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From the Far Margins

The vanished


Have you ever noticed how people vanish? We might be people you really like or think well of, or love. And we are gone. You make attempts at contact. You text. You leave voicemails. You might even go by our house. We might even seem home. But we don't answer the door.

So maybe you think we hate you. You think some act, word or event severed our relationship. You feel sorry, maybe guilty, but eventually you let it pass, thinking there's nothing more you can do. Or you might be angry. The vanishing seems like an intentional act of cruelty. You know there are passive-aggressive people in the world—people who do this on purpose, go silent to cause others pain—but that is extremely rare. Most people vanish for self protection.

So we vanish. You think about us now and then and you occupy yourself with other things. You might make new friends, listen for word of us but hear little, or nothing.

There are many things that may have happened. There are many kinds of hard times a person can fall upon. Some are soft and cold, like running out of money. Even getting gas in the car or fixing the bike tire never happens because the bills are more infinite than the time it takes to fix things you know you don't know how to fix. So, yes, we seem to vanish. But we are still there.

We are out there maybe looking longingly at Facebook and Instagram and the lives of people in restaurants and on vacation. We might see people we know at movies, in cafes. We might smile even. But there is an empty remoteness to it all, like we have passed away and no longer quite exist in that same world that others do.

Some hard times we might fall into are more internal and have to do with changes in how our mind sees the world. We might have money but no sense that anything we do will fix the gaping hole in us that we keep spiraling into. We may live in a big house or have a family or all the lovely things others say would make them happy, but instead there is pain, like an itch or a ringing in the ears we want to make stop. We might try to dull it with wine or beer or something stronger. But that works to a point and then just makes the hole morph into a mouth and a voice that tells us how stupid we are or how badly broken we are, how far we are beyond fixing.

Maybe it is a matter of grief, that labyrinth of loss, a place in which we dwell because our memory of the person or path we lost still resides there. Our minds might stick in that place and, no matter what door we choose, the hallway leads back to that same spot. We dwell there. And we don't even notice that every minute we are choosing doors, but, eventually, we feel the cost loss has placed on us and we would do anything to leave that room or perhaps even leave life to escape.

We may no longer see any of the beauty around us. We may not see the light slanting through the branches or the clouds unfolding and folding themselves. We may make choices that seem poor or destructive, but those make us feel everything less—the bad and the good—or they put us closer to feeling nothing, so we choose them. We know this will hurt us and that's OK.

Then again we could be someone who chose something really deadly to dull the loss, the pain, the cracks and sense of jaggedness. It may have been the living dead kind of deadly, because, that part of us that was once able to care and calculate and remember to put on socks, isn't going to, because all that matters is the holy self destruction we chose, the thing that we live for because without it there is pain, unspeakable pain, and we have forgotten that once upon a time there was less pain and that without this thing we use, life would still suck, but it would probably suck less. We see the death and rationalize our arm or hand or mouth toward it, always saying, "Just this once. Just this once."

So we vanished and you can't find us. If you do, we tell you abruptly we are fine, or will evade your question, evade you. And vanish.

The world is full of people like us. We are all out here somewhere and within reach of coming back, but we don't know this. Someone out there would feed us, buy us dinner or groceries, but we are afraid of the asking, the weakness and depravity we attach to poverty, addiction, mental illness. Everyone thinks they've been poor or strapped or had no money—and they have—because poor is relative. But there is always poorer to be. There is poor on paper. Poor at the moment. There is poor and bare bones but with backups, knowing you have places to go. Then there is the poor when you have exhausted all that or never had it to start with. It's all gone, and you seriously look at the food dropping into the garbage cans, food left on plates and all you can think of is when and how you can get to it.

If we are ill, we can choose treatment, take medication, but we have to believe we are worth saving before we will do that. So they vanished. But they are not gone. Just a bit preoccupied. There is no harm in telling people how much they mean to you, how you love or admire them or miss them. Tell them what you love or like about them, appreciate what they do or did, how much worth they have, how worthy of love or happiness or life they are.

Really, out of the silence, even if they vanished, find a way to tell them.