"Detective Russell with APD's cold case unit. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions."
"Is this about Carlos?"
"Yes it is ma'am. I'm working the case now and I noticed that, according to his cell phone records, you're the last person to have spoken to him before he was killed. On Saturday, October 23, 2005 at 7:34 p.m. you called him and that call lasted a little over four minutes. Can you tell me what you talked about?"
I want to laugh. But the shock of this impulse sobers me. Surreal. This is JUST LIKE TELEVISION. A four minute conversation I had two and a half years ago. Really, I have no idea. What I do remember is the call I got early Monday morning telling me Carlos had been murdered, strangled in his own bed with his own t-shirt, his hands tied, a sock in his mouth.
"We'd had dinner the night before, probably talked about that. Maybe we talked about getting together again, I'm not sure. Or maybe we were just checking in. We talked most every day, even if it was only for a few minutes." What I didn't tell the detective was that Carlos always ended every phone conversation with 'I love you' and on that night, like every other, I was unnerved by such a raw declaration. Even though I loved him, too, I'm sure I never told him.
"Yes, I can see the two of you spoke daily. But did he tell you what his plans were that night?"
"Were you aware of his lifestyle?"
"You mean that he was gay. Of course."
"Actually, that's not what I meant."
And here there is silence. What he means is, "Did you know Carlos picked up strange men and took them home?" No, I didn't know that. It's not something that came up during yoga class or while we shopped for sofa pillows.
"I've answered these questions already. Several times."
"I realize that ma'am. But if you could remember anything about that conversation. Did he mention where he was going, who he was meeting?"
"No. I don't even know where he was calling from."
"I'm going to read you some names and I need you to tell me if any of them are familiar to you." He reads a long list of men's names. I don't recognize any of them.
"You were good friends?"
"But he never discussed his dates with you?"
"No, not really." I know how this sounds. Carlos had a secret life and I am the sheltered straight girl. Oddly, it hurts my feelings that Carlos didn't trust me enough to tell me about his hook-ups. Or maybe he thought I would be shocked, that I would judge him, which of course I wouldn't have. Sex almost never shocks me.
"Did you find anything unusual when you cleaned out his apartment? Anything that surprised you? Concerned you?"
I remember being surprised that Carlos had every CD Madonna ever made. Same for Maria Callas. I was surprised that he owned more shoes than I did. That the only thing in the refrigerator was a four-pack of Starbuck's frapaccinos. But what surprised me the most...his desk was cluttered with sheets of notebook paper filled with drafts of messages to friends. Carlos was an avid writer of beautifully spun note cards that always arrived on heavy, creamy stock with his initials engraved across the top. He sent cards for no good reason. To say "thanks for dinner" or "it was good running into you the other day." But unlike most people, his notes weren't scribbled off and popped in the mail. He wrote draft after draft until he got it just right. He was a poet. A craftsman. Choosing his words carefully. I never knew that. When I explain this to the detective, I can tell he's figured out I'm probably not worth the long-distance call. I'm a "dead end." We sign off.
And then for the next few days I'm haunted by those four minutes. What if he did tell me something useful? What if there was a clue to his killer and I missed it? How is it two people can be so close, share so much darkness and light and still keep whole chunks of life hidden? I think of all the things I kept from him...which explains why, when I told him my marriage was over, he was speechless. He thought my life was perfect. I thought his was perfectly safe.
But I know this much is true. Carlos was dear to me. His biting wit and spacious heart, his huge curiosity about art, spirituality and what it takes to live in the world with dignity and kindness...he shared all of that. What I never knew doesn't matter now. And really...it didn't matter then.