Mark and I had been coworkers in the same department for over a year. We’d sit at the same tables during lunch, and once or twice, we went with other office workers for happy hour beers.
But we remained acquaintances. The sort you’d see on the street or hallway and nod to or wave at, but not the type you’d stop to talk with…
I’m not even sure who added who, but once we became friends on Facebook, I started learning way more about him.
I guess our algorithms overlapped…
Soon enough my feed was featuring his daily posts, and I learned his favorite food was pepperoni pizza. Then I discovered his favorite band was Arcade Fire.
Then I found out his taste in film. His penchant for 1980s flicks. And I’d initially chuckled as he declared, unironically, too, it appeared, that Police Academy was a cinematic masterpiece.
But upon further thought, I silently concurred.
Then, as time went on, I got to see Mark’s different moods on different days and was impressed by his ability to not let trivial annoyances like the broken copier or slow Wi-Fi affect him. How he’d use humor, funny memes to counteract office chaos…
Am I a voyeur? Perhaps I am. But not intentionally. I’d never set out to follow him or wondered what he was doing or checked his page.
It was just… day after day… his posts kept magically popping up in my feed, and, for whatever reason, I kept reading them.
Perhaps it was due to his posts’ refreshing banality. Or his easygoing, Midwestern manner. He never once posted obnoxious stuff. He never ranted in ALL CAPS about Trump. He wasn’t spamming or selling anything. And he was only posting once, perhaps twice a day.
So I kept passively reading. Even after he left the company.
Normally I never bother to block or delete anyone without reason, like spam or too much finger-pointing politics, but sometimes I’ll notice former coworkers delete me.
One former coworker had said that he prefers keeping his social media friends circle small, only people he has regular contact with, and when we lost touch after he left the firm, then subsequently deleted me, I understood.
But Mark never deleted me, and almost as if I were a regular, semi-interested watcher of a reality TV show, I kept seeing these random snapshots of his life.
Sometimes I’d see his posts daily. Sometimes once or twice a week. And I went on seeing them… For the next five years…
I saw him marry his girlfriend. Saw his new car. His new house. His new job. Then his next new job.
I saw pictures of his newborn daughter. Then saw his daughter take her first steps.
I never commented on a single post he’d made. Yet I kept receiving his posts in my feed. Right up to until his daughter’s first day in kindergarten.
It was around this time that his father died.
I’d known Mark was quite close to his Pops. He’d posted pictures of them together, always out fishing, and he’d shared his dad’s silly aphorisms.
I knew he’d take his father’s death hard, and part of me wanted to reach out, send condolences. But we’d not spoken in almost six years. And we had never really known each other well. So what could I even say?
His next few posts came at longer and longer intervals. And he’d look rough, too, dark circles under his eyes, his face looking puffy, his skin terrible, oily and reddish.
The posts were of him faking a smile, snapping a selfie in the same, white-walled breakroom at his firm. The posts didn’t contain a word of text, only his unsettling, strained smiles.
Then the posts stopped. I checked to see if he’d deleted me, but he hadn’t. Legitimately, I started to worry. Worried he’d gone too ham on the alcohol. I did recall him once saying that he limited his alcohol intake because he didn’t want to “wind up like his brother,” whatever that meant, and I recalled too that he’d never posted any pictures of his brother.
Another month went by. Still, no posts. Not that I knew him well enough to be seriously, drastically concerned, but it was nagging at me. I had to know, just, something…
So I approached another guy in our department, a shifty-eyed fellow, who was rumored to be ex-CIA… He was a musclebound type with a shaved head and a cauliflower ear. The type who didn’t talk to a lot of people…
Someone had told me he was a Libertarian… He was one of the few who’d been at the firm longer than me…
Mark had sat in the cubicle next to the Libertarian, and they’d been chatting when we were out for beers, so I figured it was worth asking about.
So I went sauntering by the Libertarian’s cubicle, after lunch, and popped my head in and asked if he remembered or had heard from Mark. The Libertarian then swiveled in his seat, but kept his eyes on his desktop and said, softly, “He’s gone.”
“Gone?” I asked, straightening my tie.
“Gone, man,” and he’d said this louder but without a trace of emotion.
And I think I knew exactly what he meant.