I stared down at my Pad Thai as I finessed my chopsticks through the noodles.
“Ok, I’m not fucking kidding,” I said. “It’s not funny anymore. It’s not even close to April Fool’s Day,” I said.
Justin, Clark, Christine, Molly and I sat at a corner Booth that Saturday night. I was waiting for one of them to break. To start laughing about making me think I had gone crazy for a week. Unfortunately, they were either incredibly dedicated to their prank, or I really was going crazy.
Justin and Molly exchanged confused glances before Justin turned back to me.
“You must have known Jessica outside of us because I sure as hell don’t remember her,” He said.
“Yeah, was she in your classes or something?” Molly chimed in.
“She hung out with us every weekend,” I said, frustrated.
Since I couldn’t find Jessica’s Facebook page, and since she had moved to the West coast, I didn’t have any photos of her to pull up. I sat angrily for the rest of the meal while the my friends talked about how drunk they planned on getting that night. As we walked out of the restaurant, they asked me if I wanted to join them. No, I didn’t. I was mad.
I went home. But I did a little drinking of my own.
I opened the fridge to a bottle of white wine I had been saving. I threw open my cupboard and pulled out a glass. I was so angry I wanted to smash something, I remember. How could these people who I called my friends do this to me? They saw how frustrated I was at dinner.
Over the next several hours, I googled my friend. I pulled up LinkedIn profiles for over 30 Jessica Lees, but not a single one of them was her.
Before I knew it, I had finished that bottle of Pinot Grigio and was pretty drunk. It was then that I noticed a glow from my phone.
It was Justin.
“Hey, you ok? Look we really didn’t mean to offend you.”
“I am really not in the mood to be fucked with tonight, Justin. I don’t get why she’s not talking to me. I don’t get why you all are pretending not to remember her. It’s childish.” I hit send, feeling my blood pressure start to rise.
Minutes passed before I got a response: “Sorry.”
For some reason, this made me even more angry. I threw my phone across the room.
I had very vivid dreams all night. In the most vivid of all, Jessica and I sat across from each other at the Thai Palace. In that same booth I had been with my friends the night before. She had a fresh tan and wore a tank top and shorts.She was laughing, and I remember laughing with her. It was all a big misunderstanding. I felt comforted, at ease.
Tears rolled down my face when I woke up the next morning with a raging hangover, my anger morphed into sadness. I knew my memories were real.I wondered what I did to upset her. Why would she avoid me like this? I cried some more and went back to sleep.
I had another dream. This one was way more disturbing. I was alone in a church. Sunlight poured in through the high stained glass windows. Soft choir singing echoed throughout the vast, empty seats. At the end of the long aisle at the front was a small, white casket. I walked slowly up to it, a feeling of immense dread hanging over me.
When I got close enough to see, inside was a very young-looking Jessica. She looked so peaceful, lying there in a white dress. If she hadn’t been in a casket, I would have thought she was asleep. I place my hand on her arm, giving it a light squeeze.
Suddenly, she sprang up, looking terrified.
I fell back, startled, running as fast as I could out of that church. I woke up in a cold sweat, panting as though I had outrun a cheetah.
When I finally summoned the energy to get out of bed, I knew I needed to do something to resolve this. I had met Jessica’s mom once when she stopped by campus to bring Jessica something from home. And I had been to her parent’s house for dinner once, years ago. I remembered the pink trim on the front of the house and a lawn with rose bushes outside.
After searching for the names of Jessica’s two brothers into social media turned up nothing, I went to Google street view to see if I couldn’t find the house. I remembered what train stop I had to get off at and I remember the general vicinity of the house, but not much else.
I was finally over my hangover after chugging glasses of lemon water and eating some crackers when I saw it. 501 W. 52nd Street. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The pink trim. The rose bushes in front. The single 5-step staircase that led to the front door. It was Jessica’s parents house. I knew it.
If my friends were playing a prank on me, or if Jessica was angry at me, or if something happened to her, her parents surely wouldn’t mess around.
I glanced at my phone. The time lit up: Just after 4 PM.
If I hurried, I could make it before sundown.