This is not a love story. It's more like a mystery story meets a ghost story meets a love story. You dig?
I run faster, even though the stitch in my side is now a throbbing mass of pain, even though there is now the taste of blood in my mouth, the metal tang of it heavy on my tongue. I fall twice, tearing my jeans open at the knees and skinning them, but I don’t stop. My legs are propelled forward by something stronger than urgency, harder than fear.
What if it isn’t her? What if I'm just chasing a stranger? Or worse – an illusion? Have I finally cracked? I’ve been mourning her for almost a year. Surely, that is enough time to come to terms with her loss. I should be better by now, fully functional and all that. I know this. Or at least, the rational side of me does. But I haven’t been able to sleep a full night in months and my stomach still turns at the thought of food. Even though I force myself to eat at least one full meal a day, I’ve dropped a few pant sizes. My sister Angie has been threatening to force-feed me, which is something she normally threatens to do, us being Italian and all that, but there is an undertone of menace to her threats now.
“You can’t keep doing this to yourself, Jack. It’s not your fault she died.”
“Who says she’s dead? The authorities still list her as missing. And I’m not doing anything to myself.”
“Have you seen yourself in a mirror lately, hon? You’re practically a skeleton. You’ve got to take care of yourself.”
“I’m fine. You and Mom need to get off my case already. I’m fine.”
“I think Mom’s right. Maybe you should see a shrink.”
That conversation took place about a month ago, and it was the last time we’d spoken. I’d stormed out of her house, slamming the door so hard the windows shook. Her pleading voice cut short. I won’t pretend I don’t miss my sister, but I will be honest and admit I miss her more. Her absence feels like a vital part of me has been amputated, leaving a gaping hole in its place. Nothing can fill it – not food, not another girl (though my friends have tried to convince me this is the antidote I need), nothing.
Speaking of nothing, my wild goose chase hasn’t gotten me anywhere. I’ve been chasing her phantom for countless blocks now, all for nothing. I come to a stop at a corner, forced to a standstill by the oncoming traffic. And that is when I see her again. She's standing on the opposite corner, facing the horizon. The setting sun making her golden hair catch fire. There is a look on her face I couldn’t read. Is it sadness or peace? I can’t tell. I can’t breathe. I just stare at her, drinking her in like a drowning man, feeling her presence fill my lungs, my heart.
Then she turns towards me suddenly and smiles her special smile, the smile she reserves especially for me, the one that makes her eyes crinkle at the corners and a dimple appear in her chin. She looks exactly the same. Exactly. Her green eyes sparkling at me. Her lips curving in a mischievous grin. Her name bubbles up to my lips, and I feel myself step off the curb, preparing to run toward her. But then the light changes and the cars spring forward, angry honks startling me back onto the curb. The traffic blocks the opposite corner, and I try in vain to peer over it, to catch her eyes again.
When the light changes back, she's gone.