The Big Issue : Edition 460
THE BIG ISSUE 6 – 19 JUNE 2014 21 FEELING LOOSE IN myself. Jangly. Bones all thin and bendy, as though they might disappear. The email said you’ve been missing four days, perhaps only three. But the message only arrived this morning. It came in from the other side of the world while I was still asleep. Until this morning I didn’t know. Until this morning I could imagine you tucked into your bed. I could imagine the grand piano that dominates your living room. Your dressing gown draped loosely around you, your eyes still crusted with the sands of sleep, your now thinning hair in strange shapes about your head and your long thin fingers pressing sounds from black and white keys. The rug under your feet is threadbare now. In my imagination you haven’t replaced it. I try to work back, remember where I was when you left your apartment. The maths isn’t difficult, but my brain can only compute fear. We were sitting at a table at Képíró [in Budapest]. A beautiful blue painting sat above us, filled the wall. I can’t remember what it was about, its lines. I remember its hue, nothing more. The restaurant belonged to a friend of yours, I think. But I’m not sure. I forget. Now I see you frozen into angles, propped against a stone wall in a cobbled alley. I worry about the cold. By now the snow would be stained with dirt, crusted with the grime of a too- long winter. Or perhaps it has melted already. I try to remember weather reports. Has it been a difficult winter in Hungary this year? I open the last email you sent. I haven’t read it yet and now I cannot. It’s an article from The Guardian about loss and dementia, and I wonder if you sent it as a message or for the writing only. I scan the previous email, from three weeks ago. In the last year you have lost four people. I haven’t replied. There was too much to reply to. I was waiting for more than scraps of time to do it justice. Perhaps you have changed your mind. I don’t have to close my eyes to imagine you pouring a full-bodied red wine down your elegant throat. You will have chosen something sophisticated. Discerning. You are in France. Now you’re in Vienna. You still have your wallet. You are at the opera or a recital. You’ve chosen one in which you know none of the performers. You’ve chosen a seat far away from the best. It’s a matinee. You won’t run into anyone you know at a matinee. Between Acts you order a glass of wine. Something light. Your throat is too thin for something heavier. You still need air. You’re still not sure. Last time I saw you we sat by the pool. You played with my children. My daughter moved out of her room and you stayed, as usual, in the ‘princess room’. You never used the iron when you were here but your linen shirts and trousers were always pristine. My youngest son remembered that you had saved him when he was two. I remember you standing with him in your arms, your shorts and shirt sucked against your body, your face dripping. I was worried about your watch, but you smiled and said it was fine. We ate pasta and drank the wine you’d brought from France. The last time we talked you’d mentioned moving back to Australia. I’d become hopeful. Not pinning anything on it, not in a ‘counting on it’ kind of way, but hopeful in a small way. In a way that allowed for disappointment. I told you I’d like it if you did return. Yesterday there was a candle vigil; friends from around the world feeding oxygen into flames. Some got up in the middle of the night. I was supposed to light mine at 4pm but I started it early and let it burn. It went out when I left the room; didn’t burn for as long as I’d wanted. It’s been 10 days and I wonder how many more there will be. I wonder how you could have slipped away without us noticing. How you could escape when so many hearts had you sealed within. A hard stone sits inside me. I want it to be wrong but it sits there mocking me. I can’t will it away any more than I can will you back. It’s been 10 days and there is nothing I can do. » Melissa Manning is a Melbourne-based writer and editor who is working on her first novel. She has been published in Visible Ink and was shortlisted for the Overland Short Story Prize. PHOTOGRAPHBYiSTOCK Missing MELISSA MANNING DESCRIBES THE AFTERMATH OF A DISAPPEARANCE.