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.