High School: Tell Me You’re Real

Dreyana G. (Junior)

At first, I was just a character she made up when she was younger. I was her dream boyfriend who would buy her expensive jewelry and take her out to fancy restaurants. When she developed into an older woman, she realized that she will never find a man who loved her like me. Eventually, she began to think of me more and more and envisioned that I was there, cooking with her and shopping with her. Every day I became more tangible to her than she ever dreamed.

The park was our favorite place to visit, especially on days that it would be foolish not to get out and enjoy the sunlight. When Crystal was out in the sun, she radiated more beautifully than the rows of flowers that surrounded us. I watched her with a cheeky grin on my face as she would twirl on the lawn or while she identified shapes in the clouds when we were laying on the grass.

“What?” she queried, giggling when she caught me staring.

“Nothing,” I smirked. “Just that you’re beautiful.” She blushed.

“Sebastian, stop. I’m not really,” she contested.

“Yes, you are. The most beautiful girl in this park.”

“Well,” she arched one eyebrow and looked around the park. “Considering we’re probably here with only a few other people, you might be right.” She sat next to me on the park bench and intertwined her fingers with mine. The gentle wind brushed her hair slightly and a few strands fell in front of her face.

“I’m so glad I found you,” she whispered to me, laying her head on my shoulder. “You’re probably the only one in the world that would dare to fall in love with me.” A single tear escaped from her eye and rolled down her face.

“That’s not true,” I reassured her, gently brushing her hair behind her ear. “Any man would be lucky to have you.”

“Maybe, but I wouldn’t want any man. I love you,” she admitted. I smiled and kissed the top of her head. I love you too, Crystal, I would say to myself. I never had the guts to tell her I loved her or had the heart to admit that I was only a figment of her imagination.

“Hey,” Crystal interjected one day, breaking the soft trance we were in. “I just thought of the greatest idea.” She sat up on the couch and laid her book down on the coffee table.

“Oh yeah, what is it?” I asked, putting my book to the side also.

“I should introduce you to my family since you know…we’re dating and all,” she suggested.

“Uh, I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” I replied, running my hands through my hair.

“Why not? Don’t be afraid, they’ll love you, I promise. They’re not like other parents,” she affirmed.

“It’s not that…”

“We’re going,” she insisted. “I’m going to call them right now!” She slipped off the couch and sprinted to her bedroom.

The morning of the meeting with the family was bright and pleasant. The birds were singing for the summer weather and the flowers were bowing to the green grass as we drove the hour-long drive to her childhood house in the suburbs.

“They can’t wait to meet you, Sebastian,” she announced while adjusting my tie and brushing my hair outside of the car. “Just be yourself, okay?”

I nodded and took a deep breath. This is not going to turn out well. We stepped up to the entrance and Crystal rang the doorbell. She intertwined her hand with mine while putting on her perfect smile with a few food bits between her teeth.

“Crystal!” her mother and dad exclaimed once they came to the door. She immediately embraced them in a hug. Her younger sister, Amber, also came to the door and welcomed her back home.

“So…where’s this piece of man candy you were bragging about on the phone?” Amber asked looking around the porch.

“What are you talking about?” Crystal scoffed, looking at them like they were blind. “He’s right here. Mom, Dad, this is Sebastian. He is my…boyfriend,” she grinned proudly. Her family’s facial expressions went from cheerful to perplexed. Amber couldn’t help herself and let out a little snicker.

“Crystal, hun, there is no one there,” her mother pointed out. Her dad waved his arm in the area where I would have been to check if he was missing something.

“Yes, there is. Look, Sebastian say something,” she commanded me, desperately.

“They can’t see me, Crystal,” I whispered to her but she ignored me.

“Crystal, no one is standing next to you,” her father asserted.

“Are you kidding me?” Crystal shrieked. “You guys are clearly pretending to not see him. You just can’t accept the fact that someone as handsome and kind as Sebastian is fond of me. You all are horrible people,” she yelled. She whirled around and started to jog down the steps of the porch.

“Truly, we are not trying to be mean. We want to understand what you are trying to show us. Please stay and let’s talk about this,” her mother pleaded, running after us. Her father and Amber followed.

“Stay away from me,” Crystal demanded, stomping off towards the car.

“Crystal, just talk to us! We want to help you!”

“It was nice meeting you all,” I yelled back to them, trying to keep up with Crystal’s large strides.

“Don’t talk to them, Sebastian!” she ordered. We finally reached the car but her family was still lagging behind us, trying to stop us from leaving. She started the car and rolled down the window.

“Just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean he isn’t there,” she shouted out to her parents.

“I can’t believe she brought an imaginary boyfriend for us to meet. I mean, who does that?” I heard Amber mock as Crystal was driving away.

It was a long and silent drive back home. Dark clouds started to spread over the clear sky and soon the sun was also gone from sight. Silent sparks of lightning stretched across the horizon and I couldn’t help but think that it was quiet for a reason. I needed to tell her the truth so that she doesn’t suffer from any other embarrassment. I needed to tell her that I was not real; that our relationship was pure fantasy. I needed to tell her that her parents were not crazy. But I couldn’t. I loved her too much to have her happiness that she had manifested for herself disappear. Ignorance is bliss, right? Honestly, I thought that deep down she knew I wasn’t there; she knew that she was in love with a fictitious being. She just didn’t want to admit it because then that would bring her back to reality where she believed a girl like herself wouldn’t get a guy like me. She wanted to stay in her make-believe world, the world where I was there and she was happy.

