It would be another hundred paragraphs if I explained just how much my life was hectic and full of changes from Matthew’s wedding until now. Going from employed and doing well, to unemployed with no car and no place to stay; on to eventually achieving my dream of being a firefighter and slowly getting my life in order. It's safe to say the changes were frequent and rapid. I am not the person I was two years ago, and the person I was six years ago is something like that of legend now. I never forget about Matthew. I would go through various jags of calling all of our mutual friends and ask if they knew about him (we did not have many mutual friends). I would find recording of his bands and download them to hear his voice. I would go to places I knew him to frequent. I spent at many nights searching through countless person search websites. Weeding through the Google results was tedious. There are other people with his name, with plenty of sites talking about their professional work. He was always someone to be under the radar. He never created any significant online identity, never having a website, social networking profile or email. Even his part in bands would get minor mention on the internet, unless it was the band in general. Matt is still nowhere to be found.
New Years Day 2010, Phil posted an update on a social networking site about Matt sending people weird text messages. This shocked me; I did not even know they knew each other well enough to still be in touch. I sent a message asking Phil to forward my number to Matt. To tell him, I have been looking for him for half a decade. Knowing he was alive and in contact with people reinvigorated my hopes to reconnect with him. At this point, the fact that Matthew and I have not had contact started to raise many questions in me. I have lost many friends through time, due to many reasons; some of them to distance, and lack of contact, personality conflict and arguments. I wondered why it was that we had not been in contact. Was it intentional? Did I do something to offend him? I was broke at the time of the wedding and couldn’t afford a gift, maybe he was offended that I showed up empty handed? With all of these possibilities, I felt awkward to bother Phil asking if he heard from Matt about my number. I was left thinking I would only bother Phil if a significant time went by without any progress.
In searches, I eventually found an address in Port Jervis, NY that had Matt as the tenant. This was about an hour and half drive away. I never found a phone number. So no call could be made. I sat with this address in my mind for a few days, working up the initiative to take the drive and face that mystery solving moment. I drove up there one night on a whim. On the way, I realized it was getting late, and with a child in the house; it would be too late to ring the doorbell. I decided, I already initiated the drive and would go anyway, at least to see if there was any sign that this was his home.
I eventually pulled up to the house. It was a quiet rural area, but on one of the main Routes. The sun was already down and there was not a light on in the house. I double-checked the address and it all matched. I pulled into the empty driveway. I got out and looked into the garage, no cars there either. I walked up to the front door. A playhouse and bikes littered the yard; I thought of their children and hoped this was a good sign. On the porch, the screen door had been duct taped, signs of the screen’s fasteners failing. I looked into the living room window and listened for noise. The house was dark and silent and I was disappointed. I started wondering what excuses there could be for the house being empty. Was this not their house? Was it ever? I know Jackie was a nurse; maybe she was working a night shift and the kids were at the grandparent’s house. I knew all the guessing in the world would solve nothing so I walked back to the car and started to drive away. I was deflated; I felt such anticipation to finally reconnect with them. When the house was silent and empty, I left feeling the same. As I drove away, I hated the feeling that this was a futile trip. All of the mysteries about the house left me wanting more, I turned the car around and went back into the driveway. I found a piece of paper and wrote and then rewrote a note to “Matt &/or Jackie?”. I gave a message and my phone number and asked that if the tenants of the house was neither Matt nor Jackie that they contact me and make me aware that I need to continue my search. I expected nothing, but left the note attached to the duct tape on the front door.
Nothing happened for quite some time after I left the note. No calls, no new addresses found. Maybe my guess was true. Maybe it was Matt’s intention to avoid contact? Maybe the stresses of fatherhood and married life just lead him to decide less people in it would make things easier; and I was one the ones who had to go? I thought of that house often, of how the driveway and garage were empty. I pondered the many reasons any house would be that quiet and felt a need to get myself back up to it during daytime hours and see if anything was different. I had a busy schedule of classes and work for the next couple of weeks. Another road trip would have to wait.
Two months after the trip up to the house, I received short notice from a friend that he had an extra ticket to a show in Brooklyn. It was a band I had not seen in years and was very excited to go. We went into the city early enough to stop at a local bar and meet up with a few friends. I also managed to find a few friends I knew from high school. Eventually, the large crowd we gathered walked to the concert and went on to enjoy the beers, laughs and music. My friend had gotten lost in the crowd; After the last band finished, I went looking for him and I bumped into the bassist of my second band with Matthew. I was surprised to see him after so long and we caught up a bit on life. His current band was recording a new record and he was doing well. I eventually asked him about Matthew. When I brought him up, Sean said ‘Oh, I guess you haven’t heard?’ My heart sunk as I saw the look on his face, he was about to share bad news he had come to peace with but knew I would need a second to handle.
‘I haven’t heard anything about him in ages and have been searching for him.’
‘Well, Bryan; Matthew is in prison.’
Burned Wood and Lost Wishes: Lost & Found Pt. 1