t help the feeling that your narrator is slightly too understanding. He’s almost as bad as Janey in keeping the fact he knows a secret. I liked the ‘missing person’ aspect of her phasing out.

  3. Elaine Peters says:

    Another strong narrative piece on a complex and emotional subject. Well done. (PS typo at the start of para 2 ‘out’ for ‘our’.)

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