Any search can be wearying, let alone one that drags on for two years. A name, initially held in reverence, a nominal, gradually becomes a cursed thing. The shadow of the person becoming sought looms over everything, blocks out the light of hope even as it taunts and teases with the revelation of its source. Somewhere in the wash of nomenclature found in phone books, voting registries, and public documents the name becomes a thing, a horrid, wretched thing.
But a tiny scrap of newspaper was squatting in my pocket like a stubborn elephant. Its weight, in reality negligable, dragged me down to my knees. Then somewhere in the fall, it leaned me forward, urged me onward. That little missive had a home, had a destiny of its own, one that it was not going to let me forget.
From rumor to whisper, happenstance to coincidence, the wind invariably led me to Philadelphia. The city has its finer parts, but they would not contain my quarry. That possibility had danced its way through my imagination early in the search. A half dozen police reports scattered across three states for everything from loitering to drunk and disorderly took the feet right out from under that gaily skipping fanciful idea. Frankie Bourbonne was not to be found sleeping in any plush bed or dining in any trendy restaurant.
Down a rugged path led a piecemeal trail to an old friend. Over dark, winter months my gaze fell into the depths of a miriad of thousand-yard stares. Men looked through me, though for these poor souls they looked through the world. Life had beaten them down, or they'd beaten themselves. Either way, the end result was the same. Human flotsam and jetsam floated without so much as a fate to defy, forming eddies and pools around the bare necessities.
Available shelter, out of sight but never too far from societies pejorative, judgmental eye served as convenient casting calls. Soup kitchens became tragic galleries for my viewing displeasure. Aid agencies, oases of concerned people in the great tide of apathy and disdain, were like wild game preserves, with the nearly feral dregs of humanity lulled and pacified.
Here I made my home; here I passed my waking hours. Even after all that time, I couldn't have really said who had it worse, them or me. Some days I conceded the point wholely to them; as pitiful as I was, at least no judging eyes or careless jibes could cut me down. On other days, my usual self pity and penchant for wallowing won out; they still had a chance, if only they'd make the move to take it.
Whoever won, the entirety of the question was a depressing one.