"Hi! This is my sister Karyn! Have you seen her?" asks Zoey. She holds up a high school portrait of a honey blond girl with a shy smile.
A man stops and looks at the flyer. This is rare. Most just walk by.
"Sorry Miss. Good luck."
"Thanks sir and God bless!"
Dev sits on her haunches and stares dully at the blur of people. Nothing makes her get up. Thousands of people stream past a story that has been told thousands of times.
Dev asked Melo to put up pictures in the park this morning. In a month, the fog and rain will reduce them to meaningless wisps of pulp. Melo also added the flyer to the Sad Cafe. The Sad Cafe is a missing persons bulletin board near the fountains. Mostly for kids sucked onto the hippie highway. Since Jerry Garcia's death, Golden Gate park has become a vortex for all things tie-dyed and lost.
Zoey works tirelessly in her cheerful, sing-song voice asking people about her sister. Dev watches glumly. She knows Zoey didn't ride a bus for fifteen hours from Utah just to fill out missing person report. She needs to do this as part of the process. The Thief has insisted. Of all people...the Thief. Just shows you can never know anyone's heart 100%.
But it's a sad day. Cloudy day sad. Restrained to the hospital bed sad. Cemetery sad.
Dev sighs and lowers her head into her arms. The faceless people march by.
Kym brought Zoey into this story when she asked to put up a flyer at Canon cafe.
"Yes" said Kym looking at the picture. "Put one on the window by the door facing out. Put the other one by the register" said Kym wiping up steamed milk from the counter with a rag.
"Bless you" smiled Zoey.
"Ok, whatever" said Kym going back to work.
Zoey walked over to the window and stopped. Kym watched her and realized she was crying. She walked over and put her hand on Zoey's shoulder.
"I don't even have tape!" laughed Zoey. "I don't know what I'm doing! The police said be patient...oh sorry. I'm crying."
Kym takes her to a table and brings her ice water. Then she tapes up the flyers. Kym looks at the picture of Karyn Parker.
"Where are you staying?"
"A couple blocks that way" points Zoey. "Motel 8."
"Yeah? What are you doing tonight?" asks Kym sitting across from her.
"I don't know."
Ever since the girl walked in with the flyers, Kym was thinking of ways to avoid this. But she couldn't think of anything. Nothing about Zoey feels good. But she knew she was going to say this the moment she saw the damn flyer.
"I'm working here tomorrow at 5:30am" sighs Kym rubbing her face. She looks up with a tired smile. "Stay at my place? Have dinner, meet my roommates, hangout and relax. They're idiots, but nice idiots. I'll bring you back tomorrow morning. Ok?"
"Really? Are you sure?"
"Wow! The Lord is helping me Kym. He brought me to you!"
"Uhm, ok" smiles Kym. "Hey, I get off at 6:00. Lord or not, I leave exactly at 6 because I need to catch the Muni to get to BART."
"I'll be here at 6."
The phone is ringing. I can barely hear it. I put down the book and crush out my cigarette. I turn down Johnny Thunders because it is ridiculously loud and obnoxious like the guy who put it on when he saw his roommate was studying.
"Hey!" complains Jason.
"Hi. Is Jase there?"
"Put me on speaker."
This is cutting edge 90's technology and I need a moment to think how to do this. Ok. Push Hold, push Speaker on the answering machine, hang up and push Speaker again..?
"Hi babe! Ok you and Jase, need to hide everything. Drugs, bongs, mirrors, pills, straws and clean up all the roaches and burnt foil. Open the windows and air the place out."
"A friend is coming over. She's like a Mormon or something."
"What? Why should-" puffs up Jason.
"Just fucking clean up! Her sister's missing. It's some sad shit so be decent ok?"
So we clean up. Jason stashes some cocaine and China powder in the bathroom behind the spare towels. Lately he's been doing well. Considering our past and all the TVs and other items he "borrowed", Jason has been very generous. Kym doesn't know this, but Jase has paid the last two months rent and bills.
But then again, she also doesn't realize how much cash and cocaine Jase stores here. He keeps the amounts vague, but I'd say he's hiding prison-sized quantities these days.
