CHAPTER 3

A DREAM

The Day began with a dream.

One of those vivid, half-waking dreams you have in the morning just before you wake for
good.

At first it was like I was floating, descending, then flying, then landing. I touched down like a feather. I was in our small town. Our stupid, stupid Ohio small town. Never mind that the weather was nice. It was morning, the air not too heavy in an early fall resplendence. I was dressed for school in my school uniform. You know the kind of clothes that are supposed to suppress all individuality. In an instant then from all the shadows appeared all the other students of my high school, all carrying their school bags, all conversing like they do, all robotic and peaceful and numb. A postcard, but not for me. I felt like I usually do, like there was a weight on my eyes pulling them down so that I had to consciously stretch them open. I tried to walk more slowly than everybody else, to separate myself from the throng.


Then through the bodies, I saw her. Chloe, a vision of the other me that wasn’t me. She looked like she always did, so different, so self-designed to be different, parading like a constant face-slap to my very existence. I had grown accustomed to this, but the weird thing was, now, unlike before (and in the dream at least), these differences were starting to hurt. I stared at her stupid poofy shampooed hair. That tanned skin (who even does that anymore?). That skillfully applied makeup that suggested she wasn’t wearing any makeup at all. That cheerleader outfit. For God’s sake! She’s wearing a Goddamned cheerleader outfit! We’ve been at the school less than two weeks and she’s already a cheerleader? Why should I care. I stared at her some more until she saw me. I knew that would happen. She always sees me. I may as well go say hello.


Then, because remember, this is a dream, some student, some girl I don’t even know, some unknown body came up to me, and opened her slack-jawed drone mouth.
 

“Hi Chloe!” the mouth said to me before moving on.

“I’m Anna,” I whispered. I was still staring at the real Chloe, who suddenly was reacting violently to something some other student had also said to her a moment ago in passing.

 

“I’m Chloe!” Chloe screamed for all to hear. But before I could digest all this tomfoolery, a pack of kids known even to me approached. The Popular Kids. Tyler. Clarissa. Paolo. Why the hell were they walking up to me? But then the seas parted. With them, was James.
 

It’s sad for me to begin the story of James in a dream.

He’s the most beautiful human that ever walked the Earth in the History of Time.

He’s the quarterback, the idol, the paragon, the Greek statue, the doe-eyed soul man of a thousand unpublished sonnets.


And he was walking right up to me. He leaned into me so I could smell him.


“Hey babe,” he said, before sliding his arms ever so gently around me, holding me like something foreign and delicate, finding my lips with grace and ease as we slid into the most natural kiss of any enduring age.


And could I completely savor this wonderment of all wonderments? No. For in an instant, all I heard, all anyone could hear, was an amplified piercing scream.


“Noooooooo!” From Chloe, of course. Fuck you, Chloe.


That’s exactly what I said in my dream, even though my mouth was full of the sweetness of James. In fact, I felt that “fuck you” so deeply, it took control of us as we defied gravity. That little “fuck you” made me and James literally rise above the crowd, who by then had gathered to worship in awe of the perfectness of our union. James and I slowly rose and floated over everyone, at least twenty feet in the air over them all, and it all made complete sense. No natural laws were being broken — in fact, a new order was being established. Glitter rained upon us, as James broke from me ever so slightly to say…
 

“I knew I’d always choose you.” I think I became liquid.


But because this is dream logic, suddenly I wasn’t myself anymore. My consciousness left my body and entered into the only other place my consciousness ever goes. I was my other, I was my Chloe, who was trying to push her way through the crowd thick now with students and teachers and townies and God knows who else, maybe all the memories of everyone I had ever known. Chloe fought through them all gamely. A few stood out, in the dream. These would be the ones I would remember when I woke up. They spoke to Chloe as she shoved them aside, moving through them in some weird hazing gauntlet. They were a gallery of new people in my life, since moving to southeastern Ohio, to this school. They were the cast members of my new Hell.


There was Mr. Nodder, the dwarf (not really) principal. He first stared up at me and James, and then he said to himself, “how could this happen?” Then he turned to Chloe and said to her, “how could you let this happen?” Chloe shoved him and pushed on.


Then there was Ms. Tuxford, the fruity art teacher. She too had to behold me and James, as she uttered to herself, “such passion!” in her goofy new age diction. Then she turned to Chloe and said, “for the ages!” Chloe shoved her and pushed on.


Then there was Mr. Holden, the football coach (so James’ coach), a predictable blob of testosterone. Suppressing his phlegm, he looked up at James and said, “as long as they remember,” before turning to Chloe to finish, “no sex before a game.” Chloe shoved him and pushed on.


Then there was Ms. Bowles, the too-old hipster English teacher, who of course had to go all feminist, when she looked up at my glory with James and said, “he’s drowning her flame,” before turning to Chloe to finish, “her precious flame.” Chloe shoved her and pushed on.


Then there was Mr. Spellman, the biology teacher, whom I quite liked because he seemed so normal. “Primordial urges,” he said, looking at me and James still kissing. Then he turned to Chloe to say, “someone get a hose.” Thanks Mr. Spellman, see if I’m ever nice to you again. Chloe shoved him and pushed on.

Then there was our mother, Doris. Our mother? What the hell was she doing here? Stop watching me make out with James, Mom! But good old Doris was transfixed just like all the others, that’s how hot me and James really were. “She’s so happy,” our mother said, before turning to Chloe to add, “let your sister have this one.” Chloe stopped dead in her tracks, and screamed.


But this time I didn’t hear the scream, I just knew that she screamed. I had finally become so lost in the ecstasy of my James kiss, that Chloe and all those other bit players couldn’t get to me anymore. I had finally left them behind where they belonged, on Earth, while I ascended to my right and proper place, with my partner, my God, my James.


James gently released his lips from mine, only long enough to whisper to me, “I vous choisissez. My heart is ever at your service.” The kiss resumed. I closed my eyes. I had transcended life itself.


But I couldn’t close my ears. That Chloe scream was coming back to me, pushing through the rarified air that buoyed me and James above everything. That Chloe scream threatened to ruin it all. That Chloe scream threatened to wake me up.


That Chloe scream was not a dream.

It was Chloe herself, screaming from her bedroom next door to mine. We had the same Goddamn dream again.


Fuck.