The Case of the Missing Skeptic

I won’t believe Josh is dead, but I’ve been looking for him for fifteen years and can’t find him. Only runaways and renegades stay ungoogleable for so long. Handwritten letters to others named J.B. around the country found online go unanswered, or are returned to me unopened, always giving me a jolt to see his name neatly written in my own script a month later. Facebook, White Pages, people-searching sites…nothing. He was always talking about suicide. He lost his job and hatched this fucked-up scheme to methodically misspend his savings and kill himself when the money was gone.

Josh was my friend Mark’s roommate, years before Mark became my boyfriend and then my second husband. Josh was gangly, brilliant, lonely, neurotic—he made me laugh so friggin’ hard—they both did. The three of us would pull all-night drinking sessions, howls of buzzed laughter and cigarette smoke filling that squalid kitchen. Josh’s father was dead and his mother was in a nursing home. They had wanted him to be a rabbi. Though Josh was an atheist, he insisted on keeping kosher out of respect for them in the shabby apartment he grew up in and still lived.

When Mark moved out and in with me, Josh began to slip away. I don’t think it was because Mark moved out, I think it was just his time to hit the skids, the way we all do when life sucks. I tried to stay in touch with him but Mark was always pissed off that Josh was planning suicide with his mother still alive. I’d drive up to see him sometimes, alone, to try to talk to him.

One day Josh called to say he had taken a bunch of pills and ended up having his stomach pumped. I was horrified, but relieved he was OK; but Mark was furious with him for the whole stunt. I wanted to go see him but Mark was done with him and it was awkward. The next time I called Josh, his phone was disconnected.

When Mark and I got divorced I went on a Josh hunt. I looked everywhere and I’m still looking. I want to tell him I’m sorry for not being there when he really needed someone. I want to blame Mark but it’s my own fault for abandoning a close friend. It’s been fifteen years. I just can’t believe he’s dead.

Note: I wish I could use their real names because it might help find him, but it doesn’t feel right.

18 responses to “The Case of the Missing Skeptic

  1. Letting one’s conscience be one’s guide in a search for someone from the past, to say your sorry, to see how they are doing or of their fate is not what most would feel obligated in carrying out but you did. Wow!

  2. Sometimes you let someone slip away and it haunts you for the rest of your life…others don’t matter, you’re glad they’re gone. But sometimes you don’t even know the difference until years later…

    • I know exactly what you mean. Then there are those we do reach out to help, (in my case a nephew hell bent at self destruction) and despite the effort, it seems the tragic ending of the story was well written in advance.

  3. I have a friend similar to ”Josh”
    We were close in our youth, but as adults we have grown far apart.
    She is a constantly on that ledge of suicide, I often think it’s just a cry for attention, however I find myself wondering at the wee hours of the morning if the talks I just had with her to settle her down worked and if I will talk to her in the morning.
    I have lost too many friends to their own doings.
    I truly do hope that your search will end one day in a happy reunion.

  4. Never give up hope.

    Please don’t take this the wrong way; I’m praying for Josh, and for you, too.

  5. Positive energy certainly finds its way to unknown places. Your search for Josh may have good ramifications that you may never understand or beware of. Gaia, the universe, and our cosmos are energy driven. Who’s to say where it all begins (or ends) and where this energy might land.

    Good wishes to your search. I’m guessing Josh is alive. I’m guessing that’s why your instincts won’t let go.

  6. I never thought of it that way, I’ll try to remember that. Thanks.

  7. Wow – the tone of this post is heartbreaking. I really, really hope that Josh just decided to get up, leave, and start a new life anonymously somewhere as opposed to what the alternative could be. As others have noted, never give up. You may still find him yet.

    • It takes work to be unfound these days. In looking for him I discovered websites that have an awful lot of information about people—kind of a creepy amount.

      So I’m not giving up…I’m going to keep looking for the rest of my life.

  8. wow, this post is somewhat, heartbreaking is the only word i can think of. Two years ago, my brother attempted to stab me to death, and then he disappeared. I was in a four day coma, i had bled out to the point of near death, since my brother had pierced my femoral artery. He stabbed me six times. Three weeks later, they found my brother, who had attempted to commit suicide, by driving his car into a tree. He failed, but he had broken his legs and pierced his left lung. He lives today with four sons and his wife, we have never talked since. Sad stories tend to hit me at home. I hope that Josh is okay.

  9. OMG Jeremy, you sure do have stories to tell.

    Get thyself a blog. You asked before how to do it…I just typed “How to Start a WordPress Blog” and got 70 million hits, so just go to one of them and follow the prompts. Or just go to the WordPress homepage. I think a lot of people are scared at first but it’s not hard to do, WordPress walks you through each step.

    The scary part is publishing your writing…but you have a lot to say and I’ll bet it would open up a new world for you. If you have questions there are tons of answers online because many people have the same questions. I look in forums all the time for technical stuff.

    To start a blog at 17 instead of 50 is a gift!

  10. It is sad when we lose touch with people…sometimes friends are like shooting stars; beautifully brilliant bright and amazing while they are in our lives and then they are gone. A memory to treasure forever.

  11. This post made me cry for you, Debra. You are beautiful in every possible way, and I wish I could meet you, laugh with you, drink with you, go on long walks with you, live in the wild with you — be the best girlfriend with you (never had any). Though you are far away, you have touched my soul. Girl, keep looking…I am an theist girl, and I pray in the most sincere way an atheist can pray (you understand that, right.). (

    • Aw thank you Red. I liked your comment on the other blog too, and then went to yours but you must have comments off. I sometimes say ‘I’ll pray for you’ to a few people who understand what we mean. Thanks for writing.

      • I too am an editor, not by choice but for a living. Your honest and brave stance toward adversity has made me a fan.

        I am somebody who respects very few things in life. People bring out different meanings to words. I don’t want to know how they feel about my poetry: let them just feel it, make it a part of their life for a moment, and then let go. That’s my nature.

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