The girl that comes home with Kym is milk and honey. Zoey is so pure you feel the need to protect her like a lost kitten. She doesn't drink and makes us feel self-conscious about our appearances. Her sobriety and sunny disposition is like a rare blossom in our degenerate household.
Though she's our age, Zoey's face glows so much younger. Rosy, apple cheeks with an open, friendly smile. Nothing lurking behind her eyes. Zoey wears a pink GAP sweatshirt and jean shorts overalls. Curly blond hair frames an optimistic face. She reminds me of wholesome things left behind. Life before spiked leather jackets, endless cigarettes and addiction.
Zoey looks so new and fresh. Jason and I look like we got dressed in the dark by grabbing whatever was on the floor. And this is partially true. We all look so worn out. Even Kym with her faded purple hair. She wears a Rancid t-shirt, black tights with cigarette burns and muddy boots. Her eyes are weary. Like too many cocaine nights weary.
Dev comes over to take a shower and meets Zoey. Dev is instantly intrigued. In many ways, these two are similar. Both are obviously insane yet treat everyone around them with an abundance of kindness.
Zoey takes off her backpack which is full of missing flyers and a notebook. She digs a pager out of her pocket that is linked to the phone number on the flyers. Zoey studies it for a second and puts it away. She shares her notebook with us.
Her younger sister Karyn is 18. Left home two weeks before graduating high school. Moved to San Francisco with her boyfriend Ian Miller who is in a band. In one month, the boyfriend returned to Utah alone. Karyn called home two more times after that. Both times for money. Last call was 44 days ago.
"Ian gave me some phone numbers and addresses I shared with the police. But nothing. They both did drugs. I made a list: Marijuana, alcohol, ice which I think is cocaine, LSD and two things called 'X' and 'tar'. My dad thinks 'tar' is slang for hashish."
Kym looks at me. Jason stares at the ground. I get up and go to the bathroom. I take out the stash and do two bumps of coke and one of the powder. Fuck...the pearl is good. Almost an instant nod. I check my nose, light a cigarette, flush the toilet and walk back out.
"...tar is heroin Zoey. The 'X' is ecstasy, like the rave drug. And ice isn't coke. It's meth. But calling it 'ice' is weird. Only the Tongans call it ice. That's so east bay" says Dev.
Zoey writes everything down.
Jason stares at Dev in disbelief and Kym has her knees drawn up tight like she is uncomfortable. Truths makes Jason, Kym and I uncomfortable. But, this is Dev. Her mechanical doll voice will state what she knows. She will not lie.
"Jase knows the clubs" continues Dev as Jason squirms in his chair. "What kind of music did they play?"
"Rap stuff. I have a picture from their demo tape...here! Ian is the guy on the left."
We look at the picture. Two white guys in Oakland Raider jerseys and bandanas stand in front of a Cadillac at a used car lot. Ian is is a little guy with the stage name MC Beastly.
"Not much music like that in the clubs I go to" shrugs Jason.
Kym gets up and goes to the bathroom. I feel good. The veil of opiates spreads across my melancholy mood making this bearable. Dev looks at me and knows. With my eyes, I do a quick glance down the hall. Her predatory eyes narrow for an instant in acknowledgement. Then her face goes blank again.
"I'm gonna get some Chinese food" announces Jason standing up. "Thinking some seafood pan-fried crispy noodles and hot and sour soup."
Dev goes down the hall. Kym comes back sniffling.
"Hunan beef with snow peas" demands Kym. "My keys are by my wallet."
"Oh Thief?" pipes in Dev from the bathroom.
Jason smiles as Zoey.
"It's just a silly little nickname she has for me..." mutters Jason as he walks down the hall.
Jason goes into the bathroom with Dev and shuts the door. No. That's not strange at all. A a few minutes later he walks out sniffling.
"Can you get something vegetarian?" pipes Dev from the bathroom. "Like mapo tofu?"
"Sure" says Jason mildly walking down the hall. His eyes are pinned.
"What about you guys?" asks Jason looking at Zoey and I.
"I can eat anything" says Zoey unzipping her wallet.
