Home > The Lost Night(12)

The Lost Night(12)
Author: Andrea Bartz

“Did anyone else know about it?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“What makes you so sure it wouldn’t have made her suicidal?”

“I don’t wanna play twenty questions, Lindsay. Suffice it to say that out of respect for the dead, I don’t want to talk about it, but if you’d like to trust me, I can say with one-hundred-percent certainty that she was not a suicidal girl.”

We both sat with that for a second.

“So you think someone killed her?”

“I mean, seems like the only other option.”

“Who, then?”

“Fuck if I know. She’d pissed off a lot of people in that building.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I have no idea who did it. But she was always shucking people off. I said shucking.” He chuckled to himself, tsh-sh-sh. “Didn’t y’all ever notice that about her? She spent her whole life in Manhattan, but it was like she didn’t exist—no friends from her past, no stories of crazy high school nights or friends from way back—and then, uh, she was the center of everything, and then she’d be gone again, leaving a bombed-out group in her wake. I don’t think she could help it.”

A chronic friend-defector. I’d noticed it as well but had thought—hoped—she was like me, floundering through her early social life until the right people, the right friendships, appeared.

“Well, if someone did it, I want to figure out who,” I said.

He tittered again. “Hey, be my guest. You know absolutely everything I know at this point, but maybe you’ll have more luck.” Clunk clunk click. “Or maybe we’re both wackos.”

“Why didn’t you back up Sarah? When she was saying she didn’t think it was suicide?”

“Yeah, that worked out really well for her. Total pariah, shipped off to the loony bin. But unlike me, she wasn’t under suspicion by the poh-lice.” He drew it out for effect. “I’m glad you saw her, healed some old wounds. She still nursing her suspicions?”

“No, not at all. ‘I was young and stupid, I was grasping at straws,’ that kind of thing.” I chewed on my lip. “I never even knew she had this conspiracy theory. I kinda stopped talking to everyone right away.”

“Right, I think I knew that. The whole period is a blur for me, it’s kinda hard to remember who was around when.”

Did he know anything about my disputed whereabouts that night? It was as if he were addressing my unasked question.

“But I’ll tell ya, if you can somehow figure out what really went on that night—” He cut himself off suddenly. “Lindsay, I gotta run, my husband’s on the other line.”

“No worries, thanks for talking to me.”

“Y’all take care of yourself.”

You all? Me and whom?

“Thanks, Kevin. You, too.” I hung up and looked around the living room. Figure out what really went on that night. Clearly I didn’t remember as much as I thought I did. I’d been drunk, but it had just been a brown-out: I had strong snippets of each portion of the night, scene after scene after scene, like an intricately set-designed play. Up on the roof, sitting on the cement and chasing shots with beer. Then we’d all decided to head to the concert—no, Kevin had had a show in Greenpoint, it was just me and Alex and Sarah—and there was the flurry and racket and energy gust of a drunken location change. Then the show: Even Sarah’s photo hadn’t convinced me I was thinking of another night. I could see it, the guys in red zebra face paint rushing around the stage. Strobe lights and a ball spitting green dots over the crowd and what looked like hundreds of sweaty revelers dancing to the noise. The alcohol hitting me all at once and the sudden, billowing conviction that I needed to be in bed. Had I shouted goodbye to them or just left? Had Sarah somehow missed me?

Figure out what really went on. My damn brain was no use, a recorder with damaged tapes: 2009 was on the early end of the accidental police state we all live in today, where whipping out your camera to document everything is the norm. I remembered a story I’d fact-checked about Big Brother–type surveillance in which a filmmaker had mused that there’s so much more amazing material for documentaries today, because there are cameras absolutely everywhere.

Something clicked: my camcorder. My silly-looking Flip cam, a strange little thing with only a single function, a box with a big red record button that made videos we’d watched almost exclusively on its tiny screen—I’d carried it around in my massive vintage purse at almost all times. We used it rarely and randomly, and I’d been so bad about connecting the gadget to my computer that all the videos lived on the camcorder. There likely wouldn’t be many; I had a habit of deleting videos after a single viewing, especially when the clip showed me embarrassingly drunk. But maybe something had survived, some clue we’d overlooked that would bristle with meaning now.

