Part One: I would have assumed she simply blew town if it hadn’t been for the text message. Well, it wasn’t an actual text message. It just read “nothing to display” in tiny, blocky liquid crystal display letters. But now my dread and regret grow every time I think about it. It showed up on my phone the night she supposedly disappeared.
Part Two: “Hey, has anyone seen Affie?” asked Leo. “Dez says she hasn’t been at work for the last two days.”
Her parents had named her Aphrodite, but no-one called her that. “Maybe the blue trucks finally came and got her,” cracked Mitch, which elicited laughter from everyone around the restaurant table.
Affie had become a running joke over the past few months. She had been on what you might call a direct-action crusade if you wanted to dignify it. “Don’t be such an asshole, Mitch,” Pam shot back, “you signed her petition just like the rest of us.”
Affie was straight out of central casting for a Greenpeace volunteer, even down to the patchouli-scented dreadlocks. She was kind of annoying, but still likable. She had become obsessed with the mystery of Taiwan’s blue trucks, and could never quite process the fact they were all the exact same shade of blue. We had named it ‘Affie-blue’ of course, but Affie usually had choicer words for the color. Words like tyranny, oppression, and mind-control. Her theory was that the government was using an oblique program of color enforcement as one more way to control society, to keep people passive and subservient to authority. “Well,” Leo retorted logically, “if you ask me, that petition was pretty tone-deaf. After all, this is the land of the White Terror. Maybe they just got tired of her games and paid her a visit.”
The thing was, there were infinite variations in the trucks’ sizes and shapes, makes and models, but Affie’s rants had convinced me that there was nothing at all normal about the uniform color, so I didn’t say anything. But Mitch was on a roll so he ignored Leo’s attempt at a real conversation. “You know,” he said in a mock-conspiratorial voice, “I heard that all the blue trucks can actually communicate together by ESP. Just like the plants on Pandora. And do you think it is just a coincidence that the Na’vi are Affie-blue too?” He looked from face to face as everyone laughed some more.
Then Zeke chimed in, “Dude, she actually told me one night that the color spreads from vehicle to vehicle kinda like a virus. Like y’know that urban myth that girls who live together will sometimes end up with the same periods. If you park two of ’em next to each other, the first one will just, like, soak into the second.”
Zeke looked pretty stoned. By now, most of the guys were in hysterics. Mitch was laughing so hard he knocked over his Kirin. Pam scowled and shook her head, glancing at Leo for support. Sure, Aphrodite had been spacey but she was still our friend, and it sucked to see her savaged like this every night behind her back. “Would you guys just shut up?” Pam snapped, “I am really worried about her.”
I was worried too, but not that she had been kidnapped by the police, just that she had finally gone rubber room on us. Each of her theories had a tangent, and each tangent was more and more absurd. But now and again she seemed to be onto something. For instance, only a few weeks prior she downloaded various paint manufacturers’ pigment formulas, then she had enlisted a Taiwanese mathematician friend of hers to try to quantify the color of the trucks. He had claimed that he couldn’t do it, and not only that, but that his professor had warned him to drop the experiment and not to talk about it any more. And that was by no means the only example. All I could muster was, “Weird,” and then I took a long sip of my beer.
Part Three: A little time has passed now, but all we know is that no-one saw her again. The most common explanation is that she was deported for mental instability, but I’m pretty sure that’s impossible because Pam has repeatedly tried to track her down back in the UK with no success. The sad truth of the matter is that we’re mostly so apathetic from living the easy expat life that most of our circle tuned out her absence after only a few weeks. But I just can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had replied to her message that night. Or maybe I should have at least mentioned it to someone. I never even lifted a finger…