Where the curtains once were…there, I can only see the sun rise dragging its morning colors along, feathers of pink and orange. Much too bright for Earth. The back of my hand provides protection long enough for me to reach for the glasses with the old prescription. The walls in the room are no longer aquamarine. They’re a creamy sort of color. Like cinnamon. John stirs, but doesn’t open his eyes. I have at least an hour before he asks me where I’ve been.
I notice he hasn’t used the kitchen in a while. Dusty with granola and wine stains. A stitch of guilt boils to the surface of my throat. I turn on the stove and listen for the click, click, click of eager fuel. Blue flames appear and they’re just as I remember them. Swaying like a cold wind has just entered a windowless room. The certain quality of the dream. Deceiving me with expectation and long forgotten memories. I gather myself, taking deep breaths, taking care where I place my feet. The tile beneath me is moody. Anytime now, the shift could come. Black tiles are a green light to elsewhere. White tiles keeps me where I am.
John, if only you knew where I’d been.
I listen for any periodic vibrations or mental impressions to determine my exact location. Car horns, New York. Private conversations, Austin. An odd silence, Los Angeles. Morning light fills the apartment and I wear it like a fur coat. John came to Los Angeles after all. He’s beginning to believe in both versions of our cities.
I dress myself in the room with mirrored walls. Off with his oversized white t-shirt. I button a black blouse, tailored for my body, and trace its gold buttons with my finger. The skirt is ruffled with gray patterns. It’s old, but always does the trick. I become so absorbed with its otherworldly qualities I forget where I am. The room changes, tiled with earth colored bricks, a bath and sink. A large sack sits on the floor covered with a pair of jeans.
The most gentle shift I’ve ever felt.
As I stuff the jeans into the bag, a phone rings displaying the name Lily across the screen. I see an image of her in my mind, a shy girl with auburn hair, eyes framed with thick brows. I waited for her call some time ago. Some life ago. Don’t answer it. Another shift and I’ll never discover who I’m dressing up for.
The door opens and I watch the girls slam their glasses together, half full. They’re older and several drinks ahead of me. I step into the limelight and discern I’ve interrupted a privileged conversation. Sudden hush and smiles can be so difficult to hide. The one closest to me stands up and kisses my hand. She steps away and bows.
They’ve been waiting for me. I discover my presence was not only expected, but planned with precision. She should arriving soon and when she does she will devour me. A perfect, long awaited harvest.
She’s more beautiful than I remember. Lipstick so red I think of cherries saturated in sticky syrup. She never was one to waste time. “You and I could be together right now,” she says, unblinking. Still, those lips are beckoning something strange. It isn’t desire. It’s lascivious in nature. It courses through my body like negatively charged ions releasing the smell of bitter almonds into the air. Such is the way of this poison.
The pain is satisfying for some time before she releases the cyanide nectar into my neck. I close my eyes and expect to see John, but I’ve drifted too far. She carries me up, then gently presses herself against me, the cool pavement against my cheeks. Once extinguished, the extraordinary pain feels like pleasure again and I’m on my feet. She licks her lips and communicates her address. Electrical signals form into words and numbers. Snap. A image of her house forms in my mind. It’s close enough; we’ll have dessert by the beach.
I imagine I’m going somewhere else and the drive is brief. The exit curves sharply and I believe I’m dodging fallen debris over the road when a hand touches my shoulder. He grips and pulls hard. That’s all it takes. We land roughly shattering most of the mirrors, the sound of muscle tearing in our necks. The sounds of his breathing soothes the discomfort of my contorted body. With ease he lifts and brushes the hair away from my face. His eyes twinkle with a fading sadness.
He doesn’t ask me any questions. I understand I’ve been gone for too long this time. He holds me and whispers his updates into my ear. Her name oozes the tenderness of a street covered with Christmas lights, a pretty flickering of primary colors and buckets of glitter. In secret, I thank the dream and pull away from his embrace. I get ready for the flood of emotions to emerge and send me back to my original state. If I’m lucky I’ll wake up completely and release this memory into the darkness of the night.