"Hey. It's ok Zoey" smiles Jason. "I got this."
"Don't worry" he reassures her. "I get deals. Let me do this. Ok?"
"Ok" she smiles. "Thank you Jason."
Dev comes back and sits down. Jason grabs Kym's keys and whistles as he walks down the stairs with the food order.
"How do you know?" asks Dev looking at Zoey.
"You're sure Karyn's here in the city. How?"
Zoey closes her notebook and blushes. "Sorry Dev. I just...it's shameful."
"No" says Kym, sitting across from her in a dreamy, high voice. "Nothing is shameful! We're just people you know? Living life..."
"I know but we are a very religious family. Karyn did things with men and-" Zoey covers her face and takes a deep breath.
Dev gets up and puts her arm around her. Zoey melts against her tiny frame shuddering.
"The Heavenly Father...oh poor Karyn!"
"Yes...Poor Karyn" says Dev stroking Zoey's hair.
Dev looks up at Kym and I. She slowly shakes her head once. Tears roll down her small face.
"Of fuck" says Kym getting up.
I watch her stumble unsteadily down the hall. As the bathroom door closes, I hear her sobbing.
Jason comes back with bags of food. Zoey is in the bathroom showering. Kym has changed into pink panda pajamas and makes Zoey a bed on the couch with a sleeping bag and blankets. Dev sits on the floor, smoking. She stares out the kitchen window into the dark, dark night.
"What's wrong with you guys?" asks Jason.
"Dev thinks Karyn's dead" I tell him.
"What?! You didn't tell her that did you?"
"No" says Dev.
"I fucking believe it" whispers Kym. "It's like you can tell it happened when she talks about Karyn...I think she knows too!"
"No!" says Jason. "You can't do this to her! It's fucked up."
We all look at Jason. He drops the bags on the table.
"What the fuck is wrong with you guys? Kym! Did you bring her over here to bum her out?"
"Then it stops! Now! Fuck. Dev! No more talking!"
"You!" Jason points at me. "You're not into this witchy bullshit!"
Inside, the silence crushes. The shower is like a timer. I turn on the TV to distract the spirits. Zoey comes back wearing Kym's sweats. We watch her as she checks the pager, sighs and then puts it back. She thanks Kym for the bedding and brushes her hair on the couch. Zoey looks around at our faces and knows something has changed. Dev and Kym won't look at her. And she starts to cry again.
Kym walks over and hugs her.
"C'mon Zoey. Just eat and relax. You've had a long day."
"Moping won't help" announces Jason as he opens the food. Instantly we can all feel his energy. The room gets a little brighter. Zoey looks up at him. "You need a plan Zoey. Cover the areas where you think she's been. Bars, clubs whatever. I gotta go out later. I'll take some flyers and put them up in clubs."
"Yeah" I say clearing my throat. "I can put some up at school. Like the library, dorms, bulletin boards. Maybe someone will recognize her."
"I can help too" says Dev. Jason glares at her but Dev continues. "I know a lot of people in the park. My boyfriend can hang up flyers tomorrow if you give me some."
"I stole this map from Kym's car" says Jason, "we can outline all the areas your sister might have been. Then put dots for all the places you posted flyers. Like you posted some at Kym's work today in Union. So put a dot like this. See?"
"Yeah" says Zoey as she pulls her blond locks up in a hair-tie and plops herself in front of the map. "Tomorrow I want to put up flyers at some of these addresses I got from Ian."
Kym looks at them. "These are in the Tenderloin Zoey. Go with one of the guys and don't go at night."
"I can go tomorrow morning before school" I say. "Meet at Kym's work, 8:30am?"
"Yes!" smiles Zoey nodding her head. Her smile and Jason's confidence chase the ghosts from the room.
"If you come back to Kym's after I can meet you and show you my corner. Thousands of people walk by at lunch. After, I'll take you to the park" says Dev.
"Ok. Let me write this stuff down!" says Zoey as she starts to plan out tomorrow's schedule.
Kym squeezes my hand and looks at Jason who looks back. Kym mouths, 'Thank you' to him. Jason winks and goes back to the map.
We saw Zoey two more days in the city and then never again.