Out of sight
// Sarah Vitet

It’s been three months since Brian Mbaruk was last seen on a bus going to Grouse Mountain on his way to go hiking, and nobody has heard from him since. His mother, Mary Jane Mbaruk, was recently interviewed in an article for the Vancouver Sun, and her pain was striking: “There’s a uniqueness to this kind of grief,” she was quoted as saying. “Only those of us who have been through this can understand how it feels.”

I went to school with Brian for 13 years. We went through the French Immersion program together, from Kindergarten all the way to grade 12. Even though our class was small, we weren’t close friends. I was a girl and he was a boy; the distance between us was established early, and we always managed to be in slightly different friend groups. Because of this, I have hesitated for three months before writing my editorial about his disappearance.

Even though we weren’t friends outside of school, I still have lots of memories of Brian. In grade six, on the last day of school, we stuck as many pencil crayons as we could into his hair while listening to Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” on repeat. The next year, our 12-person class went on a trip to Quebec, and when we were all in a room together I remember Brian taking off one of his socks and holding it in front of a fan, blasting us all with foot smell as a prank. In grade 11, we went to France on an exchange, and the following summer, we made movies in a film program together.

I remember him having a clever, persistent sense of humour, and he once auditioned for the elementary school talent show by chugging a whole bottle of Pepto-Bismol (refilled with strawberry milk). Brian was a presence during my entire public school education, and I liked him, but he didn’t cross my mind very often, particularly after we graduated.

When he went missing in November I shared the VPD alert on Facebook, like many other people from my high school. I was concerned, but hopeful that he would find his way home. When an update alert went around again, I began to actually get scared. Brian started popping into my thoughts; the idea of him; the fact that I wish I’d gotten to know him as an adult. I also felt irritated with myself for using his disappearance as an excuse to think about him, selfish, even. Do I even have a right to feel scared? He’s not my son, not even my friend anymore. His disappearance didn’t change my life at all, but I still feel affected.

There are five unsolved missing persons cases that the Vancouver Police Department are appealing the public for information regarding, including Brian’s. The other four are all men under the age of 30, but there are no current links between the files, nor do any of the cases indicate that foul play was involved in their disappearances. Now that I recognize one of their faces, though, the severity has never felt more real.

If Brian ever reads this, I’m already embarrassed by the sentimentality, but I still feel like it’s important. I really can’t imagine how Mary Jane Mbaruk feels, and I am so, so sorry that this has happened to their family. Years of school together has connected me to Brian in a way I’d never realized.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Brian Mbaruk, please contact the Vancouver Police Missing Person’s Unit at 604-717-2530, or your local police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

//Sarah Vitet, editor-in-chief

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