For most girls, a mirror is a sacred trove that unveils blemishes that can be scraped off by mere tools from derm clinics or the latest cosmetics breakthrough. There isn’t much else to see in a mirror but the reflection of the exterior, the shallow, the seen. I stopped looking at mirrors a long time ago. The ugliness it uncovered made me cringe on sight. It was not as conspicuous as most blemishes, it was bone-deep. The extreme unsatisfactory taste of my own soul ebbing into the surface of my generally clear skin was too much to bear on a daily basis.
“Lucid dreaming?” Shania asks, one eyebrow raises and her lip twitches a bit. Her tone screams ridicule from a mile away.
“I’m telling you. It felt so real.” I explain horribly, downing my cherry mocktail.
“Elena, honey, it’s been two nights. You’re still babbling about dreaming with your eyes wide open about this man with no face doing you. I don’t know what you’re complaining about because (a) You are obviously in need of a good woo-hoo sesh and (b) you’re not even a virgin,” Shania rolls her eyes. “So what’s the big deal? It’s not like a man hasn’t touched you.” She leans back on her chair and I look at her helplessly. She had a point. Why was it a big deal? I had dreams like this all the time, visualizing men from those romance novels I love to read or the lead actors from the romance movies I also love to watch. I was far from pure and innocent. I have experience yet I still feel unsettled.
“He had no face, Shan. He was in my room. I could feel the covers being lifted and his silhouette moving. I think what freaks me out the most was that because it was so vivid that it felt real. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even scream.” I press, hands rubbing each other, trying to pry the discomfort from the memory.
“Darling, you’re just having a bit of a dry spell.” Shania giggles, her fingers toying with her golden necklace, “Go out and meet some new people. You and Charlie broke up months ago and he’s been seeing other people, you know. It’s just sad that you’re still grieving. Lighten up.” Shania guzzles her cocktail and waves her glass at the waitress by the bar counter.
“I don’t think this is the regular dry spell.” shaking my head, I continue sheepishly “Though I do admit that I haven’t been feeling as perky down there in a while.” Shania claps at that
“See? You are feeling under the sexual weather.” She laughs, as if this admission steers us away from the conversation at hand.
“I just haven’t been sleeping as soundly as I used.”
“Have you talked to your Dad about this?”
“No. He’s out of town. And why would I?”
“Have you been taking your mediation?”
“Yes, regularly.” The drinks arrive and I take a sip out of mine. “Julian reminds me to take them every night before I go to bed.”
“Wow. So the cousin hasn’t left the apartment, has he?” Shania’s face scrunches up. She hasn’t exactly been his number one fan, especially since he moved in with us when his landlord threw him out. She claims that he stares at her too much that it gives her the heebie jeebies. But it just so happens that his dad and my dad were close when they were growing up and knew Julian since he was a toddler and my dad was more than thrilled to take him in. Though I only met him a couple of times growing up, we were never really close.
“Yeah, it’s actually nice to have him in the apartment. He takes care of the cleaning and the cooking and mostly does what Dad does. He basically takes care of me.”
“Elena, you are twenty-three living in your Dad’s apartment with your older cousin.” Shania takes a gulp of her cocktail.
“You make that sound like a bad thing.” I pout.
“It’s not.” She sets down the glass. “It’s just weird. You need your own space. Be a woman out in the urban jungle! What you’re doing, my friend, is freeloading.” She nods her drink at me and gulps the last of its contents, snapping her fingers to the waitress by the next table and ordering some more drinks.
“Excuse me, I am not freeloading. I provide groceries and money for bills. I’m not completely taking advantage of anyone.” I cross my arms at her, a try for defiance and rebellion.
“Freeloader!” she giggles.
“Oh, stop it.” I throw a tissue at her but can’t help but smile a bit.
“Seriously though, if you’re having trouble sleeping you should check in with your doctor. Your prescription might need to be changed. I might be a bitch encouraging you to do crazy shit but I ain’t heartless.”
“I guess you might be right. The pills just aren’t working as well as they used to.” I sigh.
“How many times has this happened to you again? The dream thing?”
I shrug. “Just that once,”
“Then it’s just a dream. It happened once. It’s not likely to happen again. You’re being paranoid and ridiculous and that is the result of being so damn tired all the time. Also, lucid dreaming is a sham. I tried the thing the internet said, you know, to induce…” Shania does some air quotes “…lucid dreaming and it was bogus.” She huffed, taking a swig at her glass.
“You totally just brought up lucid dreaming to rub it in my face that it didn’t work when you forced yourself to dream. That’s pretty pathetic, Shan.” I accuse playfully.
