Nick takes his “first real deep breath of the day” as he enters The Bar. There is only one patron sitting there, and Go is behind the bar washing glasses. Nick is relieved at the sight of his twin sister, with whom he feels a “dash of twin telepathy”—she is the only person he feels he can truly be himself with, though he admits he doesn’t always tell her everything.
Here, Flynn establishes the incongruousness of Nick feeling dread and nausea when he looks at his wife, but relief and safety when he looks at his twin sister.
Go pours Nick a beer and remarks that he looks “twitchy.” Though it’s barely noon, Go is already drinking too, and Nick notices that her eyes appear droopy. Go, Nick reflects, has had a tough decade—she was a successful investment banker in New York before she lost her job in the 2008 recession, and she didn’t even call to tell Nick she’d left the city until she was already back in Missouri. The Bar has given Go something to do with her life, and she and Nick never talk about their old careers in New York—ever.
Go, too, is clearly living a strained existence in Carthage, trying to ignore her own past in order to make her present easier—she and Nick are the same in this regard. Go and Nick are both trying to ignore the unhappy narratives of their own lives.
Nick tells Go it’s his anniversary with Amy, and Go asks if he’s going to be subjected to another one of Amy’s “treasure hunt[s.]” Each year, Amy leaves Nick a series of elaborate, rhyming, singsong clues to lead him on a scavenger hunt around the city—but Nick always disappoints Amy by failing to solve her mysteries, which are often based on past conversations and milestones in their relationship. Nick also manages to mess up the themed gifts they get one another for their anniversaries: paper, cotton, and now wood. When Nick expresses frustration with having failed to find a “romantic” present for wood, Go makes a lewd joke and suggests that Nick, after sex, slap Amy with his “wood.” Go and Nick often make “raunchy” jokes with one another, and as a result, have endured “twincest” taunts all their lives.
In these early chapters, Gillian Flynn is laying the groundwork for a mystery that revolves around Amy’s disappearance and Nick’s possible guilt. She establishes as many oddities as she can in order to cast doubt on the truth of the situation and keep her audience in suspense. By pointing out Nick’s frustration with the once-cherished traditions he and Amy share, as well as his odd, seemingly suggestive relationship with Go, she tweaks the narrative against Nick in small ways—mirroring the actions of her secret villain, Amy. On another note, in discussing the “wood” theme for their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick references a longstanding tradition of getting one’s spouse a gift that goes along with whatever theme corresponds with the number of years the couple has been married. In cleaving to this tradition, Nick and Amy perform the part of a respectable, conventional married couple.
Go, who “used to being the alpha girl” in Nick’s life, never took to Amy. The two women rarely spend any time together in spite of having known one another for years, and Nick has long been frustrated with the sniping, passive-aggressive way both Go and Amy talk about one another when alone with him.
Flynn tosses in the fact that Go and Amy never quite took a liking to one another—an example, perhaps, of both women’s internalized misogyny, and yet another oddity that will cast a shadow of doubt over the truth about Amy’s disappearance.
The phone rings at The Bar. Go answers it and then passes it to Nick—it is one of his neighbors, who tells Nick that his cat has gotten out. Nick thanks his neighbor for the tip and heads for home. Fifteen minutes later, Nick arrives home to find his street feeling “disturbingly quiet.” Their neighborhood is relatively empty, full of empty foreclosed houses which are often occupied by drifters and homeless people.
The landscape of the Great Recession is alive even in Carthage—Flynn uses the economic downturn, swift and unforetold, as an allegory for the sudden collapse of Nick and Amy’s happiness.
Nick finds the door wide open and becomes nervous. He goes inside and calls for Amy, but she doesn’t answer. The living room has been wrecked—the coffee table is shattered, an ottoman is overturned, and in the middle of the mess there is a pair of “good sharp scissors.” Nick, genuinely scared, runs through the house and out into the yard shouting for Amy, but it is no use—she is “gone.”
At the end of this pivotal chapter, Flynn chooses to have Nick use the word “gone,” which gestures to the novel’s title. There is a sense of finality to the word, suggesting that perhaps Nick knows something the reader doesn’t.