My ex-girlfriend said I had a cold heart but a warm brain. The blood going to the wrong place. I always missed what was important, she said, with redness swelling in her cheeks in a similar misdirection of flow.
I imagine she intended this to hurt me. As a private investigator, my job requires that I notice significant details.
My latest case is a bit unusual. There’s this woman who won’t wake up, and her father is paying me to sit at her bedside. I told him, you don’t need a private investigator, you want a doctor, maybe even a priest, but he’d already consulted countless specialists, clergymen, etc., none of whom had any answers. Or maybe they had answers to spare, and yet somehow his daughter had not awoken. He preferred me, he said, because I didn’t pin my salary to promises about her wellbeing. I just got paid to watch.
She sleeps, and I watch.
When you’re tracking a missing person, one routine should be to wait around their known hangouts in the hopes that they show up. Only in this case, I’m looking at her body. Her last known sighting. A recently vacated building. But she might come back.
I’m an insomniac, which is perfect for what’s required on a stakeout—a state of mild alertness. Everything passing through you. A man walking a dog, a trio of women, an empty street corner. All equal. Let it pass through you. Like an argument with your girlfriend. She’s shouting in your face, things like “autistic,” “emotionally garbled,” and the words float, forming in a cluster behind you.
I’m just taking in information. In this line of work, it’s very important not to be judgmental, but at the same time, it’s important not to get overwhelmed. Typically, as a PI, it helps me if I can work from behind a screen. A pair of binoculars. The windows of a car. A camera lens. Or the scrim that separates the awake from the asleep.
Waiting for so long in a place that is so familiar to someone else but alien to you, you start to forget who you are. It seems strange that you could find someone as you were losing yourself. Maybe they need you to be the conduit to return to reality. As a PI, it is my job to be that conduit.
I could be upset. I could be bored. I could be sleeping. But you focus on the reality in front of you. Like when you’re dreaming—you accept everything. You wander through, so to speak, and only later do you think: how strange.
How strange, in the way that an elevator, carrying my ex-girlfriend upwards, could have been level, even for an instant, with an elevator on the opposite vertical course.
Like one set of eyelids lowering as another set ascends—in as deep a closure as a coma or as brief a relay as a blink.