SHE STILL DREAMS OF HIM

She still dreams of him.

Of strong arms lowering her onto a table or pinning her up against the wall, his body looming over hers and exuding a dizzying maleness. She struggles deliciously against him, shivers at his hot breath in her ear. But before anything else can happen, she wakes up.

The logical side of her mind knows that he is gone. He is buried. He is dead. Yet she cannot erase the tattoo of sensation on her body, and a part of her is glad to have some piece of him still. She dreads the passing days, the minutes, the approaching seven-year mark when every single cell in her body has been replaced and his touch no longer remains.

A small, dark corner of her heart is fascinated by the prospect.

In her dreams, in that delicious moment of terror before she awakens, she is partially relieved that finally—finally!—she will have an excuse to go mad, to suffer, to sink into the numbing depths of depression. She experiences a guilty moment of pleasure at the thought that she can stop trying to be happy all the time, because it is something she is not very good at anyway. And how she hates to be bad at things.

That is why she has so few hobbies. Anything she picks up is eventually discarded when she discovers that she had no natural talent or skill, and that to be good would require work, work, and more work. She cannot understand the people who have the patience to keep trying when their first attempts are so dismal, so utterly depressing. Even though she realises that striving for perfection is impeding her from truly experiencing anything, she cannot change her standards.

Her standards have always been high; not only for herself but also for any potential partners. That is why she is lying here alone in bed, thinking about her odd dreams, her only companions two world-weary teddy bears. She is 32, and single. Her friends are all in relationships, engaged, married. Some even have kids. The thought of such commitment frightens her senseless because she knows that she will never find another man who, after days or weeks or years, will remain a mystery. All of her relationships have ended abruptly because of that growing complacency, the tedium of coupled life, how boring and predictable it becomes.

He was the only one who broke that tedium, and he is gone.

She rolls over to her side, curls into a protective ball. She is good at being depressed. Sometimes she thinks it is the only thing she is good at, and the thought depresses her further, an oddly satisfying circle of despair. She resigns herself to living alone the rest of her life, spending her time in bed, dreaming about happier things.

Eventually, she summons the effort to get out of bed and trudge to the bathroom. The shower makes her slightly more alive. She picks out flattering, feminine clothes, then discards them in favour of jeans and a t-shirt. Then she puts the dress back on. Indecision paralyses her until she chooses the jeans. As she slips the clothes on, the blanket of depression crumbles onto her bed to wait for her return.

She applies her makeup carefully, her lips parted as she stares at the dull-eyed girl in the mirror. The white eye shadow brightens her face, makes her look younger, cheerful. She smiles, tense, strained, but the girl in the mirror looks convinced.

* * *

Hours later, she shudders in bed, cold. Someone has left the heating off, so she takes the blanket and wraps it around her shoulders, huddling safely under its numbing swathe. The sorrow seeps back under her skin insistently and she welcomes the feeling with quiet relief: this is something she’s good at, the only thing she’s good at.

If only she had a reason, an excuse, she’d gladly disappear into her bed forever.

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