I could picture my Flip cam, could almost feel its shiny plastic coating in my fingers, its shape readying my palm for the iPhone that would soon doom it. Had I tossed it during one of my moves? I began pulling things out of the hall closet, snapping open bags and boxes and piling them on the floor. Nothing. I moved on to the cabinets around the TV, yanking out board games and old magazines and outdated electronics and other things I knew an adult shouldn’t still own. Then I pulled every dusty storage bin out from under my bed, flinging through old scarves and purses I couldn’t bear to give away, travel-size toiletries, expired pills, a sad cornucopia of detritus tucked into the pockets of my life. Then I flicked off the light and fell asleep, fully dressed and with my home in shambles, Facebook open on my laptop, fogging up the apartment with old, invisible air.

* * *

I dreamed about the camcorder, a creepy dream where Edie was still alive but somehow trapped inside its plastic walls, speaking to me through the little screen. Half awake, I grabbed my phone and murmured the storyline into its voice memo app, sure it was urgent, that my sleeping mind was onto something. When I played it back in the morning, my own voice sounded spooky and halting, the narrative meaningless. “She was inside but also behind,” it intoned, between long pauses and thick swallowing noises. “She said ‘four corners’ and…and I was outside in the fields and I knew them from other dreams.” I deleted the file midway through listening.

As I clattered around, making coffee, something echoed in my mind: inside but also behind. It repeated itself, a loop in a DJ’s mix, until I froze and felt the idea blossoming.

I dropped the spoon, black grounds scattering, and hurried into the living room. My bookshelf hulked along the wall, as long as an elephant and unusually deep. I yanked away books on shelf after shelf, revealing the random stuff I’d stashed behind them, in the dusty space along the cabinet’s back. And there it was, inside and behind the third row, sandwiched between a laptop charger and an obsolete Kindle. My Flip cam.

I carried it into the kitchen, then discovered it had an outdated jack, something I couldn’t connect to my laptop. I set it on my counter and texted Tessa to ask if she could borrow an adapter from work. When she hadn’t answered an hour later, I pulled on clothes and tromped to the dollar store at the end of my block. Nothing inside costs a dollar, but that place is like the goddamn Room of Requirement: ant trap, sunscreen, dish tub, lawn ornament, whatever you need, it’s there in a section you’ve never noticed before.

Tessa texted as I was cracking open my laptop to try the new cord.

“I should be able to borrow that. What for?”

“Thanks, but no need, I already got the connector. I found my old Flip cam.”

“From back then?”

“Right. Update: I’m not so sure it was a suicide now.”

It showed she was typing for a while, so I waited for something long, realizing with a spritz of embarrassment that she was probably going to chide me for writing something that legally loaded in a text.

Instead: “How come?”

I called her, but she rejected it.

“Still in the office,” she texted. “Trying really hard to finish something.”

On a Saturday? “No worries—let’s talk later.”

I wanted to pull the videos onto my laptop, but my machine wouldn’t recognize the old files, the systems a decade apart; still, the cord managed to siphon over some power and after a few seconds an outdated graphic appeared on the camcorder’s screen: FLIP VIDEO.

Navigation was a mess; I couldn’t view all the videos at once and discovered that I had to browse to the right or left to view them. The first was from March 2009, us waving and cracking up in the car, Alex behind the wheel, Edie navigating, Kevin inexplicably speaking in a bad French accent while Sarah and I howled with laughter. Another from later that month: a mess at first, loud EDM and green shapes fizzing in crazy circles, until I picked out our silhouettes and realized it was Edie on the dance floor in the back of a bar.

I skipped forward, forward, forward, hitting the last video just eleven skips later; so there were only twelve on here, a small batch. One, from May, began with Edie smiling into the camera like an anchorwoman, fuzzy in a streetlamp’s sallow glow.

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