The weekend passes, with no calls from the police. After checking my email Monday morning, I go over to Murph’s office, and discover exactly what I had expected — nothing. As in, his office is entirely empty, aside from the furniture and the desk phone. I do detect the fragrance of his after shave, but even that is faint, like the smell of the ocean receding from a speeding car.
When I return to my desk, I go to the company intranet; not surprisingly, Murph’s profile is gone. For kicks, I do a search of his name, which returns dozens of hits. The memory of his presence hasn’t been scrubbed, but will over time fade into forgetfulness.
Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean my quest is at an end. I know, from the moving company’s message, the town where Murph is moving. It might take a few weeks for his name to appear on public registers, but he will eventually emerge from his transition phase. And if there is a Steph, and if he is married to her — will she emerge with him? Or will she remain in that annoyingly anonymous area of his life where she lived while Murph was here? And if she didn’t emerge, would I ever be able to find proof that she really existed?
“You OK?” Darci’s question snaps me out of the contemplative funk that’s followed me from work, like a persistent panhandler. I smile at her, then reach across the table in my apartment’s kitchen and grasp her hand.
“Sorry, baby.” My words are genuine. “There’s this — guy at work, been bugging me a lot lately.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Her smile is full of pity, the look a mother gives to support a bullied child.
“No, it’s not like that.” I pause, waiting for the right words this time before continuing. “He’s not doing anything to me, really. He’s just — ” realizing how weird the whole truth would sound, I settle for the significant portion — “he’s one of those guys who’s so hard to read, it’s hard to know whether to believe anything he says.”
“He’s not trustworthy?” Darci looks completely confused.
“No, I trust him — did trust him, he’s gone now.” Her eyes widen in shock — “I mean, he moved.” Her eyes relax. “What I’m trying to say is, he would say things about himself, and you never knew which of those things were true, which were exaggerations, and which were flat-out lies. You could never tell if he was being honest, or was just giving you a line to make you think a certain way about him.”
“Wow.” Darci’s doing her best to stay engaged with the conversation, but it’s like I’m speaking a different language and she’s scrambling to keep up with the translation. And it’s seeing the hurt in her eyes that inspires me to change the topic. I reach out with my other hand, take hers.
“Darci — it’s time.”
Her eyes show that she understands me fully. “Are you sure?”
I nod. “Never more so in my life.”