“And when we meet on a cloud, I’ll be laughing out loud…” In the Aeroplane over the Sea

There is something mad about the sheriff in this town. He’s not completely right in his head. He doesn’t know what to say to me. His job is to make sure I haven’t been killed by Mexican drug cartels or attacked by coyotes. I’m thankful he does his job so well, but when he shows up I always feel like I’ve been caught red handed. He stares at me with an assessing look as though he is trying to get a confession from me. A confession I don’t have. He tried to convince me to get into town and spend the day shopping and eating. He suggested  a movie, and he even had gift certificates for me to use. I thanked him profusely for the kind gesture. I never tire of kindness. I wanted to tell him that I had found the far back gate unlocked the other evening, I wanted to tell him that I saw a man wandering in the distance, sleepwalking through the land, I wanted to tell him that the sounds of the coyotes were moving in every night. Closer and closer and that soon they’d be on the doorstep and I wasn’t sure how to keep coyotes at bay, but the way he looked at me made me wonder if he already thought I was crazy just like I thought he might be as well.

***

azIn the summer of 2009 I was staying in Arizona house sitting for my brother-in-laws cousin. He had a ranch in the middle of nowhere. 15 acres of space. He had gone overseas for work for 2 months and  had asked me to stay at the ranch to take care of the house, the dog, bring in the mail, and just keep an eye on things.The sheriff knew I was there and he stopped by often to check in, I did some basic ground keeping, but a hired hand came by once or twice a week to do some more heavy lifting. Mostly I was completely alone. I spent my time reading, working out, and internetting at the wee hours of the morning. That kind of solitude builds character.

I was still an amateur websleuth at the time. I had dug into a few missing persons cases, but nothing intense with the exception of my downward spiral into the disturbing world Johnny Gosch. During a trip around the web one night, searching for weird stuff I stumbled upon the case of Lyle Stevik.

On September 15th, 2001 a young man checked into a Quinault Washington hotel under the alias Lyle Stevik. After further investigation it was found that Lyle Stevik was a character in a Joyce Carol Oates book called You Must Remember which was originally published in 1998. According to the staff Lyle had arrived by bus with no luggage and during his stay he received no phone calls, made no out going calls, and only surfaced to ask if he could change rooms because his original room was by the highway and it was too loud. Upon signing in he had used an address that traced back to a motel in Idaho. When contacted, the staff at the hotel in Idaho had no idea who the man was or how or why he had used that address.

***

Insomnia has always been an enemy of mine. We argue and bicker and it usually wins. Arizona was no different. Actually it was worse, I had no control over my sleep schedule. I was just a pawn in a game of chess being played and used as needed. I took naps at the oddest hours, I woke when the world was shutting down, I stayed up for days at a time. Sometimes I remembered to eat, but then I’d forget. Every couple days in the evening I’d walk the grounds and check the gates and when I would find one open I’d wonder if it was I who had opened it last, but I knew I wouldn’t have done that during my lucid hours, so had I been sleepwalking? Was I leaving the property at night? Where was I going?

***

On September 17th 2001, 2 days after Lyle  checked into the hotel a maid at the hotel entered his room to find his lifeless swaying slowly hanging by a belt in the closet. He had left some cash with a note that indicated the cash was for the room, and in a wastebasket there was a crumpled up piece of paper with the word “suicide” written on it. His autopsy concluded that he had no major illnesses, and his death was in fact suicide. His age was estimated to be between 20 and 35 at the time of death. He was thought to possibly have some Native American heritage, but nothing confirmed. His teeth were in good shape and indicated he had once had braces. He had an appendectomy scar, and his clothes were in decent shape as well as his general hygiene. This kind of information is usually used to confirm that the person comes from at least a lower middle class if not higher background. It isn’t likely he was a homeless drifter.

He is was said to be handsome, but I couldn’t look at his morgue photo for more than than a brief fraction of a second. They weren’t gruesome, I’ve seen worse, but there was something unsettling about them, something it took me a while to shake.

But the internet is a weird place, with weird people, doing weird things. I was deep in this case, I was in at websleuths forums and chats, there were some other message boards being used as well. I knew all the regular interneters talking about this case. Lyle had some weird following with the ladies. Quite a few often remarked on his attractiveness. This was odd to me because I couldn’t see it based on the morgue photos and crime scene photos, he wasn’t hideous, but I couldn’t see the handsomeness they saw. But it did make me wonder; if he was thought to be attractive, and probably from a middle class family, and he took decent care of himself how did he go so unnoticed after death? Why wasn’t anyone looking for him?

