Thursday, October 27, 2016

Missing Person - near Blythe, California

UPDATE: Matt has been found, and has reconnected.

Please help: A missing friend named Matt.

Every Monday morning, reliable as clockwork, a homeless man named Matt used to walk for an hour and a half into Blythe to receive a pre-arranged phone call at the hospital. These calls were from my friend Kinga. Last Monday, October 24th, Matt didn’t show up. This was alarming because he hadn’t shown up on the previous Monday either. Inside his mailbox, is an uncollected letter. It contains $20.00 American currency. For years, Kinga has regularly mailed him such letters. They mean the world to him.

Their friendship began in 2004 when Kinga had first discovered online poker. Matt was one of the regulars at a table of players, like her, who played for small-stakes bets. The two of them shared a sense of humour, an innate curiosity about all manner of things, and a sparkling intelligence. Eventually, they started emailing two or three times a week. Just chat. They had each other’s phone numbers, but rarely phoned. Once when I was visiting, I had picked up the phone, and it was Matt. He had a warm voice. I don’t recall what we talked about.

Three years later, in 2007, because Matt had gone several days without answering an email, Kinga got worried. She phoned and got no response. Since she knew that his mother lived nearby, she then phoned every person in the vicinity with the same surname. The eighth person on her list turned out to be Matt’s mother.

That day in 2007, when the police arrived, they had to knock down Matt’s locked door to get in. They found him, unconscious, lying on the floor, his elbows abraded from repeated attempts to get up. The medics told his mother not to hold out hope, such was the evident extent of his brain damage. And yet he lived. A few days later, Kinga took a plane from her home in Vancouver, BC to stay by his bedside and to support his recovery.

At first he could not talk, write, or walk, and yet, in time, he could. After a few weeks of intensive therapy, Kinga took him back home to the modest house that he owned. She cooked, and cleaned, and even found his computer passwords for him. Those who know Kinga would find none of this surprising, except maybe that bit about being able to help with the computer.

This photo of a photo was done in poor lighting – but we were rushed and wanting to get the word out. Even so, it shows the beauty of Matt’s soul as he sleeps.
 As he recovered, she encouraged him to step out of the cocoon of his house, first to sit on the front stoop, and then to walk the length of the block. One evening, they simply sat there and watched the road in front of them as it turned golden from the glow of the setting sun. Each day, they took short walks, and then longer walks. When he was well enough, she stocked his kitchen with healthy food, before returning home to her own family in Vancouver. Their emails and letters continued as before. In one of his, he remarked on the intense blue of a flower seen in an unexpected place. Another one repeated snatches of an overheard conversation. He was re-entering life.

In about 2008 or 2009, Matt, along with thousands of other Americans that year, lost his house to the bank. With his mother recently deceased, and with no other ties to his hometown, he headed west with eighty dollars and a bus ticket in his pocket. Unfortunately, after that, one downward spiral morphed into another downward spiral. He has now been homeless for several years.

Items contained in letters to Kinga. Special K; a coin; a bag of sand from one of the places where he stayed, a note of promises that he made to himself, and a Queen of Hearts. Also, nearly every letter also included a dry flower – all kinds and colours.
Eventually, as he moved further south, he ended up in Blythe, a place where it was at least warm enough to survive a winter. Throughout all of his downward spirals, times when his bike, his sleeping bag, and even his food have been stolen, Kinga’s letters have been his one and only connection to anyone who cared.

Letters from Kinga. Each envelope includes a self-addressed envelope and some paper, an American twenty-dollar bill, and a little chat about the news in Kinga’s life. Books she has read. Plays she has attended. Whatever she has been thinking about. She has the envelopes shown here already addressed, and ready to send.
 Kinga fears the worst, not that he is dead – because she has already accepted the likelihood of that kind of worst - but that it may turn out that he is barely alive and slowly dying. If anyone can find him, it would give her some measure of peace. If she could travel there herself, she would, but for now, she can’t. Here’s hoping that perhaps this can bridge the gap.

Here is a map of where he was last known to be: NEST at Highway 95 and Intake Road. Canal # D10. The nest was hollowed into low bushes and was sort of like a cave. Kinga recently sent him some mosquito netting. It is still likely to be hanging in this cave.

This map shows where he would be on the days that he walked into Blythe.

 A: Albertsons grocery on Broadway at 7th; B: P.O. Box on Chancellor;  C; Palo Verde Hospital on Chancellor; D: Library on Eucalyptus.

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