Jane awoke one morning to find she could not see her fiancé, only the greasy shell of his clothes floating around where his body ought to be. She was absolutely certain that he had been there when they went to sleep the night before, curled up and grumbling about an argument they had been having. Only in the morning, she couldn’t remember what the argument was about. She was too stunned by his disappearance.
Her fiancé was named Greg, and they had been engaged for three years without getting married. There wasn’t even thought of a marriage anymore, much less talk of it. Jane remembered that she must have brought the wedding into conversation the night before. That was what had made him angry, what had made him reach for a beer and a bag of chips. He had sulked on the couch for hours, and Jane, exhausted from working all day, had ignored him. Now she couldn’t see him at all.
But as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes his absence became even stranger. His presence was still there. His growling snores emanated from the empty space. His white night-shirt and boxers hung suspended in the air around the shape of his body. She reached out tentatively and touched him. When her hands connected with the roughness of his skin, so solid and real, she screamed. Jane felt as though she was touching someone she had never touched before.
Her scream, brief though it was, seemed to disturb George. She could hear him grumble and yawn. At last, he mumbled sleepily, “what the hell are you screamin’ for?”
Jane breathed in sharply. It was too real to be a nightmare. She could feel his hot and thick breath on her face; she could even smell it. He was the same as he had always been, only under some strange and impossible magic she could no longer see him.
Finally Jane regained control over her language. With wide eyes and shaky hands she spoke. “Greg… I can’t see you.”
He groaned, and she felt the bed tremor as he fell back down onto his pillow. “Listen Jane, I don’t have time for your shit. I have a job interview today and I need to get my sleep.”
“No listen Greg. I’m serious. I can hear you and I can feel you, but I can’t see you. You’re… invisible.”
“For christsake we aren’t in a fuckin’ children’s story! Are you talking in your sleep or somthin’? Get a grip!”
But Jane could not get a grip, or maybe she would not. She had always been a sensible woman, never believing in ghost stories or even taking time for religion. No one would have thought Jane prone to fits of fancy; her mind was planted solidly into reality – perhaps too solidly for her own good. Another woman, a philosopher or a poet, might have accepted invisibility as another mystery brought about by the magic of the universe. Not Jane, however. Jane wanted to be a doctor, and with all the knowledge of her undergraduate premedical degree, she felt far too educated to fall victim to such foolishness as an invisible fiancé.
“I’m telling you the truth.” She said this with all the firmness of a judge announcing a death sentence. “I can see your clothes, and the dent of your body in the bed, but I can’t see you. You’ve disappeared. I don’t know how or why, but I know that you have. Go look in a mirror if you don’t believe me.”
Greg sighed a great, heaving sigh. Jane could hear his feet thud on the wooden floor, and she saw his floating clothes hover towards the mirror.
The mirror was perhaps the only piece of furniture in the room not cheep and boxed. It was a massive antique, fixed above a plastic armoire that Jane had bought at a yard sale. The mirror had belonged to Jane’s mom, and before that her grandmother, and before that her great-grandmother. For so many years it had hung proudly in the well-maintained homes of strong and professional women. It had seen three long and happy marriages, couples staring at their united reflections as children and grandchildren ran around them. When Jane had announced her engagement to Greg, her parents had given it to them as a gift. It hung heavy on the walls of Jane’s bedroom, intricately twisted metals inlaid with sparkling stones that seemed to flicker like candles. It was almost a shame to keep such a priceless piece of family history hidden away in a bedroom, bun Jane thought it would look out of place in her sparsely decorated foyer. Besides, it wasn’t as if her family ever came to visit anyway.
Greg looked begrudgingly into the mirror. It hung just a bit down from the bed, so that Jane could see the reflection from where she sat tensely in her white nightgown. As expected, there was nothing shining back in the glass except for the eerie floating shape of Greg’s sleepwear. Jane waited for a gasp, a scream, some recognition of shock and horror. And yet, all Greg said was, “Jesus Jane, what the hell? I look fine. Maybe a little sleepy, but not invisible. What the hell is wrong with you that you think it’s okay to wake me up from a perfectly good sleep and try to tell me that I’ve disappeared. I think you’ve been working too many hours or something, Christ.”
It was true that she had been working far too many hours, but that was nothing new and Jane didn’t see how that was a part of the problem in any way. She needed the hours. Collectively the couple had hundreds of thousands of dollars in college debt – a debt which they had agreed to tackle together as a married couple – and Jane was working two full-time jobs to try and pay it off. Not that they were jobs that required a degree anyway. In the mornings and afternoons she worked as a barista at the Starbucks a few blocks from their apartment. In the evenings she was a waitress at a very high-end restaurant, where she managed to pull hundreds of dollars in tips a night. It didn’t matter though; the money wasn’t enough to make a dent in their massive debts, and Greg couldn’t seem to maintain a job for longer than a month or so at a time. Because he was so often between jobs, money poured out considerably faster than it came in. At the end of each month there was nothing left to get Jane started on med school, and there was usually not even enough to pay the bills. To try and make up the difference Jane had taken more hours at work. She now arrived at Starbucks before the sun rose every morning, and returned home past midnight every night. The workload had been exhausting.
