I dream about Jennifer.
On the days I sleep deeply enough to dream, I do.
I dream about Jennifer.
I guess that might sound insane -which is fine, since, like, I am- because it's been five years since I stabbed her to death, but she was my best friend, my biff, and sandbox love never dies.
Last night I dreamed that she and I were at a house together. We were sitting on a couch. It was my place. As in: my own house. I was married. I know because I was wearing a ring and I kept looking at it thinking 'where did you come from?' followed by other completely cracked things like 'who picked you out?' and 'did you come from Chip?' Those were utterly irrelevant things to think about in a dream, but isn't that what all dreams are like? Irrelevant bits of detail surrounded by incomprehensible chunks of surrealism? My dreams are that way all the time.
"Do you think it'll be a boy or a girl? You totally have to have a girl so you can name her after me. I don't mean like Jennifer exactly, but maybe Jenni with two N's and an I?"
I woke up with a smile on my face and the taste of laughter in my mouth because I was arguing with her about how if I had a boy, I'd have to name him Nifer since there was no way she'd ever let me live it down if I didn't name my kid after her for no better reason than that I had a boy. Jennifer was vain enough to think things like gender-appropriate nomenclature was irrelevant in comparison to me immortalizing her through my kid.
The dreams never scare me. Even when they're about the thing she became. The demon. Jennifer was my everything for so long, for the best part of my life, the growing up part, and I can't say that I'd take back a single memory I made with her if I was given the chance to go back and undo it all, every bit. I don't hate the choices I've made even on days when I wake up alone on a cot in a shelter where everyone calls me by some other name and all I really want to do is hug my Ford-tough mama again.
Honestly, the majority of my dreams are about Jennifer.
I don't remember the demon that wore her skin like a stolen prom dress.
I only remember Jennifer Check, captain of the flag team, prettiest girl in school, Snowflake Queen, and the only person who has ever loved me for my whole, flawed self.
Oh, right. She did love me. Even the demon could remember that. It came to me first after its twisted rebirth. It walked in Jennifer's shoes on Jennifer's feet right up to my door and then it couldn't use Jennifer's teeth on me even though it was starving, wasting, already dying and on its way back to the same Hell it had been crawled out of and yeah, fuck that, Jennifer loved me. I'm completely cracked now, but I'm sane enough to know the facts as they stand.
There are days when I don't.
Dream, I mean.
Whole weeks have passed by where it's nothing more than a blur of miles. I hitchhike mostly since almost anyone will pick up a girl like me on the side of the road. I used to hate the way I looked. I wanted Jennifer's dark hair, her exotic beauty. I wanted to look more wild. Now, I've learned that it pays to be a petite blonde since people take me for granted. They don't look at me and think I might be dangerous. I might have a knife. A gun. I might be a kicker as in k-i-c-k-e-r. It's a way to get around, if nothing else, and I need that; I can't stay put too long anywhere. It's not paranoia if there really are people out to get you.
The cops aren't exactly looking for me. My case was pretty shut when I slipped out of the mental institution they'd thrown me in. I know that they connected me with the Low Shoulder thing. Those deaths made more than one headline. I guess they just don't have enough manpower to really throw it in and come find me. I'm not hiding. I'm just---moving along.
Usually I can make it a few weeks without the dreams and my whatever-you-want-to-call-it will get weak and I'll find myself sleepwalking through time until I can find a place to lay down and then I'm really dreaming.
Those first dreams after a long stretch without are the worst. Not because I think it's whatever demon is left in me reaching out for the demon that it came from but because it's trying to connect me to Jennifer: the other victim in this story.
Hey. We're both victims. Don't ever forget that.
Last time I went weeks without dreams? I passed out for fourteen hours straight.
In my dreams, I walked hand-in-hand with Jennifer on the beach. We were fifteen. It was summer, right before school was starting back. Her parents had wanted to enjoy a summer break with her at their condo in Florida; Jennifer had flatly refused to go unless I came too. They had caved like a house of cards since they were as used to giving Jennifer what she wanted as I was, as all of us were in Devil's Kettle. That trip wasn't the first time I wound up tagging along on the Check Family Vacation anyway. Her parents didn't mind me since I guess they thought that I was a good influence on their daughter. I used to think it was because they figured if she was spending time with me, she wasn't out sleeping around, doing drugs, or getting pregnant. Now that I'm older, technically an adult and shit, I think they liked having me around because I made Jennifer look better. I was a visible demonstration of how superior their girl was in comparison to other, ordinary girls.
They never got that Jennifer thought I was special because I loved her and she loved me and that meant something.
Jennifer held my hand a lot. It was a thing that we never grew out of and I'm glad for it now. I woke up from the Florida dream with my palm sticky from remembered sweat, tingling from the heat of her hand in mine. That day I decided it was time to move on again and it was when I got back on the road to head here.
Now I'm in Seattle. It's still got a lot of that indie rock vibe to it that Jennifer loved.
Sure, it seems strange to think that it's been five years and I'm still dreaming about her, still loving her, still moving along content enough in my memories that I don't feel the need to settle in to make new ones with new people. But. If I start to think too hard about why I should be settled in and why I should start to put down roots again and why I should try to stop dreaming about Jennifer?
My hands start to sweat with the phantom clasp of hers and my ears ring with the sound of her laughter. I fall asleep and right back in love with her and I don't think it's the bite on my shoulder either. I think it's just---just a part of it. Who I am. Who we were together. And. I put my feet to the pavement to start down another road, counting on my looks to bum me a ride from someone who won't think I'm a completely cracked killer with demon blood pumping in her veins and yeah, I'm content enough.
I dream about Jennifer and this is how I live now.