Sometimes, you'll notice that I disappear. I never mean for it to be intentional, but one day passes and then the next until whole stretches of time have passed.
In my alternate life, I work for a nonprofit. In my best life, I'm a writer. While you may not be able to tell that from the depth or quality of the narrative here on this blog, I have a degree in writing. I write stories, or at least I used to until I began a poetry series about missing women.
It began with Maricopa Jane Doe. She was pushed or shoved from a car speeding down Highway 10 in Arizona. She lived long enough to be transported a hospital in Scottsdale where she passed away. Her blue heart tattoo and her beautiful blond hair were her most salient identifying features.
On the 9th anniversary of her death, I read an article about her. There is a group of individuals like you and I, just average people, who spend their evenings working on missing persons cold cases. For many of them, Maricopa Jane Doe held a special place and they worked diligently on reuniting her with her family. They had yet to be successful, but they still chased leads.
In a world of increasing connectivity, it's hard to imagine a reality in which your loved one disappears without the ability to trace them in some small way. I thought of Maricopa Jane Doe and the countless other women whose stories we have forgotten. Stories that need to be told and carried in more hearts. Stories that matter, women who matter.
Twenty poems later, I am over thirty shy from where I want to be, yet even that is so far from the number of the missing and often forgotten. So I write about them. I pull together information from police reports, autopsy photos, message boards, networking sites, news articles and try to create a small part of them on paper.
Like most people, I'm sure, I like to believe I'm tough. That I can handle a lot. But when I write one of these poems, I drop off from the world for a bit. I need to take a breath. And though I know and can confess now that it is hard, I also know that I have the luxury of taking that breath where others can't.
And Maricope Jane Doe, I still hold her in my heart. I waited over a year into the project to write about her before I began her poem, Maricopa (unidentified woman discovered January 27, 1999 on Highway 10 near Case Grande, Arizona). And here I learn she was identified just months after I read her story. Her name is Tawni Lee Mazzone. She was 17 years old.