About a month later, we were going to visit with Crystal’s family again. We went out to a very exclusive restaurant (one where you have to reserve months in advance to get a seat) for our two years and six months anniversary. The restaurant was very elegant and the food was extravagant. The dimmed sunlight from outside gave the restaurant a relaxed and romantic mood and the expensive chandelier suspended from the ceiling made us feel like we were in a palace. We requested to be seated near the waterfront so that we could watch the sunset. As we were following the maître d’ to our seat, we passed Crystal’s old school-mate.

“Oh my gosh! Crystal, hey! How have you been?” a brunette exclaimed jumping up from her seat to hug Crystal.

“India! It’s been so long,” Crystal replied, squeezing her old friend in a tight hug. “Oh, this is Sebastian, my boyfriend,” she informed India.

She looked around to see who she was talking about.

“Oh really, um, where is he?” India asked Crystal.

Crystal huffed. “He is literally right in front of you.”

“Are you sure, because I don’t see anyone in front of me?”

“She can’t see me,” I whispered to her and she ignored me, yet again.

“No! I’m getting really irritated with people acting like they are oblivious or that my boyfriend isn’t here when I see him standing right next to me!” she shouted, motioning to where I would have been. Heads turned and people stopped talking to see what the fuss was going on behind them. “You make me sound like I’m crazy, and I’m not. You’re just jealous that I could get a guy like this and you couldn’t.”

India looked startled from Crystal’s sudden outrage. “I am really sorry, Crystal. I didn’t mean to get you upset. I think you might be seeing things; you might need some help. I think I know some people who can help you.”

Crystal did an abrupt about-face and stomped out of the restaurant, without acknowledging India’s offer.

“These people are making me think that I’m crazy. I’m not crazy, they are. I know he’s real. They are just jealous. That’s all. They are jealous that they can’t find love like I have,” Crystal murmured to herself, trying to convince herself that I’m real.

“Crystal, we need to talk,” I requested, getting into the car.

She started the car and drove out of the parking lot. “Yeah, okay. I’m heading to the park so we can talk there.”

She slid the car into a space and we walked to the closest gazebo. It was nighttime but dark clouds were still visibly covering the night’s stars. The wind was strong and swept Crystal’s ivory hair to the side as we walked toward the lake. We sat side-by-side and stared at the water in front of us as it rippled from the drizzle of the rain. The anticipation of confessing the truth to her made my heart thud in my chest. I couldn’t decipher if it was rain or sweat that accumulated on my back, but I could tell that I was nervous to reveal to her what she needed to hear. I decided that it was selfish of me to have her continue believing that I was just a normal person. Even though I loved her, I knew it was time to let her go.

I took a deep breath. “Crystal. This is very important and it is crucial that you listen to everything I say and not interrupt me, okay.”

“Um, okay, sure.”

“Well, for starters, I love you. I’ve never told you I do, but think it is important that you know that now,” I started.

She beamed and nodded, “I love you too.” She pulled at her jacket collar to hide her grin.

“I’m just going to come out and say it. I am not real. Me and you right now, it’s not really happening. It’s all in your head,” I simply told her. She shook her head.

“I don’t understand, what are you talking about?” she asked with a puzzled face.

“Okay, just listen. For a few years now, you have been pretending that you and your make-believe dream man have been dating. I am him. You have created this fantasy world in which you live to escape the reality that our relationship would most likely never happen in real life. Basically, for two or more years, you have been imagining that I’m really here and that we have this amazing relationship and perfect life, but you are actually alone. You have been for years. Deep down I know you realize this because otherwise, I wouldn’t be telling you. All of what I say is coming from you, your conscience, your own head. You have known all along that this isn’t real and you just never wanted to come to terms with it,” I leveled with her. Her face indicated her confusion and sadness.

“You’re lying. Is this your cruel way of breaking up with me? To make me believe that I’m insane,” she questioned in disbelief.

“No, I am telling you the truth and you know it.” She studied my eyes and saw that I was telling the truth.

“So this is why my family and friends and other people aren’t able to see you?” she asked softly, her head bowed in defeat.

“Yeah, that’s why they couldn’t see me. They really weren’t trying to be mean. They were seeing exactly what was there: nothing.”

“I feel so bad. How did I let this happen? How did I let this get so bad?” she questioned. I rubbed her back to ease the pain when she started to cry. “So, what am I supposed to do after this? I mean, we are in love, I can’t let you go,” she sniffled trying to hold back any more tears.

“You’re going to have to, but I can’t tell you how. Don’t worry, though. I will always be with you. I am you, remember? I can’t live without you,” I noted while tucking strands of her hair behind her ear. Tears continued to slide down her cheeks but she smiled a rueful smile. We sat there, watching the moon appear from behind the storm clouds and cast its reflection onto the lake water.

“I’m going to miss you, a lot,” she admitted, sighing into my chest as she hugged me.

“Me too.”

“I know how I can let you go. Tell me you’re real, just once. I’ll close my eyes and when I open them, you’ll be gone.” She stood up, gave me a quick kiss on my cheek, took a step back and closed her eyes.

“I’m real,” I sighed and just like that, I slipped away from her world.

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