By Rachel Muenz
There was this kid who lived in a town near where I grew up. He was a friend of my cousin’s cousin and went missing when I was in elementary school and he was a teenager. His friends might have called him J.J. so I’ll call him that too.
In the pictures they put on TV he looked miserable. Blond hair, tall, athletic, but grim eyes and not much of a smile. There was a bush party over ten years ago and he vanished between the slim trees. Friends said he took a shortcut through the woods and got into a grey car when he reached the road but police found nothing from that.
There are rumours.
J.J. was drunk and wandered off into a swamp, pulled down under the sludge, backpack and all. Not a shoe or sock left to point out his final path, to say, “Over here, he walked this way, past this moss-covered tree, he stumbled once or twice and drowned here in this black sheet of water.”
But even nothing can lead somewhere, to other theories. His friends lied. There was no grey car and he did not take a shortcut through the woods. It was probably an accident, some drunken scuffle in the ashes around a gas-fuelled fire.
Someone popular took things too far and knocked his brain dead with a beer bottle. No one wanted to make any trouble or mess up a second life.
Full of marijuana panic, they carried the body and its belongings into the woods, following the snaking path of a flashlight down the soft, dark slopes. The mud took him down where no one could ever find him and the party covered their tracks. They got their story straight and walked life straight, leaving behind a mother with a heart full of cracks, ready to shatter at the lightest touch.
Everyone went too far to look back and say something to her.
She just wants to know where her son is.
His last hours could be fact or fiction. Maybe no one can tell the difference anymore. Just like everyone else.