“He had trouble sleeping when we were there. Said his rhythm was off. Some nights, he'd straight up leave. I'd hear the slam of the screen door and would have to get up just to make sure the latch was in place. Stray cats and all that. Wouldn't return sometimes until noon the next day.
“I forget the assignment but he treated it like a vacation when we first got there. Said it wouldn't be a week until the shit with his cousin. Watched him from a perch one day just swimming out into the deeper blue just to see what he could find on the seabed. One time came back with a starfish and I watched him cut it open with a Bowie knife that I don't even remember him packing.
“I was quiet around him. He wasn't much for talking but you could tell he had a lot on his mind, you know? You can just read that sort of thing with some people. And so we didn't say much when we were forced to be together on surveillance. When we did talk it was of the most random shit, I think. He talked about how he didn't miss having Internet access while we were there, even though I had seen him on his phone multiple times in his lower bunk, through the reflection of the window. We got drunk one night and he started talking some nonsense about how everything in our culture is degrading, that our methods of coping are getting rewired. Started ranting about loneliness, then sex, then porn. That it was getting to a point where there would be listicle articles in the future of how it's healthier to jerk off to live entertainment than a pre-recorded video, for the knowing that the person is live and somewhere on the planet and that you're connecting with that moment more than anything else. I remember that conversation only because I was following along with what he was saying, at least for a bit. We were both wasted.
“I could get a sense in these moments that the words he was saying were to fill a space more than anything else. Made it hard for me to know when he was being sincere.
“On another night he talked about an old classmate. Brought it up out of nowhere after I mentioned how I never went to college and that I no longer spoke with my friends from high school. He described this person as someone from his past. Seemed resigned in his speech. But then the more he spoke it was again with that feverishness when he was both drunk and seemingly thinking of himself as speaking in a way that was deserving of agreement.
“I never had any sense he'd run away after what came to pass. Looking back, he was only ever eager to finish the assignment because he had already made up his mind about the whole thing. Only confirmed some months later that he was leaving late at night during those days to make phone calls to a certain someone.”