When I went downstairs this morning and found Cookie missing, I knew that official emergency procedure called for me to phone all the information in to the Bureau of Disappearances. At the prompting of the prerecorded voice, I would enter my social security number and zip code. I would press “2” to report the sudden absence of an animal, “3” for “domestic animal,” and then at the sound of the tone I would speak the word “cat” clearly and audibly into the telephone receiver. The woman’s voice would then give a short parametric definition of a cat, and if this definition matched my missing item, I could press the pound sign to record a fifteen-second description. A three-note melody would let me know that my claim had been filed, and then that lovely prerecorded voice would read out my assigned case number, along with some instructions on how to update or cancel my claim.
Instead, I picked up the phone and pushed your number into it. I was always telling you about problems you couldn’t fix, as though multiplying badness could dilute it.
“Cookie’s gone,” I said, and waited for your response.
There was a pause on the other end of the line.
“Have you phoned it in?” you asked. Your voice was casual, like it was someone else’s pet entirely, a pet from a faraway land owned by people we’d never meet.
“I didn’t,” I said. “I’m kind of depressed,” I added. I was often depressed, but now we all had better reasons to be.
“I’m sorry,” you said back.
“Cookie loved to chew on wires,” I said.
“I know,” you said. You didn’t say you wished you could be here. I didn’t say it either.