“Uh, duh. I hate seeing you this sad. Even when you’re trying to be playful you still sound miserable. Look, I know you’re tired and just here because you know I’m going to get shitfaced and will need a safe ride home with a designated driver, that being you, but I need you to party, too. C’mon, let’s have fun!” Shania grabs my hand and drags me towards the dance floor. She shakes my shoulders and forces me to enjoy. The music seems to have grown louder up here as we bop hard on whatever dance music the DJ was trying to sell us. Laughs ensue and sweat drop, both of us were having the time of our lives and the drinks just keep on coming. Hers were spiked while mine weren’t yet I feel entranced by the blinking lights, shifting from red to blue to yellow to nothing. The world outside is miles away, distant and almost non-existent from this enclosed space with bodies everywhere. There is nothing that can end this night.
“I need to pee!” Shania shouts over my ear and I quickly maneuver her towards the Ladies’ Room. She runs towards an empty cubicle and falls down on her knees, hands gripping the toilet.
“Shit, Shan. Are you alright?” I ask as she proceeds to gag and hurl. I hurriedly kneel beside her and drag her hair out of her face. She continues to vomit a sweet pungent liquid which I can only assume were the cocktails she’s been chugging non-stop.
“Alright, it’s time to go home.” Cringing, I announce. Shania wipes her mouth with her elbows and smiles goofily at me. “No, I don’t wanna. We gotta keep dancing.” She struggles to get up, hands in the air without a care left in her body.
“You’re drunk,” I say. “We have to go.”
“But I don’t wanna,” Shania continues to protest. I help her on her feet and half-carry-half-drag her towards my car which is conveniently parked beside the main door. I press the unlock button on my keys and open the backseat door, shoving Shania inside without a second thought. She’s stopped whining about staying at the bar. I get in and check through the rear view mirror and see her chest rise and fall heavily. She’s passed out.
“Alright, then.” I turn to drive to her street and I can’t help but think of my dream again. How rough seemingly calloused hands started to glide through my bare arms, back and forth as if testing the smoothness, a wet finger slipping off articles and prying my legs open, touching softly before plunging hard… I pull over Shania’s house, got off and opened the car.
“We’re here. We’re home.” I shake her and she groans in response. “Shan, you have Work tomorrow. You have to sleep at home.” Shania snores. “At least give me the keys so I can carry you inside.” I sigh heavily and step back into the driver’s seat. I guess she’s sleeping at home.
I wanted to tell him he was hurting me. That he could continue but gently but I couldn’t find my voice. I couldn’t whisper the words Stop to a man with no face. It felt absurd and this dream was just that, a dream. I could hear distant moaning in the dizzy spiral of my dark room; sweat trickled down my temples and everywhere else. It was so hot. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to ease the pain but I couldn’t move in time with the stranger inside me.
“You’re home.” Julian opens the door and I drag Shania inside. “Woah. Is your friend alright?”
“Not really.” I grunt. “She’s passed out. Help me get her to my room.”
“Okay.” Julian takes Shania’s arm and slings it over his shoulders, she grabs her waist tight and takes her from me, carrying her over to my room and gently placing her on my bed. I follow suite, and see him tuck a strand of her brown hair behind her ear. He then turns to me and smiles.
“Your medicine is at the kitchen table.”
“Thanks.” I say, suddenly feeling self-conscious about myself. I move towards the bed and cover Shania with a blanket. Her cheeks are flamed yet she looks so peaceful and I couldn’t help but smile.
“She’s really pretty.” I turn to look at Julian with my medication in his palm and a glass of water in his hand. He offers them to me and I take them.
“Yeah. Shan is really pretty.” I agree, placing the capsules inside my mouth and wash them with water.
“I noticed you’ve been having trouble sleeping. Bad dreams?” Julian asks, brushing the empty space next to Shania and then fluffing the pillow.
“Sort of,” I shrug, stalking towards my bathroom and changing into pyjamas. “Am I being too loud? Do I scream?” I have then a sudden burst of fear that he might’ve heard something whilst I was having a weirdly inappropriate dream. I feel my cheeks burn.
“No. Your light is just always on these nights. I worry.” Julian graces me with another one of his easy smiles but I feel a prickle down my spine that’s quite off. My eyes are becoming a bit itchy and I yawn.
“I better hit the sack.” I stretch and lead Julian to the door. “See you the morning.” He stands by the doorway for a moment and stares at me. I start to count. One. Two. Three. He’s still there. Four. Five. Six. “Good night.” He then says and turns to his room.
