Every year, hundreds of thousands of people disappear without trace. In police stations around the world there are lists of people who have been reported missing and who will never be found. The causes are very varied. Some are supposedly dead by suicide or murder, but their bodies have not been found. Others are victims of disappearance by force: kidnapping, political persecution, or retaliation.
But there is another variant, the “evaporated” people. People who one fine day, and in an absolutely unexpected way, choose to leave in the middle of the night, abandoning everything. They leave behind their families, their friends, their work, and they do so without a single farewell note. In recent years, new companies have flourished, dedicated to helping those who make the decision to evaporate and create a new existence. Previously, it was relatively easy to disappear from the world. Today, due to the invention of the internet, video surveillance and geolocation systems, achieving this is much more complicated. It is not easy to erase the tracks that even the most insignificant individual leaves in their wake. The lives of all of us are recorded forever, and disappearing from that relentless memory is practically impossible except for those with a great fortune, as in the case of Brad Pitt, who spent several million dollars to ensure that a series of inappropriate photographs of Angelina Jolie would be erased from the digital universe.
In other times there were guides who, in exchange for a good sum of money, transported people through concealed border crossings. Today, you can go to a company that organizes a “night move”, as it is called, a kind of programmed death and rebirth for those seeking a second chance. “Wednesday morning at five o’clock / As the day begins / Silently closing her bedroom door / Leaving the note that she hoped would say more…” Paul McCartney sang in the Sixties, when young people sneaked out of their parents’ home. They at least left a note, and as a rule they would come back soon when things got a little complicated.
Today, the “evaporated” leave no clue. To make sure that this is the case, they pledge a large amount of money, because circumventing surveillance and monitoring is almost impossible without the help of computer experts. Frank Ahearn was a private investigator who ended up being one of the world’s leading experts in the search for people, to the point that the main secret services requested his collaboration. When the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal came to light, the intern disappeared. The FBI mobilized all their resources to find her, but it was useless. Finally, they hired Frank, who found her in less than twenty-four hours. The interesting thing is that a few years later Ahearn decided to reverse the direction of his business and became the man who claims to be the only one in the world capable of making someone disappear forever, without any possibility of failure. The most complex thing is not to provide a new destination, but to remove existence from the world of the internet. As it is impossible to delete a name from there, since most of the pages are private property and cannot be accessed to modify their content, Ahearn has invented “virtual distraction”, which involves automatically creating thousands of places – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram accounts – which contain different information about the same person and hundreds of different photographs, in such a way that when someone searches for that individual on the web, they find an overwhelming amount of data that is very difficult to sort and filter.
His book How to Disappear has sold millions of copies. Apparently, just as there are millions of people who dream of being visible, others are capable of paying a fortune to disappear completely. Frank claims to be consistent with a fundamental ethical principle: he does not accept requests from people who have committed a crime. His clients are haunted by gambling debts, by the mafia, by drug dealers, by moneylenders, or they can also be romantics who leave their marriage to meet somewhere in the world with a secret love.
But there are others who do not belong to any of the cases mentioned. They are the desperate, those who are jaded with life or who dream of reincarnating in the ideal that has been hurting them forever.
I know of a boy who looked at the countryside landscape through the car window, imagining that between the mountains there would be a hidden passage through which he could slide and appear in another life.