Discover more from Ghost From The Past
#7 How do you find someone who doesn't want to be found?
And another question about what to do once you've found them...
**An update on my investigation into a 2001 traffic accident and court case that changed the course of my life. You can read the first part here.**
It’s Thursday night and I’m watching television with Steve on the couch. We’re slowly sinking into each other across a handful of grey and white throw pillows, with Five, our Boston terrier, lodged between us, snoring in that way short-nosed dogs do.
Both of us stare at the screen in silence during a commercial break, bearing witness to an uncomfortable series of ads that appear to be directly targeting us. Someone voguing in a Johnnie Walker whiskey ad. A McDonalds' breakfast sandwich is being marketed as a high-in-protein breakfast option. A gambling app where a woman walks out of a coffee shop and discovers a roulette wheel spinning in her steaming latte.
“It’s all alcohol, fast food, and gambling,” Steve points out. “I wonder if we’ll look back on this in 20 years and think: what the fuck?”
“What, like cigarette commercials?” I ask.
He jabs a finger at the TV and says, “Exactly!”
Tonight is the quarterfinal matches for the ATP Acapulco 500 Mexican Open, a hard-court tennis tournament that takes place every year in February, and we had dinner on the coffee table again. Lasagna residue caked on paper napkins and a surprising amount of debris from an arugula salad, the capers and parmesan ringing the tabletop beneath our salad bowls like windfall apples circling a tree in late fall.
Neither of us is particularly eager to clean up yet after our meal. We start our next block of shooting for our latest film in three weeks and are trying to take it easy. This evening is strictly a sweatpants and t-shirts affair. Before our lives devolve into airplanes and hotel rooms and long days on set, we’ve agreed to appreciate the off-time we have together in our apartment.
Steve has a passion for mid-century modern and his design fingerprints are everywhere in our place: the angled arms and deep seats of our slate-grey couch, teak chairs and tables, a maroon Afghani rug, plant stands and glazed pots—even the silhouette of the fiddle leaf fig stretching up the floor-to-ceiling windows, backlit by a string of patio lights hanging over the balcony of our industrial loft. It feels like a prison sometimes but I definitely miss this place when we’re gone.
The feed cuts back to the tennis match: it’s a quarterfinal of the Acapulco 500 between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev, who both appear to be melting on the court, sweating running off their faces, necks, arms, legs. The women in the stands above the players are waving themselves with yellow fans. The temperature on the courtside digital display reads 27C and one of the announcers insists that it’s just 77% humidity today in Acapulco. “Much cooler,” he insists.
“Medvedev always looks like he just woke up,” Steve says.
But my mind is already elsewhere. A few weeks ago, I texted a friend Casey (a pseudonym) to ask for help. I am trying to find the name of a guy who ran over me with a pick-up truck in 2001 and I have reached a series of obstacles that I don’t know how to overcome.
As a documentary filmmaker, I research people and historical events for a living but I’ve never had to search for someone who I know nothing about, not even a name. All my usual tricks—social media trawling, 411.com, Newspapers.com, deep online searches—are not going to work.
Twenty years have passed since the accident and I’m having trouble tracking down the people who were involved in this mess. Still, Casey—who is a legal expert and doesn’t want their real name used here—shared some ideas with me via Apple Messenger:
Ok what about your suit with ICBC?
Do you have those docs?
I remember my old lawyer trying to give them to me
But I was so upset I told him no
I never want to see these again
I was 20 and not thinking ahead
Yes I see
I think the court case was in May or June
Right before my mother died
I mean you need some info to request records
I have an FOI request in with the RCMP but it will take 60+ days
And I wrote my lawyer
Law offices don’t need to keep records for 20 years
I think it it’s 7 or 10
So they may not have it
Could also call ICBC?
Ask for claim history
Ok THAT is a good idea
Like even a report of the incident or something
More info on court docs
Thanks for the advice ❤️
There’s gotta be something
Casey is right. There’s got to be something, but it all starts with a name. I’ve reached out to my lawyer about his case files, but have not heard back. I am certain that I have emails from this lawyer in an old Hotmail account of mine, but after spending six weeks talking to various departments at Microsoft to reinstate the email account, I’ve hit a major dead end. The process is now automated and despite having old passwords, emails, and all my account information, the algorithm says no.
Nadal has won the first set against Medvedev. As Nadal hurries off-court to change into dry gear, the camera zooms in on his pink microfibre shirt, which is suctioned against his back like a vacuum-sealed bag. The feed cuts to commercial and three ads play in quick succession: a Crown Royal whiskey spot, a McDonald’s fried-chicken sandwich, and an online poker app.
“I think I want to write the RCMP constable who was the responding officer to my accident,” I tell Steve. “I found him on LinkedIn.”
“Do you think he’ll remember you?”
I shrug and answer, “It’s possible.”
Steve isn’t buying it. “Statistically think about how many people have got run over by trucks in 20 years,” he says. “Or shot. Or killed.”
“Okay, okay, I get your point. But what if he does remember me?”
Steve nods and thinks to himself, then asks, “Have you thought about what this is going to be like for the guy who hit you? Imagine something really bad that happened in your life 20 years ago that you’ve completely forgotten about and suddenly someone calls you out of nowhere to talk about it? How would you feel if you were that person?”
“That’s something I’m going to have to think about.”
Now it’s my turn to be silent. Small pockets of the crowd in the upper stands of the tennis stadium are raising their bodies and arms in tandem, trying to start The Wave. In the courtside seats, women and men are standing and dancing in the isles, taking selfies with their phones and hamming for the courtside cameras that are currently exclusively focused on the fans. Suddenly, The Wave consumes the whole stadium and the announcer on the TV says, “They’re doing the Mexican Wave. Just like the French Wave at the French Open.”
“Is The Wave country-specific?” Steve asks. “I’ve never heard that before.”
I pry myself loose from the couch and gather the dinner plates and bowls, balancing them all together so they rattle with every footstep I take towards the kitchen. Steve is right and my mind is racing. I’ve been asking the right questions but why am I asking them in the first place? And what am I going to do if I don’t like the answers I find?
Thanks for reading this week’s story. It’s coming late but just in time for your Monday breakfast :)
I’m curious: how would you feel if you were the person on the other side of my investigation? What would you think about what I’m doing here on Substack? And would you want me to contact you after 20 years?
Until a future a Sunday.
Thanks for reading Ghost From The Past! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.