Still

It’s okay that it’s over.

She pauses. It is painful to continue. He takes her hand gently, timidly, as though he would rather leave it resting by her side. But the warmth of this small connection, this thing that has not yet been stolen gives her courage.

It has been difficult to love you this way.

She is embarrassed when the tears slip freely over her face. She wishes she could be stronger.

It doesn’t seem fair to love so passionately, but be so confined…I wish there were more ways that I was able to tell you what you mean to me.

His silence is agonizing, but it hurts even worse when he breaks it.

“Goodbye.”

Please, she begs, please let me love you in my limited way.

He slowly lets her hand go and stands to leave.

But before he reaches the door, he looks back to her propped up in the hospital bed and scans her searching eyes – so desperately alive, they seem nearly to scream.

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Dream: Part Eighteen

Reese sits down heavily on the bed next to her.  She is curled away, tucked securely under the blankets but he can feel the chill from her wet dress seeping through the sheets.  She makes no move to acknowledge his presence, though he realizes sadly that he isn’t surprised by this.

“Lana, were you ever going to tell me?”  He looks away from her, to the framed photos on the wall that seem so clearly now to hold pictures of a stranger.  He shifts his weight, stares out the window.

“What have you been doing with your life?  Was it just the drugs or were you…Fuck.  Lana, say something.”

She is silent.  He puts his head in his hands.  She was always silent, he slowly realizes.  It was him who filled the quiet.  He glances at her, at the sharp, tense line in her shoulders and recognizes that as well.  He wonders how long he knew, how long he pretended.

“Why, Lana?”

She is unrelenting.  He isn’t sure if she can’t think of a single thing to say, or if she can no longer stomach the thought of speaking to him.  But he deserves an answer for this.

“God damn it, Lana, say something.” He reaches over and grabs her shoulder, turning her towards him.

Her lips are blue, that brightest most brilliant shade of familiar blue.  They are caked in a powdery sheen he would have been able to identify in his sleep.  It has bled over her teeth, her tongue.  Run over her cheek, down her neck to pool in the soft recess of her collarbone.

Her eyes are open, but they have ceased to see.

“Baby,” he gently cups her face in his hand as he crawls across the bed to her.

“Lana, honey, Lana, wake up,” he cradles her head in the crook of his arm, brushing away the hair from her forehead.  Someone in the back of his head is saying that she is gone.  She is cold to the touch, stiff.

“Lana, please, say something,” his voice cracks.

He tries to prop her up a little further, to wedge his body in behind hers.  Her arm falls free from his grasp, off the edge of the bed.  There is a soft clatter as something small frees itself from her hand.

“Please…”

He suddenly finds it hard to breathe.  She is gone.  He is dizzy, nauseous.  Vaulting from the bed, Reese grabs for the phone on her nightstand.  Kneeling beside her, he is shocked by how pale she is.  He puts his hands out on the floor to steady himself, fingers brushing against plastic.

The empty bags of Dream.

He picks them up, one by one, counting the times she poured that sickly sweet death over her lips.  Then he sees her ring.  Tossed on the floor before she took one more trip.

He looks back up at her.  She had taken it off.  Chosen the drug instead of him.

He continues to look at her, blankly, then suddenly slams the phone down onto the floor.  He knocks the lamp off of the nightstand, shattering it against the wall.

“Fuck!”

He stands over her.  Then turns and punches a hole in the wall, shaking a picture of the two of them on their wedding day.  He yells again.  He wants to destroy the room.  To tear this carefully constructed illusion apart piece by cheap piece.  But instead he sinks down beside her, rolling to look at her.  He used to think she was so beautiful.  So perfect.

He touches his lips to her softly.  He thinks of every smile that had failed to reach her eyes.  He wants to break her.  He wants her to hurt as badly as he does, but she feels nothing.  He wonders if she ever felt anything.

He kisses her more fervently then, devouring her.  He kisses her with a rage, and a sorrow, that he has never expected to feel.  He tries to reclaim them for his own.  She is unyielding in his arms, she was never his.

He sits back hard against the headboard, wipes his mouth clean.  His hand falls away, a bright, brilliant, familiar blue.  He sits in an empty room, with the hollow of a ruined wife, echoes of a ruined life, closes his eyes and lets the Dream take him…

Dream: Part Fifteen

He rolls off the bed, grabs his pants and heads into the bathroom.  She lies still, staring up at the ceiling, listening to him rinse the slick scent of her off.  She is cold, but can’t bring herself to move.  She can’t remember how she got here, a place she promised herself she would never be again.  She only meant to come up to give him the money and tell him she was done.  With everything, for good.

“Get up, you’ve got to get out of here,” he tosses her dress onto the bed.

“I thought maybe I could stay for a bit.”  She wanted to  talk, to explain.

“We are not going through this again.  When it’s time to go, you go.  Jesus.”

