A short story inspired by a conversation I had yesterday.
It was as though someone had shattered a ceramic plate over his head. In that moment, he knew something special was happening? How had he not seen her before?
She was unusual. Taller than most girls he had ever met, just a shade shorter than he was. She was dressed immaculately, as though she were about to head off to Vanity Fair‘s Oscar after-party. Her clothes had clearly been tailor-made, fitting her to a tee. She wore a ruffled white shirt, a smart blue blazer with matching pants. Her black dress shoes were simple yet elegant. She wore her sleek, black hair long, the hair spilling a little past her shoulders. When she turned to his direction, he noticed her dark-brown, almost black eyes, which sparkled with some kind of emotion. He didn’t know what it was.
He didn’t want to stare in her direction too long, and he quickly pretended to be interested in the history books in front of him. He was surprised when he looked up and saw that she had walked right beside him.
He didn’t know what to say, he was speechless for the first time in his life. She filled in the silence.
“Have we met before?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” he said, struggling to form the syllables. His throat felt like it had seized up, and forcing each word felt like torture.
“Hmm,” she said, frowning. Had they met before? He felt like he would have remembered seeing someone like her. That moment of impact had been unlike anything he had ever felt before. “What’s that book you’ve got there?”
He had forgotten. He looked at the book he had in his hand. Still unable to speak, he showed her the cover.
“Oh, To Kill A Mockingbird. A classic!” she seemed to like his book choice. “I’m picking up Brave New World, I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet.” He nodded.
“I don’t mean to be forward or anything, but would you like to grab a coffee with me?” she asked after more silence.
“I’d love to,” he finally said. They paid for their books separately, and then they headed off to the nearby coffee shop. They turned out to both have an affinity for dark coffee. They sat down at a chic wooden table.
The “moment of impact” over, he finally found himself opening up. They talked a little bit about their lives. She had just finished law school and was on track to becoming an associate at a downtown law firm. At first she went into law because her parents wanted their daughter to be a high achiever, but she eventually grew to love the way of the law and the ways around it.
He, on the other hand, didn’t feel as accomplished. He had been working in the marketing division of a soft drink company. One of his commercial ideas actually made it to air, though it didn’t have a very long run. He was alright with his position, though.
They talked for over two hours, now almost breathlessly filling in the gaps as though silence was poison. They finally reached an agreeable silence. They got up, she gave him her number and her his, and she kissed him on the cheek. “We’ll see each other soon,” she said.
As she walked out the door, he finally registered what he just happened. He had never felt this charming in his life.
He stood in front of the table for a minute or two in quiet contemplation until another customer politely asked him if the table was free. He nodded, apologized and then left the shop with a spring in his step.
When he got back to his place, he immediately bragged to his roommates about his stroke of what he considered very, very good fortune. His roommates didn’t believe him for one second. He had been unlucky in love for so many years they had collectively lost track of the last time he had a girlfriend. He protested, but he felt like the boy who cried wolf.
He knew he had met her. He hadn’t hallucinated her presence, and he remembered her paying for something at the bookstore. The cashier hadn’t been talking to empty air. Of course, he could have hallucinated the whole episode. It was a possibility.
To allay his fears that he had dreamed it, though, he decided to see if he could find a trace of her online. She had an unusual name, so it might not be too difficult to find her. He started with a few Google searches and found nothing. He figured it was quite possible to go through law school without making headlines.
Next he tried Facebook. He typed her name into the bar, and one person with the name came up, except it wasn’t her and was actually someone from Malaysia. Now he was getting paranoid. What was going on?
He glanced at his phone. He had taken her number. He decided to give her a call. After three rings, he thought she wouldn’t pick up, but she did. There she was.
“Hey, it’s me,” he said.
“Oh, hi! I’m go glad you called,” she said. “Why don’t you come over to my place tomorrow night? I’m a good cook.”
“That sounds great,” She gave him her address, and the next night he found himself walking over to her lush condo in the east end of the city. She answered the door basically as soon as he knocked. She led him inside and gave him a mini-tour of the place before bringing him over to the kitchen where dinner was cooking. She was making a pretty fancy-looking pasta dish that smelled heavenly.
He needed to prove to other people that this was happening. He mumbled something stupid and asked her to lean in for a photo. They snapped a shot together.
The night went fantastically. Her dish was indeed delicious. It incorporated oysters, which she explained was an aphrodisiac. He didn’t know if that was true; he didn’t think it was possible to feel any more passionately what he felt.
It wasn’t too long after dinner and drinks (he had brought a bottle of wine; together they downed the whole bottle) that things got intimate. Soon they were at each other’s clothes, and soon they were in bed and holding each other tightly, as though letting go would be the end of them.
