Annette was the most perfect person I had ever met.
She was a student, but she was also a ballerina. By conventional definitions, she was not the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, but when she smiled, it felt like the world smiled with her. When she danced, it felt like time slowed down and the world revolved around her as her arms and legs seemed to trace lines on an invisible canvas that stretched all around her. When she looked at me with her crystal-blue eyes, it was like nothing else in the world mattered and that all she saw was me.
We met in the university library. It was after hours, and I was alone in the lowest level of the stacks. Well, “met” may be too strong of a word. She came from behind the historical fiction section, smiled her dazzling smile, and asked me if she could borrow a highlighter. I forgot that she had it until I got home, but she must have quietly snuck it back into my backpack as I was bent over my reading with my headphones on, because I found it after I got home and unpacked.
At first, I thought nothing of this encounter. A few weeks later, I was just about to leave the gym when I caught a flicker of movement from the almost completely dark dance studio. I peered into the room, straining my eyes against the dim lighting. After watching for just a few seconds, I was captivated. Hooked. Enraptured by her.
I bumped into her at that same spot the next day. She looked like she was about to head in to dance. I nervously struck up a conversation with her, and I shyly told her that I had seen her dancing yesterday and that I thought that she looked beautiful. She smiled and told me I was nice. We chatted a bit more, and eventually, I mustered up enough courage to ask her out on a date. To my surprise, she said yes!
The first date went well, and before I knew it, we had been dating for a few weeks. She didn’t seem to have any friends of her own; she seemed content to spend time with just me and never asked to meet my family or hang out with my friends, and, at first, I never thought to ask her to.
She stood me up a few times, but we began running into each other unexpectedly and more regularly, so I never really stayed mad. We would often just go for walks along the river, out to cafes, or stayed in. Since our meetings were always so spontaneous, I never had anything elaborate planned. Wherever we went, people stared at us – how could they not? Annette was beautiful, elegant, and radiant, and I was awkward, embarrassed, and a little proud that people couldn’t help but look at my companion.
Like all relationships, the honeymoon period eventually ended and we began fighting. I wanted her to meet my friends and family, and I wanted to meet hers, but she seemed resolutely firm in her belief that the time was not right for that to happen yet. The closest we came to her meeting one of my friends was when we were at a cafe. She had excused herself to the bathroom, and one of my friends came over to say hi for a while. He noticed her sandwich sitting there uneaten, and I enthusiastically told him about Annette. He sat for about fifteen minutes, but eventually, he needed to run out for a meeting and so, he left. I was about to ask someone at the cafe to check in on Annette, but she eventually came back, saying that she did not feel too well. I didn’t press the issue since, as usual, we were getting stares.
My friends began to wonder who this girl was that I was hiding from them. Some of them began to ask me if she really existed – some of them in jest, some of them in seriousness. I told them that when the time was right, they would meet her.
Still, this wasn’t the only thing we argued about. I was still entranced by her dancing, and I would sometimes still stop by the gym to watch her dance without telling her. I believed that she was good enough to dance professionally, so I eventually scheduled a meeting with one of my friends, Liz, who was a patron at the city’s ballet without telling Annette. The next time I was with Annette, I texted Liz and asked her if she could come meet us at the beach near her workplace. Liz agreed and came down.
As soon as we met up with Liz, I realized that this was a mistake. As soon as Annette saw Liz, she began shouting at me. She knew who Liz was, and she yelled about how I was trying to force her to do things she didn’t want to, and how she still didn’t feel ready to meet my friends. I began to shout back, and we began arguing on the street. People began to stare, and Liz, who looked shocked and a little confused, took several steps backward, not knowing what to do in the face of such animosity.
After a few minutes, Annette began to run towards the edge of the nearby bridge. She said that she was sick of people telling her what to do with her life, and that she thought that I was different. That she thought that because I loved her and that she loved me, that I would be able to understand. She was sick of all of it and just wanted it to end. And then, completely unexpectedly, she jumped.
I screamed as I watched her jump from the edge of that bridge. I tried to run towards her, but it was all in vain. I could no longer feel my feet and everything began to look hazy before it all went completely black.
When I woke up, I found myself staring at an unfamiliar linoleum ceiling. I had lines and tubes running out of me and I had a terrible headache. My mother was there, sitting by my bed with Liz, who had called the ambulance. They both looked like they had been crying and like they had not slept in days. A doctor stood on my other side and asked me if I knew my name. Do I know what year it is? Do I know where I am?
My voice still did not work very well, but when I finished answering his questions and did his tests, I asked where Annette was. I asked if anyone found her body. I asked if she was, by some chance, still alive.
The doctor, my mother, and Liz looked at each other. Together, they told me that it had been almost two weeks since that happened. I had had a grand mal seizure. Apparently, I had been asking these same questions about Annette whenever I was conscious in these past days. The rest of the time, I was seizing. The reason I did not remember any of this was because of a rare condition called transient epileptic amnesia. My seizures had gotten to the point where I would not have been able to function normally, even with anti-convulsants. They had to remove a part of my brain, and that was why my head hurt.
I told them I did not care about those details. I just wanted to know what had happened to Annette. I will never forget the next sentence that came from the doctor’s mouth.
After that, he said a great deal of other medical terms and attempted to explain how it had progressed and why I had suddenly got worse, and why it was necessary for me to have had a temporal lobectomy, but I was no longer listening. I just sat, hearing but not listening, in utter disbelief.
People had stared not because of Annette, but because I had been talking to myself. Liz didn’t know what to do when we began “fighting”, because it just seemed like I was yelling at a ghost.
Annette was the most perfect person I had ever met.
Annette jumped off a bridge. Annette is gone.
Annette never existed.
Photo from On3dPrinting