She slides her feet to the floor, turning her back to him.  She does not want him to see her cry.  She slips into her dress, licking her fingers to rub at a stain near the hem.  She moves closer to the window, standing in front of the desk Dean has currently claimed as his base of operations.  It is littered with mail.  Some already open and empty, others waiting, full, for that quick slice of the knife to spill their illicit contents into his hands.

“Lana, you don’t need to be here,” his tone is brusque, hard.  It hurts her ears.

She runs her hands over the edge of the desk, buying herself time before she can safely look him in the eye.  She turns to face him.  The room is suffocating, there is no space between them.

“Why are you such a bastard?”

He looks at her coldly, “I will pretend that you did not say that. You will leave now.  And you will come back when I tell you to.”

“I MATTER, GOD DAMN IT!”

There is a single moment where they are both silent, eyes locked, letting the aftershock roll over them.  It is broken though, as Dean takes a halting step backwards.  He looks confused, and he clutches at his stomach.  His hands come away a startling red.  She takes a deep breath and moves to catch him.

He grunts, low and angry, as he slides down on the letter opener again.

“You can’t keep pretending that I’m not real once I walk out that door,” Lana whispers in his ear as she lowers him to the floor.

“You crazy bitch,” he spits, the words as hot as the blood she wipes off her face.

“No.  No, I was so good to you. You don’t get to treat me this way.”

She plunges the blade into him a third time, pushing her weight behind it, sinking it into his chest.  She struggles to pull it free.  She can see nothing but blood.  Hear nothing but his groans.  They sound so similar to the ones he makes when she is lying beneath him, willing and open for him.

“I am a good girl,” she cries as she hacks, indiscriminately now, at his face and hands as he tries feebly to protect himself.  “I was your good girl, you were supposed to give a fuck.”

Sobbing, Lana pushes herself up off the floor, away from his brokenness.  She crawls up onto the bed, the sheets sticking to her hands.  Collapsing against the headboard, she throws the blade away from her.  It clatters across the face of the desk, spilling the envelopes to the floor and exposing the DayDream to the sunlight filtering through the greasy window.

There is nothing but the sound of harried breathing, the stench of iron and the color blue.

She moves towards it slowly, peeling herself off the bed.  It is beautiful, the slight shimmer.  It will make everything better.  She tears open the closest bag, squeezing its contents onto her skin.

The DayDream is cool, refreshing, but she doesn’t like the dark purple hue it has cast on her hands and wrists.  She closes her eyes and massages the smooth slick of blood and drugs.  Fifteen minutes.  Fifteen minutes until it takes effect and she can wash herself of this.

Lana wanders into the bathroom, her hands still running one over the other.  Catching her reflection in the mirror, she stops.  There is blood on her face, streaked through her hair.  It is caked on her hands and arms.  Sprayed across her dress.  She is motionless, as though she is waiting for him to get up and leave the room so she can begin to cleanse herself of his shortcomings.

The dress comes off slowly, clinging to her in places.  She leaves it in a puddle on the tile floor.  Thinking Dean may have kept extra shirts, she turns to leave.  That is when she sees the marks he left on her back.  From earlier in the afternoon, long rakes down the soft skin as he dug into her.  She traces her fingers over them gently.  She loved him, once, she thought.

Dropping to her knees, she spews bile and acid across the floor.  It drips from her nose and lips as she chokes, trying to breath.  She retches again, trying to make it to the toilet, crawling through the brackish pool of expelled stomach contents.  Her throat and nasal cavity burn.  Five minutes, just five more minutes and everything will be better.

Dream: Part Fourteen

She is furious with him.  With herself.  With this fucking rain.

Lana tugs at the edge of her dress, wishing she could wear something more sensible.  Glancing around though, at least she doesn’t stand out.  She isn’t sure if that’s a good thing though.  She can feel her rage seething, and tries to at least relax her face into some semblance of approachability.

She tries to recall at what point in the conversation she agreed to this.  She tries to recall why she doesn’t just walk away.  Just go home.   Or go back to Dean and tell him to go fuck himself.  Or better yet, go to Reese at work, dump her purse full of Dream on his desk and tell him where to find the Sandman.  The more she thinks about it that would be the best way to get rid of him for good.  But she doesn’t trust Dean not to take her down with him, and she isn’t sure Reese would let her get away with it either; he lives for his job.

In the middle of her meditation, she notices someone who doesn’t seem all that interested in the merchandise already on display.  Lana strides confidently to him.

“Can I help you, baby?”

“Only if you think you could help me sleep at night.”

“I got something that will keep the nightmares away.”

He comes in close.

“Who are you?”

“You can call me Oneiroi”

“What?”

“Nothing…I take it you aren’t new to this.”

He looks her up and down.  She can feel the overconfidence roll through her.  It sticks in her throat, burns her eyes.  It makes her gag.

