He was standing in a Tim Horton's coffee shop, smelling the coffee in his hand, and yet knew it was a dream. It was vivid and musky, and he recognized every face in the room except one. The sky out the window was dark, and he knew he should be in bed. They all had impatient looks in their faces, except one. There was chatter, he could see it on their lips but could hear not a word. They were people from his past, some that did not even live in the same city. It sought the confirmation that he needed, that things were not real. That realization, however, remained insignificant. It could not wake him, nor dull his senses.
He looked up at the girl in front of him. She was without features. She had hair, but he could neither see it, touch it, nor feel it. And she had eyes, which he could neither admire nor observe. She was faceless, without identity. However, he knew she was his date.
She fell back into her chair, limply, like a discarded marionette. As if the puppeteer was no longer interested in pulling her strings.
And then he spotted her, in the corner of the room. She was sitting alone at a table, reading. People smiled at her, and asked her how she was. Nobody objected to the homo-erotic bondage magazine in her hands. It was erect with surreal inconsistence. And her eyes turned to him, brown and empty, fixing his gaze, beckoning them; tempting him to return that same intensity.
The butch haircut and cherubic face sent a shiver of fright and recognition down his spine. It moved slowly, as if snow had been put down his back. He arched back in his chair, in agony, as his hands flailed about, toppling the coffee.
Blood spilled from the cup, because it was a dream. It bled out across the circular table, stopping just before the edge, congealing as if afraid.
Then came the screech of her chair, and she rose to make her approach. The magazine was left open to a two-page spread of screaming flesh. And in her hand, she squeezed the plastic head of a doll, beautifully coiffed hair running down behind it.
He ran, hot with fear, as melting butter upon a baked potato. The door said push, and yet it opened with a pull. He ran outside, into the chillingly cold summer breeze. It would have been warm, if it wasn't a dream.
He walked home in the dark, trembling through each step with a paranoia that strained his neck. And he was home, in an instant, because it was a dream. Or perhaps he simply did not remember that part of it.
When he got home, the lights were out. He locked the front door behind him, and padded his way up the carpeted stairs. His calves ached, or he thought they did. And he noticed that the wall was painted off-colour, unlike the waking world.
At the top of the stairs, he turned and yelled as he saw her there. He was convinced that his life was at stake.
She was naked. And her skin was as pale as an old Greek statue of white marble, with a dirtied hue. Her youthful, generously proportioned body was ghastly white. And the mop of short black hair atop her impish grin looked boyish. Below, all was hairlessly pale.
There were no clothes upon the stairs.
The door was not ajar. He had never given her a key.
He knew what she wanted. Immobilized with fear, he watched her take another step, and then another. However he knew that if he were to touch her, he would feel no warmth. And he knew that if he were to push her away, or down the stairs, she would be stronger.
He was two feet from the bathroom, and four feet from his bedroom door. He chose that which had a lock, and which was nearest, and closed it behind him. And, leaning his weight against the inside of the bathroom door, after depressing the golden button of the lock; his heart pounded.
And the bathroom stank. It reeked with the stench of unfinished foreplay, and the tears of jilted lovers.
The toilet was open, and a headless doll floated amongst piss he could not smell. It wore a tiny floral dress. Its gaping neck quoted Ophelia's nonsense to him, from Shakespeare's Hamlet, from where she floated. But not a single word was audible.
He walked over to the vanity, but did not see himself in the reflection of the room. However, she was there, staring back at him.
She was fully clothed in a man's bulky gray hoodie that hid her curves. Below were torn jeans. And her sleeves were drawn up, revealing scarred arms of a self-inflicted torment. One of them was a long, scarlet, oozing scab.
He looked down to see a joint of tobacco in her left hand. She drew it to her mouth, and inhaled. As she did this, he had risen his right hand to cover his mouth. The nostalgia was agonizing. Then, she blew a cloud towards the mirror. It fogged up, like steam.
A crack on the mirror's surface slowly rose, vertically, between her legs. It grew to an indeterminate length that held his attention with contempt.
He felt something wet and warm putting pressure around his loins. But there was nothing there, and he both felt and saw himself to be flaccid and clothed. And then latex, haunting him. He did not want either sensation, and they boiled up resentment in his gut.
Her voice rasped a whisper of delight, "You cannot forget your first. You cannot forget me."
Blood ran to his face, and he seethed with anger he had never felt in the waking world, "I don't have a first."
Something in his mind and his stomach knotted up with denial at a memory that would not surface.
She smiled, drawing his eyes to her face for several seconds, "I almost was."
"You're not capable of love," he stated, suddenly calm. It was like a cold, objective statement.
And then the whole mirror shattered, leaving him alone with a thick smoke that filled the room. He wasn't sure if he had hit it or not. But the smoke disturbed him, and he backed away.
He choked upon it, drawing his hands to his throat in pain. And yet, they were not his hands. For he saw the scars upon them, that were not his. And they choked him, and he stepped away and tipped backwards into the bathroom. The hands around his neck, which came from his sleeves, throttled out what would otherwise have been his last breath.
And then he woke up. The dream was fresh in his mind, and he knew he was no longer dreaming. It had been vivid, but this was more vivid, such that he knew it was reality. There was no pool of sweat. Not even a drop upon his brow. It disturbed him to suspect that her dreamy representation may have been but a part of him, his mind trying to send him a message.
The radio went off, playing a variety station, and Skye Sweetnam finished up an angsty pop song, about how her ex-boyfriend would see her again . . . but only in his dreams.
I hope I haunt her too, he thought. He found himself fully dressed, and turned to see a cup of cold coffee at his bedside. And that was what scared him the most.