“Night. Thanks for helping me with Shan.” He turns back and gives me a thumbs up. I wave, shut the door and lock it. The room slowly dims and I almost stumble getting in bed. The meds are working fine this time, as soon as I hit the sheets, everything goes black and I sleep a dreamless night.
“Elena, wake up!” Shania pounces on top of me and I cough awake.
“What the hell?!” I wheeze.
“I lucid dreamt last night!” She tells me excitedly and I scratch my head in confusion. The light from the window stings my vision. I forgot to close the curtains last night.
“Didn’t you say it was bullshit?”
“Yeah, it was total bullshit… until I had one! It was pretty cool actually and quite sexy. Your mystery man with no face paid me a visit and it was hot.” Shania licks her lips lustfully. In the daylight, my room is a mess, dirty clothes and clean ones scattered all over the floor. Books and papers, stacked haphazardly on my desk. The door is slightly ajar and the smell of cooking waffles wafts into the room. I pull my gaze towards Shania and then see her admiring herself in the mirror by my dresser. She’s taken the liberty of ransacking the remaining contents of my closet and has pulled on a dress shirt and pencil skirt and applies make up.
“Eeck,” she recoils. “What the hell is this?” I saunter towards her and check her neck.
“It looks like a hickey.”
“Tell me I didn’t hook up with some rando, last night.” She pleads with her eyes. Typical Shania, not remembering what happened last night.
“No. I was with you the whole time.”
“Then, it’s probably all Damien’s fault. That pig.” Shania shudders.
“Hey girls, I made waffles!” Julian shouts from the kitchen.
“Can’t! I’m leaving for work! I’m already late!” Shania shouts then picks up her bag, she groans “My thighs are killing me, when you said it felt so real I didn’t realize it’d be this real ” Shania laughs as she slips on her shoes from last night and says “Hey E, I seem to have misplaced my necklace, you know, the one with the golden pendant. It might’ve gotten caught in the car or somewhere. Tell me when you find it,” she blows me a kiss and disappears from my room. I take a scrunchie from my dresser and tie my hair back. I make my bed, spreading the sheet neatly when I feel a thick transparent patch that seems to have dried recently, maybe overnight. I feel my eyebrows wrinkle but I don’t pay attention to it. I take the sheets off and change them. I hear Shania and Julian share a laugh, his is a deep and rich one while hers is a quaky trill, before the front door shuts and I stalk towards the kitchen.
“That smells nice!” I croon, dropping the sheets inside the laundry basket by the door of the laundry room.
“Too bad Shania couldn’t eat with us.” Julian clucks his tongue and laughs it off, serving me a plate and placing the maple syrup on the table. I sit down and he turns around. A golden chain hangs from his back pocket.
blurring in and out of focus,
I am a dotted line
One moment, drifting in this dimension
and then the next, I’m in an ethereal plane
jagged twists and turns; patternless-ly being sewn
I am but cuts and pieces of a million others
I dreamed that we got back together — intertwined in your bed
as the sun kissed our skin from the rays penetrating your window,
the sheets were blinding white, our laughter echoed like ripples from a pond
each touch was as soft as marshmallows on hot cocoa; careful in its stride,as not to break this newfound resuscitation of buried desires,
as if taken from a movie; dust in the guise of fireflies flitted all around here was
Love, alive in our dead flower bed and you were reborn – pure and unfailingly beautiful and only the imaginings of a deterred present; some picture snatched from a path not-taken
I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately.
It takes so much for it to be a great day and so little to make it a terrible one. This isn’t even a real argument but I feel so drained down to my core. And it’s not that I’m mad at you (though I’m pretty darn sad about you) but mad at myself for being the opposite of what I stand for. I come out and claim independence from men but just one smile makes me drop every thing and I run right back. It disappoints me that my pride is nothing to me compared to your tender hugs and soft kisses. It angers me that I am like a flightless bird with fully intact wings, always playing safe for fear that the journey to destiny might kill me.
The world has tried to shut us down,
lock us in the household,
even branded us insane and
burned us alive when we grew too restless for their tastes
threatened by the notion that we are just as capable as our male counterparts,
that we have our own ideas, our own voices, our own stories to tell —
Every day is a constant battle, always a call to arms
against people whose loud bellows deliberately try to obliterate ours
Yet we are not so easily crushed; we break but our pieces fight ten times harder
and if anyone decides to scatter our dust, we will bring the wind along with us
as we are warriors in our own right
We are women and we refuse to be less