“Hell no.  Let me see it.”

She reaches slowly into her purse.  For all his machismo, he seems skittish, as though one quick movement could send him running.  She hands it over.

“What is this shit?”

Lana looks at the bag and realizes she left the hotel with DayDream.  Fuck.

For a moment she panics, and she can sense that he is moments from turning and leaving.  Before pushing the thought violently out of her mind, she thinks about not disappointing Dean.

“Here, let me show you.” She reaches out and takes his hand, runs her fingers lightly over the knuckles before turning his wrist upwards.  He startles, beginning to pull his arm free, but the sensation of her touch causes him to hesitate.  She tears open the package and drips just the smallest hint of blue, no sense in wasting it.  She knows it won’t kick in in time to make the sale, but she’s confident he will buy.

Lana massages the DayDream into the soft, tender skin.

She leans close, her words a warm whisper in his ear, “It’s just like Dream, but you get to stay awake.  Everything feels more real, better.”  She brings her hand up to his face, runs her thumb over his lips, “Everything that touches you lingers, and everything that you touch…”

He looks up at her, and she realizes how young he is.  Sixteen, maybe seventeen.  A child.  She almost feels sorry for him.  His cheeks are red, and his breath is racing.  He takes the bag from her hand and slips her the money.

“Of course, if you don’t like it, you can always go back to Dreaming.”

He looks down as he stuffs the DayDream into his pocket, jumping slightly as a car horn blares down the street.

“How do I find you again?”

She laughs and turns away.

“Same way as last time.  Ask the Sandman for sweet Dreams.”

Across the street in an unmarked car, Reese watches his wife saunter away from the kid, leaving them both wondering, what the hell just happened.  It is some time before he finally pulls away from the curb and turns towards the empty house waiting for him.

Dream: Part Ten

She hates the waiting room for this office. The walls are a disgusting red, too dark to be appreciated. It is menacing. The couch is old and it sags in the middle, so she always chooses one of the hard plastic chairs which flank the water fountain whose presence in the middle of the opposite wall seems inexplicable to her.

The room is too small, the seating is too close together, and even though there is never anyone else here when she comes to see Dr. Waldron it makes her feel claustrophobic. As though the people who normally keep these places warm would disapprove of what she comes to talk about.

“Lana?” the receptionist slides the glass back and indicates the door ahead, “She’s ready for you.”


“Good morning, Lana, please make yourself comfortable,” there is a pause as Lana settles into the much newer leather couch.
“I’m glad you decided to reschedule. I was worried when you cancelled after our last session that we might have touched on some subjects that you weren’t quite ready for.”

She hesitates for a moment, then shakes her head.

“No. You said some things I needed to hear. And I have been thinking about it a lot on my own lately.”

“What have you been thinking about?”

Lana turns towards the window. She realizes she hates the window in this office as well. She feels like it should look towards something idyllic and peaceful, some place she could lose herself in while she gathered her thoughts. Instead it overlooks the parking lot to a hotel. Nothing cheap and tawdry, but nothing high class. The kind of place she often finds herself in with Dean, tangled in his sheets and wishing she was closer to him. She looks back to Dr. Waldron.

“Did I ever mention the time I bought a blonde wig? Something I thought I could surprise Dean with. I thought it was beautiful, it made me feel sexy.” She toys absentmindedly with her own hair as she talks, speaking slowly and purposefully.

“I remember my hands shaking briefly as I knocked on the door. Being shy and nervous, hoping he would like it; it was always so important to me that I pleased him. And when he opened the door, he looked at me, and he laughed.”

Lana smiles sadly, “I had nearly forgotten that. But he laughed. So I took it off and put it away and that was the end of feeling spontaneous and sexy.”

“Lana, just because he laughed, doesn’t mean that you couldn’t be spontaneous or feel sexy anymore. He could have been startled by your unexpected change in appearance or-”

“Oh, it wasn’t that he laughed. I asked him later why he didn’t like the wig, since he’s had me wear one before. And he explained that the other wig belonged to another woman that he fucked. That’s why he liked me wearing it.”

The room is silent.

“What I’m trying to say is, I’ve realized recently, that I don’t love Dean.”

“This is a big step, Lana. What does this mean for you?”

“I’m not entirely sure…”

“Okay, well let’s start with the practical aspect. What do you intend to do about your physical relationship with Dean?”

“I want to end it.”

“You’ve said that before.”

“I mean it this time.”

“Then, if you really intend to end things with Dean, where do you believe that puts your relationship with your husband?”

Lana is quiet.

“I don’t know. I don’t know who he is to me anymore.”

“What does that mean?”

“We’ve spent so much time being invisible to each other, I don’t know if we could ever really see each other again. Does that make sense? When I was with Dean, I didn’t want to see Reese. Even when he was across the dinner table from me. So I made him invisible any way I could. I made myself angry at him, I made him undesirable, I made him cruel.”

