i had a dream about you
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Colonel by Secondary School
I had a dream about you last night.
It was warm.
I’ve never been warm before — hands cold since birth, blue like my nail polish, always curled into fists like I’m ready to fight or to cry, which are really the same thing, aren’t they? I’ve been endothermic my whole life, trying to take and take and take and never getting enough. Never being enough. You have nothing for me to take and I am always giving away.
Let me tell you about the dream where we’re playing basketball behind the school. There’s skinned knees and scraped elbows, an overturned skateboard with its wheels still spinning, a pair of shoes thrown over the live wires, dangling by the laces. I don’t make a single shot but I win anyway. You’re laughing and I’m laughing and your glasses are crooked, lenses rounder than the amber eyes they hide. There’s a road wreathed in gold behind us, a rain of leaves decorating the car.
I don’t know how to play basketball, and my shoes are slipping off the wire.
Let me tell you about the dream where we’re sitting on the hill and everything is just a little bit tilted. It’s familiar but wrong, like someone took a photo of that first date and mirrored it. Our scars are on the wrong cheeks, shoes on the wrong feet, kisses on the wrong mouths. You talk to me and I sit there like a doll. You say you’re jealous, all sour-lemon eyes, and I pretend I can’t hear you. You say you’re jealous and I’m ripping out the grass. Bald spot, brown earth, worms curling through the dirt like I caught them changing at the pool. They’re naked, but they’re always naked, aren’t they? Worms don’t wear clothes and you don’t wear anger. Not well, anyway. Anger hangs off your face like a porn star moustache, caricatured and campy, made somehow more believable by its exaggeration.
You are two different people, but we don’t talk about that. You and I always made it work until it didn’t. Show me amber eyes and I’ll show you a honeyed heart. Let them sour and I’ll sour with you, heart shrivelling into a fist. I could be whoever you wanted me to be, switch my hearts out with every face you made. You have two faces and I have two hearts; we don’t really have a leg to stand on. Two faces, two hearts, no legs. Ha.
You never thought I was funny, but you use a Dvorak keyboard, so you don’t exactly have good judgment, do you?
Let me tell you one more. We’re in a Build-A-Bear Workshop. There are no screaming children, no overenthusiastic sales associates, which is how you know it’s a dream. You’re doing that little smile you do, the one that makes your eyes crinkle like a sad elephant, which I know you would hate but it’s true. You whisper something about not letting people see.
You hug me.
This piece was previously published in Tealight Press in November 2020.
This piece has a raw grasp on emotional vulnerability that is rarely seen. From the layout that is unafraid to vary visually, with the contrast between single lines spaced out and paragraphs of text, to the shift between the physical world and the narrator’s recollection of their dream, there is an element of surrealness present in this submission. If we take this one step further, this theme is clear from the title, since it is entirely possible (likely, even), that the narrator is not communicating the message expressed in this piece to the person it is about at all. After all, in the narrator’s emotionally charged panorama, who are we to decide what is real and what is not?
Joyce Liu is a teenage poet from Ottawa, Canada. When she's not writing she can be found taking long walks in the woods and watching Formula 1 races. More of her work can be found in released and upcoming issues of perhappened, FEED, and All Guts No Glory.
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