Where are you, my friend?  

by Dana Halliday

I am lying in bed. My friend has been missing for two weeks now. I find it difficult to get to sleep, but when I do eventually drift off, I sink deep into a dream – but in that moment, it seems more real than life. 

I am sitting in a café. The lighting is dull, but the darkness is comforting, and it is warm here. Smoke from my cigarette dances in front of me slowly and shyly, making it almost impossible to identify you, the person sitting across from me. It feels like I've been holding this lit cigarette for hours. We just sit here, in this comfortable silence, with a soft humming from conversations of strangers surrounding us. You say something that makes me laugh, although I can’t now recall what it was. My smile doesn't fade, and I feel happy to be here - with you.  

 Why      aren't       you     out      searching?

Your voice is no more than a soft groan. But the question is cutting, and a knife twists at the thought of not having an answer to give you. An unfamiliar stinging ripples from my chest to the pit of my stomach.

"I just... I will... I just needed to be here first. To see you."

Behind the smoke, I think I see you nod, but I'm not sure. We return to our shared silence, voices still echoing in the background. I don't feel much like speaking today, but I know you understand. It's as if, for once, there are no words to explain how I feel. I cannot seem to humanly express myself.

The              quiet             is            comforting

My mind can picture nothing but my lost friend, and something inside of me is shriveling up and softly bashing from side to side. Softly, but it hurts more than a bullet to the heart. I take another drag of this endless cigarette somehow hoping it will numb the sensation. It helps.

Strangely,   right   now,   there   is   nowhere   I   would   rather   be. 
A candle is lit on the center of the table to our left, the glow highlighting faces that I'm sure I recognise. It takes some time to register the three familiar faces all glaring at me.

I     know     what     they're    thinking.

'What    are    you    doing    here?   

Where    have    you    been?'

I'm neither angry or upset. They're right. Where have I been, and how long have I been sitting here, in this café? I call out to one of them but my voice is barely a meek whisper, and in that instant the three heads turn away in disgust. They chat amongst themselves, one resting his head in his hands, another repeatedly buttoning and unbuttoning the sleeve of his shirt,

and     the    third    stapling    pages   and    pages    together.    So    many   pages.

I feel uneasy. I wish there was some way to explain to them, or even to myself, what on earth I'm doing here, sitting back, sipping a coffee, completely ignoring all of the other things I could be doing, should be doing - searching, inquiring, handing out flyers - anything at all to help bring our friend home. Yet it's been two weeks and I can’t help this overwhelming feeling of lost hope that's haunting me. I don't know how to find you my friend but I wish I could. I wish any of us could.

I    want    to    tell    you    that    I    love    you. 

I've    never    done    that    before. 

It might be the small stools in this dreamy café, but when the others stand up, they tower over me like giants. They brush past me, one by one, each one shoving harder than the previous. They pull up their hoods, dropping several of the stapled pages from the huge pile onto the tiled floor before making their way back outside into the harsh rain. I pick one up and see a picture of my friend looking back at me, smiling. The smile is electrifying the creases underneath his eyes - the way it always did when he said something clever. The word MISSING is printed in large letters above the picture. Taking a deep, anxious breath I completely lose all awareness of my surroundings. I prepare my lips to have another drag of my endless cigarette, but it's suddenly gone.

I      don't      understand.

Where    am    I?    How    did    I    get    here?    Where    are    you,    my    friend?
The smoke has subsided, and a ray of sunlight shines in through the blinds, making everything that was once misty now clear - including you, the person sitting across from me.

I  put  down  the  page,  and  I  smile.  It  all  makes  sense  to  me  now. 

In    my    dream,    they    never    saw    you.

Not    one    of    them.

But I see you, my friend. I always will. And I know now that you see me too.