***

Micheal once told me that it is impossible to be lonely with the internet. Then he ran for the hills and is basically unplugged these days. Years of running numerous social sites online, and then he just quit, probably because he got sick of the internet. I always loved his optimism, he was so outgoing, but I think he was wrong. It is completely possible to be lonely with the internet. In fact most people killing time online are lonely. I think with those words he meant for me to maybe stop spending so much time in my own head, but instead I went deeper in. He was kind of right about one thing; I wasn’t completely lonely, I had dead people to think about.

***

The night sky went on for miles. In the evening I’d sit on the patio listening to the coyotes int he background not knowing that they were secretly plotting my death. I’d rock slowly back in forth in the rocking chair until I found a rhythm that sounded right. One night I watched a lightning storm take over the sky, and as I fell in and out of sleep I drifted back to September 2001 when Lyle killed himself.

It was barely a week after the twin towers had turned into a pile of rubble. I was at school that day sitting in a current events class. The teacher always had a news station on in the background while we did our busy work. I remembered looking up to see the buildings on the TV with smoke billowing out of them. I was sitting by my friend Matt, I asked him if it was a trailer for a movie or something because it looked too real. Others had begun to notice as well and people were mumbling to each other as our teacher stood there silently staring at the atrocity with her jaw descending downward.

I remembered the comfort of a late Michigan fall. The weeks before the hoodie weather sets in, I remembered walking home that day and stopping by the cemetery in the middle of town to go sit by my Grandpa for a while. I remembered later hearing the stories of people jumping out of the buildings to their cement impacted death and I always wondered how long that fall took in their own heads. Did they grasp for something to hold on to right after they let go regretting their decision? Is that really a better way to die than being smoked to death? How do you make these decisions?

I began to think of Lyle then. He would have been in his early twenties according to the coroner, possibly older, but I don’t know how anyone could have put him at 35. What was he doing then? Was he listening to TOOL with his friends? They had released Lateralus that year, or maybe Rage Against the Machine; Renegades of Funk was big just a year prior. Weezer was popular then as well. Or maybe he was more Indie, maybe he was locked in with In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. For no reason other than the fact that I  assigned it to him that album makes me think of him. Did he go see Moulin Rogue that year? Did he really read Joyce Carol Oates? Why would he have picked that name?  I began hoping he had read more as well.Where were his friends? He had to have had friends, everyone has friends…

“And one day we will die and our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea…”

***

At the forums I had met a girl that swore she had met Lyle at a bar in Washington. I wanted to believe her, but I didn’t, I did however keep talking to her. She said she was ‘around his age’ but the age given by the coroner had a 15 year span, so I wasn’t sure what she was basing that on. She told me that he had bought her a drink at a bar and they had talked for hours about books and music and life in general and that they had made plans to go out for dinner sometime but he never got a hold of her again. This had supposedly happened the summer before he killed himself. Maybe she had in fact met him. I suppose it is completely possible, it’s possible I’ve met people who have later gone missing or ended up unidentified as well. But I think just like me she just needed something to grab on to. Someone or something to care about. Sometimes its easier with strangers. It had been almost a year since I had heard from Matt. I was looking for him when I found Lyle. Maybe she was looking for someone as well.

***

The sheriff hadn’t stopped by in days. Or weeks maybe. I think I saw him standing in the desert yelling at the sky one night, but I couldn’t be sure it was him. I couldn’t even be sure I was in the desert, what would I have been doing there? I wondered if he saw me, if he came by I could ask what he was doing out there, or better yet I could ask if he knew what I was doing out there. The desert is said to be home to shape shifters, maybe that is what I saw. Maybe that is what I saw dancing on the roof the other night as well. I needed to talk to him, what do you do about rogue coyotes I wondered. Can I just kill them? Is that legal? I wanted to tell him that I wouldn’t tell anyone about his connection to the drug cartels if he could help me do some detective work on Lyle.

***

Eventually the 9/11 crowd came out to play on the whole Lyle Stevik thing. The ones thatcan turn any conversation anywhere into a conversation about 9/11. A car accident happened on 9/12 that year? It was part of the inside job and jet fuel doesn’t melt cars. Lyle had hung himself with a belt almost a week after the attacks.He must have been a spy, or somehow caught in the plot. Maybe he had a role in it all, or maybe he had lost every single family member and or friend he had ever had in the attacks that day and that is why no one had come forward to identify him. I tried to point out that there would names of these people. Records to indicate that someone related to him had died in the buildings. I tried to point out that some people are just depressed and want nothing more than for it to all end, 9/11 or not. But the 9/11 crowd is a loud one and once they get an idea in their head they run with it.

