Annabelle had been walking down the crowded New York street half-listening to her coworker’s office chatter when she suddenly snapped awake with the longing and knowledge that she was missing something that, now that she’d noticed it’s being gone, was something she would have to make herself adjust for a very long time to not having.
The realization was enough to make her stand in her tracks, and she felt that every person who jostled her as he or she passed was nailing in the fact that she was suddenly terribly aware that she was incomplete.
What was it?
It had been just a flash of silver that started like a beam of light at the tip of her periphery and worked its way into her consciousness; too late, it clicked that this thing was the thing she never knew she needed, and the flash and the person carrying it were gone and down the busy street.
She felt her body pitch forward. Her coworker looked uncomfortable at Annabelle’s sudden display and seemed not entirely certain that reaching out to catch her falling acquaintance was a better idea than stepping out of the way and ensuring that she was not taken under with Annabelle’s fall.
Her coworker, Holly, was a decent enough girl; Annabelle had faith that she would make the best choice as the situation called. She understood that nobody wanted to be trapped under a fallen coworker on a crowded and dirty New York street, but she also did not want to be the person who suddenly and without warning fell flat on her face onto the crowded but dirty New York street because nobody cared to stop it.
She pictured herself, sprawled, facedown in the dirt and urine-stained sidewalk, with people stepping over her, stepping on her, stepping around her. Some would look down in disgust, some would shake their heads. A few wouldn’t even notice.
She laughed, threw her hands out to catch her balance, and slowly sank down.
“I am so alone,” she said out loud to no one and everyone on that crowded New York street.
Holly looked shifted on her feet, eyeing her coworker. But she remained a reasonable distance away.
Annabelle fretted as she got ready for work the next morning, but it wasn’t about any of the right things that a young and social woman should be fretting about. By now, Annabelle figured that everyone in the office had come to their own conjectures about her “episode” from the previous day–Holly had reassured Annabelle that she would keep that moment between them as they walked back to the office, but when Annabelle walked into the breakroom an hour later she’d encountered a wall of silence that could only mean that the two people who were in there, Holly and Jake Something (from Accounts Payable), were talking about her.
Still shocked with the knowledge that she was woefully incomplete and terribly alone, Annabelle had filed it away in the back of her mind as an incident to get worked up over once she returned home, had a glass of wine and called her best friend Nahla.
But Annabelle hadn’t called her best friend Nahla when she got home that evening, and she hadn’t enjoyed a glass of wine as per her normal routine. Instead, she’d sank into her couch, popped the cork off a bottle of Shiraz, and drank it straight from the bottle while listening to the peculiar silence of her solitude.
“I am so alone,” she’d said once.
Then she burst into the free-flowing tears that a glass too many of alcohol, combined with a soul-shifting life realization could induce.
Surprisingly, she’d woken on time the next morning curled on her couch, cradling the empty bottle of Shiraz.
Her head ached. She recalled from a college fitness class that her aching head was the product of alcohol-induced dehydration.
She stood to get some water, then she sank back down.
“I am so alone,” she said out loud to no one, or maybe to herself.
Her mind tried to fight this onslaught of loneliness with anger by reminding her of Holly’s betrayal. For a second, Annabelle straightened, preparing to get up and feel the surge of energy that anger produces.
But nothing came.
And then just as suddenly she saw the silvery flash on the crowded New York street and without even realizing what it was that she was lamenting she was crying all over again because without that thing, nothing in her life could ever be quite as it was.
You’re being too dramatic about this, Annabelle’s left brain told her right brain. Of course things will be the same. You’ve gone this far without it, and you were happy then weren’t you? Weren’t you just walking with Holly from Starbucks, talking about your date with Chad and your weekend plans?
Annabelle listened to her left brain and thought she made a good point, and so she tucked her sorrow neatly into a box in the corner of her heart and got herself up to pull on some work clothes and give Holly the cold shoulder for the entire day to show that she didn’t care for Holly’s brand of keeping secrets.
And yet, as Annabelle applied what was possibly the most disinteresting coat of mascara in the history of makeup, she realized that she really didn’t care about Holly’s brand of keeping secrets; that she really didn’t care about going on any more dates with Chad; that she would just as soon lie in bed as go on and get the workday done with (she couldn’t even care enough to face her workday with her normal mix of dread and anticipation).
The only thing she cared about was what that flash of silver was, and why it made her so acutely aware of something she’d never known she needed.
Annabelle had studied Literature as an undergraduate, and so she knew there were a few universal themes that any symbol worth its salt would represent, and so she sifted through those mentally. The most obvious of course was love, and probably the most pertinent to a young single woman smack dab in the middle of a career she’d given up many chances at love to create.
But she was generally happy with that decision and with where it had led her life, and if she were a little worried that she would end up a little The Devil Wears Prada she drew immense comfort in the fact that she would be wearing Prada, a brand that lasted much longer than many of the so-called loves she saw her friends constantly falling in and out of.
The next one she thought of was religion, and she gave that thought pause because it was true that she didn’t make it to church more than once a month and sometimes wondered while she was there whether she wouldn’t be happier or more content in a synagogue or mosque, or possibly on the streets of LA whirling her way into mysticism.
But she satisfied herself that she was no more or less lost in that regard than any other person trying to make tangible sense of a belief in the intangible in a world that was screaming at her that if you can’t see it than it doesn’t exist.
Maybe the flash of silver was her own innocence lost. That was another popular literary theme. Maybe somehow she’d crucified her own childhood to become the person she was today, and that flash of silver spoke to the part of her that wasn’t gilded and tarnished.
Annabelle shook her head–she was profoundly confused and crushingly sad as she moved about the airy, sun-lit apartment performing her morning tasks by rote with her mind a thousand miles away at least.
She found that she was aching.
Sitting in her cubical at the corner of her company’s office space later that morning, Annabelle found that she was literally aching in that space where she’d neatly sealed the longing induced by the silver flash. It was a curious feeling. She imagined tiny box inside her chest, resting in the soft folds of tissue surrounding her heart and lungs. She pictured it lodged neatly between two of her ribs, swathed and guarded and safe.
She pictured it brimming with blood, and she wondered if her tiny box of pain had cut something inside her because how else could she be physically aching?
Annabelle wanted to laugh but she figured she should probably keep the unprovoked laughing spells to a minimum, especially after the incident yesterday with Holly, who’d managed to avoid catching her eye for the entire morning.
Though the only thing she could feel was longing for whatever it was the silver flash represented, Annabelle was thankful that she still had the presence of mind to understand that it would be easier to figure out what she didn’t have if she held onto the things she did–things like her job and apartment and high credit rating, for example, though her debt-to-income ratio was really preventing her from having the stellar credit rating the world would judge her life’s value by.
She shook her head to rid it of the bland yet ironically humorous thought.
“I am so alone,” she said out loud to no one, or maybe to everyone in her office.
Behind her cubical wall, Holly raised an eyebrow.
Annabelle’s melancholy was starting to creep her out.