I just completed the final, apocalyptic season of Search Party, a quirky and bitterly clever HBO Max series. This is a bit unusual, as the darkness of my current grief grotto tends to throw a shadow on anything even remotely comedic. But the offbeat wit of this sinisterly snarky romp appealed to the cynicism of my perpetual-pandemic malaise. I’m finding the early 2022 vibe very disturbing in visceral, new ways. Could be that I’m starting the fourth year on earth without my son Elliot or that the uncertainty of our world at the tipping point has become business as usual. Probably a sum of the parts, but all I know is that it’s heavy and exhausting. And writing, usually my salve, has been a challenge in this “blue period,” too. I might need to spend some time outside of my own head.
In Search Party, Dory, the protagonist, becomes unflinchingly obsessed with locating a college acquaintance named Chantal, whom she learns has gone missing. But the fixation quickly seizes her—dominating her life and all her relationships, including an eccentric fellow named Elliott. Interestingly, Dory never knew Chantal well, but for some unknown reason, she takes full responsibility for finding her with self-righteous zeal. It’s her raison d’être.
Dory’s all-consuming quest immediately triggered me—reminding me of my own desperate need to find my Elliot—everything, that is, about the tangled circumstances of his death and the elusive essence of his life. Much to my dismay, most of my attempts have been as fruitless as they’ve been frustrating—trying to access the data in his disabled and now permanently deleted internet accounts. These efforts have hit dead ends across the board—even after enduring the lengthy and costly process of securing the requisite court documents. I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, judiciously delivering the witch’s broom to the Google Oz and the Amazon Web Services (AWS) gods—with results similar to those of our scrappy Kansas gal.
And this is only one of many inconsistencies and conundrums that continue to haunt me with every inhale. What I have found is that looking for answers is a little like looking for grace. It happens in its own time—and it’s something you receive but can never ask for.
So, maybe this is not about unearthing Elliot’s digital footprints or picking up his blockchain breadcrumbs. Like the metaverse itself, this dark web of secrets seems to expand and contract exponentially with each new portal crossed and backdoor cracked. Maybe the lesson is this: it’s time to let go of the need to know. Like Dory at the end of the series (spoiler), it’s time to just steep in the mystery for a while, breathe . . . and let acceptance bloom.
Maybe it’s time to decide to just keep going and cherish the parts of Elliot that I already know: the infinite love that exists in every molecule of my being that gave him life almost thirty years ago. These are pieces I will find only inside my heart and in the hearts of those who loved him. (I think every story must be The Wizard of Oz in one way or another.)
Until . . .
You find an errant thumb drive in an old box of items you had tucked away in storage after cleaning out your deceased son’s apartment in a fog of tears three years prior. Alas, you simply can’t resist the call of the wild USB. Gingerly, you insert it in your laptop and open up the file directory as your heart beats with expectation, and you notice that much of it looks like lines of actual code, Elliot’s native language but one you do not comprehend. There are lines and lines and lines of machine-like text, strings of strange characters and backslashes, sprinkled with words like directory and subroutine. Trying to decipher it gives you a headache—as you focus intensely on each line of cryptic verbiage, hoping to uncover some hidden gem or morsel that will reveal all. You feel a little like James Bond, but the cruel reality is that without your Elliot, your “IT Help Deck,” you are still lost.
But then, you open the very last file in the list, and it’s a readable file. It’s English, and its curiously ironic title is: “Data Loss.” (Stay tuned.)