And then the real crazies came out to play. The ones talking about time travelers, and people visiting from different dimensions, or UFO abductees being dropped off far from home, or government experiments gone wrong. Those are my favorite internet crazies, but I didn’t want to hear from them this time around. There was something personal about this case for me and their crazy was annoying me.

The girl who had said she had met Lyle went by the name besjess at the forums. I hadn’t heard from her in a few nights.I asked around, but people didn’t know who I was talking about. The middle aged women clucking about how handsome Lyle was said I could talk to them about the case if I wanted to, but I wanted to talk to Jess. I wanted to know what he was wearing when she met him. I wanted to know what he was drinking, what music he liked. Was he quiet and shy? Who initiated the conversation? What was his name? You had to have gotten his name. What was it Jess? You can help with this, but you’re either lying or holding it in all for yourself because you don’t want this to be solved, you want this to be forever tragic for you.

***

When I saw Lyle in my state of hallucinated near sleep paralysis he was laughing. Him and another guy were sitting on the couch, they each had a beer in their hands and they were cracking each other up. The jokes were clearly inside jokes, and I was on the outside looking in. It made sense that he was funny. Most truly funny people are depressed. They use the humor as a band aid.Then we were at a bonfire and he was smoking a joint, he passed it to me and told me to be careful with it. The man was still dancing on the roof, and the sheriff was still yelling at the sky, and jess was still missing, and the coyotes were coming, but it was OK. It was always OK.

***

It is thought Lyle had taken a bus to the hotel. There were two that ran that day; one coming from the north, and one coming from the south. Both drivers were asked if they had recognized him, but neither had any idea who he was.

***

Jim is a guy I met online years ago. He is the most rational thinking person I’ve ever met. Sometimes it is hard to talk to him because he speaks only in logic. There is no emotion there. He is a mathematician, he has been head hunted by major science and technology firms. He applies numbers to every single situation. Talking to him is extremely technical, but I need that kind of rationality in my life, and our long term internet friendship is one I value.

***

Me: Are you busy

Jim: Not too busy

Me: I just need to talk to someone for  a few minutes

Jim: Ok

Me: How would a wind chime chime if there was no wind?

Jim: Is this a riddle?

Me: No, it’s a legitimate question. The other night the wind chimes kept chiming but there was no wind

Jim: There was wind

Me: I’m telling you there was no wind

Jim: I’m telling you there was wind

Me: Maybe it was a bat

Jim: Did you see a bat?

Me: Not that I remember

Jim: Is your phone on?

Me: On? I don’t even know where it is, it’s the least of my concerns

Jim: Oh really? What are your concerns?

Me: Jess is missing

Jim: Who is Jess?

Me: A girl I was talking to at a forum about missing and unidentified people

Jim: It’s the internet, people come and go, she’s not missing

Me: Can you help me find her

Jim: No

Me: But she was depressed and now she’s gone. I think the sheriff is depressed also

Jim: The sheriff?

Me: The sheriff of this town is mad

Jim: Alright Jenny, get on a normal eating and sleep schedule

Me:Do you remember that guy Lyle I was telling you about? He’s been run against some cases in namus, but none are a match. How does no one know who he is?

Jim: Someone knows who he is

Me: Exactly! But who? And why haven’t they stepped forward?

Jim: After you get on a normal sleep and eating schedule I’ll send ya some pdf books to read

Me: You find all the good internet files

Me: I miss Jess

Jim: You didn’t know her

Me: I miss Lyle

Jim: You didn’t know him

Me: I think there is a bat in the wind chimes

Jim: Or wind

Me: I wish I was as smart and rational as you

Jim: You’re smart

Me:…lol, you didn’t say rational

Jim: I didn’t

Me:Can you find me a book online?

Jim: I can find anything online

Me: Not Jess though?

Jim: Not Jess

Me: Not Lyle’s identity?

Jim: No, but what book do you want?

Me: You Must Remember by Joyce Carol Oates

***

TO BE CONTINUED….PART 2; I find Jess, I read the book, I talk to the sheriff, I find a detective’s blog who had worked the original scene, I start becoming paranoid about coyotes and bats….hmmm….maybe 3 parts….idk. Part 2 soon-ish

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