But Jane reminded herself that plenty of people had worked long, tiring hours. That didn’t mean her fiancé should disappear. It wasn’t scientifically possible. It had never happened before in all of human history.
Jane tried to steady her voice. With heavy and serious intentions, she finally spoke. “Greg, listen. I’m not trying to fuck with you. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but you’ve disappeared. I can’t see you. I’m telling you the truth.”
Greg sighed a long and tired sigh. It had seemed lately that he had no energy left to even speak to Jane, let alone look deep into her psyche. “Listen Jane, I’m not in the mood for this. Call your manager at Starbucks; you’re going to stay home from work today and I’m going to take you to the hospital and have you mentally evaluated.”
“I don’t need any sort of mental evaluation…” But then, she thought, maybe she did. “Anyway, I can’t afford to take off work. You know that.”
“Well I can’t afford to be living with some kind of lunatic. Next thing we know you’ll be trying to stab me with a kitchen knife. Jesus, I thought you were a reasonable girl.”
Jane had thought herself reasonable too, and in fact she was still certain of it. Having no history of delusion, she felt sure that what she was seeing was real and therefore refused to hear anything else. “Let’s go!” She cried, hopping out of bed. “Let’s go outside and see if other people can see you. I promise you that I’m telling the truth.”
Jane and Greg both hastily undressed and changed into day clothes. Jane was in a fresh white sundress, which usually looked stunning on her and created a glow around her tan skin. But Greg’s disappearance had sapped some of the life out of her, and she seemed several degrees paler than she had been the night before. Her lips, usually crimson, were as white as her dress.
As the couple rushed out into the street, all Jane could see of Greg was his floating band T-shirt and a hallow pair of shorts which hovered a foot or so above his empty flip-flops. It was a strange thing for her to behold indeed, and she expected that those who happened to be walking the busy street outside their apartment to panic at the sight. But to Jane’s surprise no one seemed to notice anything out of the ordinary. Men in suits rushed by, in a hurry to get to work. Nanny’s holding hands with children bounced noisily down the sidewalk. Jane and Greg stood in front of the apartment for a few moments while Jane waited for someone to stop and scream, but no one took note of them except to rudely push them aside to continue walking.
Jane’s mouth fell open in disbelief. Perhaps they were all just too busy to notice anything strange. Maybe everyone in the outside world was so wrapped up in their own lives that they weren’t taking time to look around them, to see the things strange and bizarre in their midst. After all, things are usually so dull and unchanging that people probably stopped looking around simply out of habit.
Jane decided that this idea was somehow close to the truth, and under that assumption she reached out blindly and grabbed a stranger walking by. He was a small man of Asian decent, probably about forty, and he looked incredibly bewildered at the touch of a strange woman. Jane was beyond concerning herself with social norms. Hysteria edged into her voice as she screamed at the stranger. “Can you see him? Can you see a man here?” She gestured wildly at the floating clothes where Greg’s body ought to be.
At this point quite a crowd had gathered, intrigued by scene Jane was making. The poor strange man pulled away and hunched down as if trying to fold into himself. “Yes mam. Yes. I can see man.” His voice was heavy with an accent and distorted by tremors in his throat. He seemed to feel he was dealing with a lunatic.
Those who had slowed down to watch the drama jeered and called out. “Of course we can see him!” “Christ lady, what the hell is wrong with you?” “Leave the poor guy alone.”
At this, Jane seemed to have reached the end of her patience. She let a wild yell out into the air, so fierce and insane that it scared all the crowds away, and they hurried to wherever they had been headed before, perhaps a little more alert and uncomfortable. Tears pricked at her eyes, and then she was sobbing without any control. She couldn’t remember the last time she had cried, especially in front of her fiancé. Though Greg was invisible to her still, she could sense that he was rolling his eyes in the way that he sighed and grumbled.
It hurt her feelings that he was being insensitive to her. For the first time, Jane realized that he was often insensitive. At the same time she realized that she was late to work again, and that she would probably be losing her job. And finally, it hit her that that this was the longest amount of time she had spent with Greg in months.
At this she cried harder, and harder still until she couldn’t see or breathe or feel anything at all. Greg lost patience, and abandoned her to sit on the front steps of the apartment building alone. Jane cried and cried, for so long that she lost any concept of time. Strangers flowed by like a river, hardly stopping to look at her pathetic form curled onto the steps of the apartment. She felt that she was losing her mind completely, and it was terrifying.
At last, after nearly an hour of violent sobbing, she pulled to her feet and walked inside. Greg’s clothes were hovering inside the bedroom. Jane had stopped crying quite suddenly and without warning; she could still feel the fresh tears on her cheeks. She was careful not to look in the beautiful mirror hanging inside of her bedroom. Her eyes were swollen, her hair messy, and her skin pale and uneven. She did not want to see herself. She only wanted to see Greg, and that was impossible.
“Greg…” Jane said, her voice suddenly strong and steady. “I’ve realized something. I need to speak to you.”
“What now?” His voice was rough with impatience, and something a bit like fear.
“I need to tell you… I’m leaving you.”
“What the hell?”
“It’s just that…. I can’t date someone I can’t see.”
And like that, Greg dissolved visible in the air before her. He was just as real as he had been the night before, except to Jane he looked less like a man, and more like a sullen little boy.