Ninety-three: the number of hours between my rise to fame and my disappearance.
Interview plus 1 hour
I don’t bother to turn off notifications from social media, because they will soon be nothing but blips in the air. I make no mysterious good-bye posts. I send no messages. I take no pictures.
Interview minus 22 hours
Evelyn buys an external drive, a laptop, and four backpacks. She rents a safe deposit box in her own name at a bank neither of us has frequented.
I stay at her house and organize my electronic files. Some, I delete altogether. Some, I reclassify.
I answer no email and return no messages.
Interview plus 2 hours
I backup my data to the external drive Evelyn bought yesterday. She scrubs my old laptop. I install the bare essentials on the new laptop, but we don’t register it anywhere under either of our names.
After I remove my phone’s sim card, Evelyn destroys the phone.
Interview minus 16 hours
I pack my old clothes in my suitcase while I wait for Evelyn to bring me new ones.
Interview plus 8 hours
The camp of news crews thins a bit. Evelyn’s closest friends become the latest in streaming interviews. They know only what Evelyn told them. They know nothing.
Interview minus 12 hours
I choose a backpack among the ones Evelyn purchased. The fabric is thick, tough, and grey. I pack two pair of jeans, three blank t-shirts (who even knew they made those anymore?), three pair of socks, two pair of underwear, a bra, a jacket with a hood, three toothbrushes (apparently, Evelyn wants to be sure I brush), and assorted toiletries.
Evelyn bought a host of clothing for all seasons and extras of just about anything I could need. She hides them in plain sight among her own clothing and household items.
Interview plus 27 hours
Evelyn and I are followed to lunch. We regally ignore a small bevy of reporters and I jot notes over a lengthy lunch at an upscale restaurant.
Interview minus 4 hours
I write letters to my parents, my roommate, and my best friend. Then I burn those letters. The most radical idea in the whole plan hinges on no one knowing where I am or what might have happened to me. Not telling the people who love me what is going on – it’s cruel. I’m cruel. This is the closest I come to turning back.
But Evelyn assures me in her brash way that this task is bigger than any of us. That my loved ones will understand, someday. That completing the task should be my primary concern.
She even tells me that she will meet my parents and console them at the proper time after my disappearance.
Evelyn may have run off the rails. But I’ve gone after her.
Interview plus 39 hours
I walk into a room full of Evelyn’s friends and family. They look at me the way I have looked at cockroaches, with intense and gruesome loathing.
Evelyn introduces me to everyone and allays their fears with her winsome words. After her speech, some folks open up to me and allow me to ask about the family and its tragedies. By the end of the affair, only a few individuals grumble at my presence, but they do so loudly and without apology.
Interview minus 2 hours
We rehearse in the blank space of Evelyn’s kitchen until the moment the crew arrives to set up for the interview. Evelyn kisses my cheek before answering the door.
Interview plus 48 hours
I call my mom. She says she saw me on television. She says she is so proud of me. She says she has turned away reporters who want to be nosy. She says she’s tried my phone a million times.
“I’m so sorry, mom,” I say as if the thought just occurred to me, “my phone was crushed by a cart the reporters were using. I should be getting a new one soon.”
I lie. I lie to my mother as if I owe her nothing. As if I don’t know – and haven’t planned – the horror that awaits her in mere days.
Interview plus 72 hours
Unable to find new angles, the reporters go home. None camp outside. None even drive by the house, not in the last several hours.
My existence as a topic has long since fallen off the worldwide trends and now falls off the locational trends.
It’s as if nothing happened and nothing will.
Interview plus 84 hours
I call my parents. My dad answers. I tell him I’m leaving in the morning. I give him my train schedule and tell him I love him and mom. He sounds distracted. He hangs up by accident. I don’t call back.
Interview plus 92 hours
I board the train as I told my dad I would. I carry only my suitcase of clothes I’ll never again wear.
Interview plus 93 hours
I disembark to change trains. Instead, I find Evelyn in a bathroom, change into the most innocuous of clothing, and take a key.
My hair piled in a bun underneath a hat, I look young. Too young for my tastes. Evelyn says it will help me obtain housing and food. People will feel sorry for me. Because I am young. And alone.
There, in the handicap stall, we hug. I wonder again why I agreed to become a homeless, nameless social activist. I have no answer.
She promises to deposit my phone’s sim card, my last will and testament, my meager jewelry – just earrings and a watch, and my identification in the safe deposit box when she returns home. Then Evelyn gives me a map and shows me where to find the locker with my backpack. I will keep this key. She has a second key so she can place new items in the locker from time to time.
Evelyn leaves the bathroom. She will board a train that will take her to Maine to visit her family. She has a legitimate reason to be here today.
After ten minutes I leave, too. I wander around until I find the lockers. Hiding the key deep in my backpack, I prepare myself.
For what, I’m not sure. I have no ticket, no schedule, no money, and no identification.
This is when I cease to be me.
The clock returns to zero.