When Andrea Went Missing
I arrived back at campus in the fall of 1993 for my sophomore year at Bryant College. I would be living in a suite with my friends, who I met while living in dorm 14 freshman year. We moved into a suite in dorm 5. Bryant was a business school, so they numbered the dorms instead of naming them. It kind of has a Hunger Games sort of feel. I was a tribute from dorm 14, then a tribute from dorm 5. The suites fit 6, but there were only 5 of us. Kelly and Andrea were in the room on the left, Donna and Brenda were in the one in the middle and I was in the one on the right knowing that the housing department could place someone in there at random. I was the most outgoing one in the group, so I took the risk. I learned that Valerie would be my roommate at the end of freshman year. She was in my Math for Business class so I met her then.
It was the first week back, and I was so excited to be living with my friends and to see my boyfriend again every day. We started falling into the swing of going to class, I was on the radio station—Marketing Director at the station—and then I planned to play field hockey in the fall and I ran track in the spring. We went to dinner at the dining hall as a pack. We knew each other’s routines. Brenda didn’t go out much, she had a boyfriend and spent all her spare time on the phone with him. Dylan, my boyfriend, was a senior and in a fraternity and I hung out at his townhouse—where all the seniors lived.
Friday afternoon Andrea didn’t come back from class. “Hey, you seen Andrea?” we’d ask each other, and we’d each shrug. Dinner time approached. We all went together. Still no Andrea. This was 1993. There was no cell phone. There was no text to ask if she’s OK. We heard nothing. We went to dinner without her after we’d waited. Night fell. No Andrea. She wasn’t in any clubs. And it’s not like there would be a study group on a Friday night.
At around 8 or 9 at night we called campus police and reported her missing. They told us that she’d probably just gone off to do something. She didn’t have a car. She’d have to be on campus. We went to places where we thought she’d be hanging out and she didn’t turn up. We waited. We told campus police her schedule and how it was odd that she didn’t come back to have dinner with us. We gave them all we could think of, and she just didn’t turn up.
We stayed up late, pacing our living room and racking our brains as to where she could be. Did she mention something to anyone? No. The answer was always no.
In the morning the campus police called me. At some point we had called her parents. Her parents were divorced, so we called her mom and stepdad. She was living with them at the time, though she didn’t like her step dad. Her mom yelled at whoever called her, saying it was typical of Andrea. No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t typical of her at all. We knew her. When campus police called me on Saturday morning they said they’d been searching the woods around campus. They asked me whether she had funky underwear. I looked in her drawer, “No, hers looks pretty normal.” Whomever those funky undies belonged to went home commando that night.
We were stressed. We tried to go about our routine into Saturday, but it was weird. Andrea was out there somewhere and we didn’t know where. Because I was the one who called campus police I stayed by my phone all day. It was plugged into a wall. It’s not like I could go anywhere. What if they called and they found her?
Saturday night I was at a party at Dylan’s townhouse. Well, kind of. I needed to get out of the house, and I was hanging around on the front stoop when Brenda came running up to me. Like I said, Brenda didn’t go out much. She was pretty devoted to being in our suite for when her boyfriend called.
“They found her, come on!” she grabbed my arm and tugged me through the crowd.
“Where was she?”
“They didn’t say. She showed up at the police department and now she’s at the hospital.”
“The hospital? Why?” my mind raced.
When we got there she was under several blankets and shivering. Did she spend the night outside in the woods? Dazed she walked from the woods into the Smithfield Police Department, just a few miles from campus. We went and picked her up. She was dirty, scratched up on her hands and ankles. They admitted her to the hospital and treated her for dehydration
I asked her where she was. Exhausted she said “I don’t know.”
“Were you hurt?”
“I don’t think so, just these scratches.”
“What’s the last thing you remember?” I asked her.
“Leaving the Bursar’s office, and then the police department.”
She left the Bursar’s office on Friday afternoon. She didn’t turn up until late Saturday evening. Where the hell did she go?
She got released and we took her back to campus. “They’re kicking me out, I have to go home,” she said.
“What? Why?” we all asked. She didn’t really answer.
“Want us to call your mom?” I think it was Kelly who asked.
“No. I will.” Judging by her side of the call she didn’t get much of a word in.
“Can you drive me home?” she asked me. She sat in front, Dylan and Kelly in the back, and in the middle of the night we drove her home to New Hampshire. We didn’t talk much, she just shivered in her seat. Once we got off the highway she pointed out the way to her mother’s house. I wanted to ask her what the hell happened over the last 24 or so hours. We were worried, and she sat in silence.
We pulled into the driveway, and she got out of the highway, slumped in the headlights. Her mother opened the door and stood under the porch light with her arms crossed. I knew it would be a long night for her. And that was the last time I ever saw Andrea.
I backed the car out of the driveway, “So, um, what the hell was that all about?” I asked.
“I think she had a nervous breakdown,” Kelly replied. “I don’t know if you noticed this or not, but she didn’t have any text books.”
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
Over the next week we had pieced it together. Andrea was at the Bursar’s office because there was something wrong with her student loan. We suspected that with her parents’ divorce some paperwork had gotten missed or messed up and she came back to campus hoping to figure it out when she got there. She left the suite and “went to class” despite the fact that she wasn’t enrolled. She hung around while we were all studying before and after dinner. At the time it didn’t seem strange, but reflecting on it as we drove back to Rhode Island in the wee hours of the morning the situation was very odd. I think she was hoping that she could quietly get on track without any of us noticing that she wasn’t enrolled and in school with us. And that’s probably what that meeting at the Bursar was about, they probably told her that she needed to vacate her room in the suite. I never did learn where she went after she left the Bursar office. And that bothered me. I had this image of her just leaving the office, walking on the campus road to the edge of the woods and just walking into them without breaking her stride. Did she sit down at the base of a tree and doze off? Did she just keep walking until she tired herself out and laid down on a bed of moss to sleep? Wasn’t it cold overnight?
At some point her mom and stepdad came to campus to retrieve her stuff from her room. We had this shelf in the living room that was loose. She had noticed it on the day we moved in, she nudged the shelf and the bracket that held it to the wall had come free and the shelf fell down. As a result, we didn’t put anything on that shelf.
When her stepfather leaned against that shelf, it catapulted itself and lightly smacked him on the side of the head before it fell to the floor. The five of us exchanged looks and tried not to laugh. It was Andrea in that shelf smacking her stepfather on the head.
Andrea and I exchanged a few letters here and there. We never talked about her mysterious trek from the Bursar’s office to the police station. The last time I spoke to her was in 1997. She’d just had a baby and she was getting ready to go to a job interview for an accounting position. The baby was a boy, I don’t know whether she even got the job. And I’ll never know where she went that day.
added on 05.01.19