Eventually, he had to get up and go to work, and she had a final round of interviews to attend at the law firm she was hoping to work at. Their night together had been one he would never forget.
When he got home, he triumphantly showed his roommates the picture of her that he had taken. They all saw it and were surprised that he was telling the truth. “She’s something alright,” one of his roommates said after they all picked up their jaws from the floor.
The next day he got sick. The fever seemed to come out of nowhere, and it was nasty. For a week he was bed-ridden. given to episodes of sweating and high temperatures. He always had a roommate staying by his side, helping him out in shifts. During that week, he asked them to let him know if anyone called or texted. A few people did, but not the woman he was hoping to hear from again.
After that crushingly frustrating week, he was feeling a lot better. At least he was feeling better physically. He was hurt that she hadn’t called. He finally decided to call her and see what was going on. He feared the worst.
“Finally!” she said when she picked up. “I’ve been calling you every day for the past week, but you never picked up.”
“Huh?” he was confused. “My roommates checked my phone every day and they never mentioned any calls. I was sick all week,”
“What?” now she was clearly confused. “That makes no sense. This makes no sense. But I believe you. Anyway, let’s meet up again. How about I come over to your place?”
“Sure,” he said. He secretly hoped at least one of his roommates would be around at first so he could with certainty prove that he was dating this woman.
When the night came, he waited on the couch expectantly. He was watching the news but not really absorbing any of it, his mind racing with excitement. She said she’d be there by quarter after six at the latest. He glanced at the clock. It was now 6:30. Then 7.
He decided it was about time to see what was going on. Maybe she’d been held up on a bus or something. He dialed her number.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she asked. Not even a greeting. “I was standing in front of a closed-down apartment in a sketchy part of town. I texted you three times and you didn’t respond. I eventually gave up and went home.”
“That doesn’t make sense.” It was his turn to use the phrase. “I know what my own address is, it’s not closed down. And I didn’t get any texts from you.”
“I don’t want to hear it,” she said, and hung up. He was stunned. This could not be happening. He was starting to wonder if his entire life was a nightmare. Suddenly an idea struck him. It was an inkling, but he had to corroborate it. He phoned one of his roommates.
“Hey, can you do me a favour? You’re in the east end right now, aren’t you?”
“Yes, that’s where I work,” his roommate said, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Can you tell me what you see at this address?” he gave his roommate the address where had spent the night a week-and-a-bit earlier.
“Why am I doing this again?” she asked.
“Because you can get a six-pack out of it?”
“Fine,” she said, sighing. Beer was a legal form of currency in his household. “I’ll tell you once I get off work.” She was set to finish her shift in about an hour, her shift being the late one.
An hour-and-a-half later his roommate called.
“The place is a butcher shop, kinda grimy-looking.”
“Oh…” he think he got it now. “One last thing, could you get a picture of it, with the address clearly visible? And then text it to me?”
“Sure, I may as well since I’m here.” His roommate hung up, and a minute later he got a text with the picture.
Then he forwarded the picture to his pissed-off, possibly ex-lover. He waited a few minutes before calling her.
“I don’t want to talk to you,” she said.
“Did you see the picture, though?”
She sighed. “Yes. Why should I give a fuck about this picture?”
“It’s your address.”
“No it isn’t. There’s an apartment there, I live in it, remember?”
“Well now we’re both claiming to live in apartments that don’t exist, aren’t we?”
There was a long pause on her end. “So what, you think we’re both lying to each other?”
“No, I don’t,” he said. “We’re just in different places.”
“Duh,” she said, “We live in different parts of the city.”
“No, I don’t mean something that simple. I mean we’re living in different universes.”
“You’re fucking insane,” she said.
“I can prove it,” he said. “Did you tell anyone about when we first met?”
She paused again. “A few of my best friends, why?”
“Did they believe that it happened?”
Another pause. “No.”
“Did you try and find me on the internet as proof that I existed?”
“And did you find any shred of me online?”
“And there we have it. I did the same for you and couldn’t find you at all.”
“So what do we do?”
“Isn’t obvious? I’m coming to see you. And I’m not leaving.”
And that night, one of the strangest disappearances the city had ever seen took place. His roommates returned home to find him gone without a trace. All of his belongings were gone as well. It was as though he had never lived there at all, except for a few bits of junk he had left behind.
His roommates called the police, and MISSING posters went up around the city. The marketing firm he worked hadn’t seen him, nor had his parents or anybody he knew. His disappearance made the news for a few days as people tried to figure out how the man could just vanish. The police, after a fruitless search, called off their resources after about a month. This was probably going to be a cold case, the police assumed.