“And how did he make you invisible?”

“He didn’t have to work very hard. He is hardly ever home. His job is all he cares about. I bet he wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t come back one night.”

“Do you really think that’s true?”

“Sometimes.”

The room grows warm in the ensuing hush. The women can feel the weight of the words that have been spoken.

“I feel like I am making myself invisible too. Like, without Dean, without this need that I have defined myself by for so long, I won’t know who I am. And I am afraid I will just disappear.”

Swan Song

I am dry.
Used up, spent and empty.
These words flow sharply,
In an unnatural staccato,
Impeded by pain and blinded by fatigue,
It seems there is no more to say.
Where once there were silken alliterations and gilded symbolism
Alive and verbose, there is silence.
Dusty, dark, and damning.
Used up, spent and empty.
I am dry.

 

Dream: Part Nine

Gripping the edge of the sink, she imagines the look in his eyes as he told her to go, that he doesn’t have time for this right now.  How he turned away before she even finished telling him that she wasn’t sure she could do this.  There was no discussion, they both knew she would do whatever he asked her to.

            “I hate you.”

            She takes a deep breath.

            “I seriously, fucking, hate you.”

            Lana looks back to her reflection in the mirror, the tired eyes and worried lips, unsure for a moment if this is directed at Dean or herself.  She decides it doesn’t matter.

            “You treat me like absolute shit.  Do you give a thought to me once I walk out the door?”

            Her grip on the counter has tightened, knuckles turning white as her voice rises.

            “There is never any time to talk, never any room for just the smallest hint of intimacy.  But you expect me to come crawling to you every time you want to touch me, every time you need something from me.”

            She angrily brushes a tear away with the palm of her hand.

            “Once you’re done with me, you can put me away, take a break, I’m not wanted anymore until you feel like using me again.  Do you have any idea how it makes me feel to come when you call, let you do whatever you want, and then to have to listen to you say that you don’t want to see me again for awhile.  I mean nothing to you.”

            Her breath is ragged, the words hurt her chest as they force their way from her lips. She is almost screaming.   

            “I will not exist for you.  I have had enough.  I can’t do this anymore.”

            She slides to the floor.  Her hands are shaking.  Lana lashes out, screaming, kicking the tub and slamming her hand against the wall.  

            She hears her cell ringing from the bedroom, most likely Reese calling to say he’s staying late at the station.  He is always late.  She is always alone.  This house is always dark and empty.

            She closes her eyes and listens to the shrill cry of the phone, lying in her purse surrounded by the bags of Dream Dean made her take.  

            “I hate you.”

Dream: Part Seven

It is dark when he pulls into the driveway.  He sits there, flipping through the case file, going over the photos of runners, thinking that somehow he can trace backwards to the source.  It is a moment before he realizes that there are no lights on in the house, which worries him.  Lana should have been back by now. 

            When he enters the kitchen he can hear the shower running from down the hall.  He glances at the clock.  10:30.  No wonder.  He hopes she didn’t wait on him for dinner.  He knows it disappoints her when he doesn’t show up for meals, something she takes time with, pours her soul into.  She takes care when planning menus, choosing ingredients.  Checking his phone for missed calls, he walks down the hall to her. 

            As he reaches for the bedroom light switch, he hears her.  It is a soft sound, but harsh to his ears, and almost indiscernible under the running water.  She is crying. 

            “Lana? Honey, are you alright?”

            He listens at the door for a moment, until the water is shut off and he hears her moving through her evening routine.  Moisturizing, brushing teeth, fighting to regain youth, all in silence.  Reese stretches, pulling off his shirt and throwing it into the corner.  He flops down onto the bed and rolls over, waiting for her.  His mind wanders back to the briefing room, back to the Dream.  How is it getting into the city and who is moving it.  He is missing something. 

            She has slipped in next to him, and he feels her eyes on him. 

            “Have you ever set out, intending to do one thing, but then do something else entirely?” he can hear the hesitation in her voice, “Something, maybe, you wish you hadn’t?”

            She feels tense, stiff, lying so close to him but somehow so far away.  He has let her down again.

            “I’m sorry I missed dinner.  There is just a lot going on.  You can call the station you know, have them page me if you can’t reach me on my cell.  If you need me…”

            There is more silence.

            “I didn’t want to bother you.  We can do dinner tomorrow.”

            As she rolls over to face the wall, she sounds farther away than before.

Hesitation

It never seems to matter
how many times I say goodbye to you,
I am through, I am a fool to stay:
I have yet to let these words
leave my lips.
I hold them back as if they are a precious commodity.
To be traded and used
only when there is no other option.
And for now, I can be satisfied
with being less.
There is always tomorrow, so rich
with the promise of more.
Maybe I will tell you then.