Since that peculiar evening with Jane during the weekend, there's been a noticeable sense of difference detected between me and her. Though it was an odd occasion for us to show genuine emotions, even in regards to considering the personal well being of one another, I can't help but feel that since then, there's a tension that's keeping us at bay from pursuing on with our lives as normal. Not only that, but that barrier being wedged between our ability to communicate is growing thicker and thicker. I can't re-call a single instance where I heard her voice at all this week. There's this silence that we're comfortable with in each others presence, where one or both individuals is engaged in work or an activity that's helping them be relieved of some form of stress or conflicting emotions. We understand that need for space and we respect it. This silence right now is nothing like that. It's been going on too long.
As I stop at my locker, after having walked all the way to school with her, I notice her just continue walking on towards class. Usually, she'd wait up. Usually she'd talk. What's happened between us? Did I say something wrong? Did I DO something?
"Good morning, Daria" coos a sweet voice.
"Oh, hi Jodie" I greet, sorting through my text books.
"I'm handing out a form right now for fellow students. It's nothing big, just feedback about our current facilities in the school and how you rate each class's quality out of 10"
"By the grade-A quality of facilities, are you talking about the apparent crater in the gym that's turning into a soul-consuming chasm, or the ceiling tiles hanging in the lunch room that are waiting to drop fatally onto the next victim?" I offer nonchalantly.
She's used to this by now, twisting her face slightly and shaking her head. If we were both telepathic, my skull would be inflating with her 'tsks'. At least she gets what I'm saying unlike some air-heads around here. She hands me a form.
"I hope you find the time to fill this out today" she says with tired optimism.
"Thanks. Hey, where's Jane? I want to give her one too"
"You'll have to go on a Lane expedition, possibly have to hunt her out of the decaying walls of this place"
"Please don't tell me you guys had a fight"
I shut the door to my locker and walk with her. "Our connection has been dead for days. I don't understand what I could've said or done. But, no. There was no fight between us"
"That's a relief" she smiles, brushing from her shoulder some of the apparently falling pieces of plaster from the ceiling. "You're right, Daria. This place is crumbling like a cookie. Who am I kidding with these damn forms?"
"We even had a big talk before this all happened. I said before how she has this aura of confidence that I admire. Something seems to be interfering with it now. Like it's become tainted or shaken by something"
"What was it you talked about?"
"It's kinda personal, but the skinny is that she's found a new inspiration for her art. She's taking inspiration from her dreams, recording them and using them as a basis for her work"
Her face lights up in wonder "Hey, that could be really cool"
"Yeah, not a bad idea. The only problem is that through this, I think she's starting to come to terms with some unconscious messages. Some really early pieces in the study are awesome. Probably a result of her brain overflowing with information. Of course a lot of them a very depraved and violent, but the most recent ones seem to be hanging on a more personal, emotional thread and I think somethings snagged at that and made her the way she is now with me"
"My guess is that through her art, as she's described it to me at some point like meditating, she's managed to still the noise in her mind. She could be figuring out something about herself. You may just need to give her time"
I give out a long sigh. I hope I don't start talking to myself again, like when Jane took up running.
It's hard to focus, when I can feel the stares of Miss Defoe and Daria burrowing into my back. I've already made my point I'm trying to zone out by putting on my headphones. It's a pain when people try to engage in conversation and pester me. Once I get into the mood and flow of my art, it feels like meditation. You're in a void and you're the creator, bringing something raw and enlightening into existence. Maybe it makes people think, maybe it makes people gag. It exists for a reason. You can't argue with that.
Today's work is spontaneous, which is nice, just so we have something to show at the end of the lesson. I promised the teacher to show a sample of my work and the ideas I've been working on. Eventually, the pairs of eyes get the drift and have enough consideration not to bug me. Daria is beside me, also with an easel, painting. Her movements are restricted, but soft, confident and care-free. Me, I feel like a corpse going into the stages of rigor mortis. This is the worst. Not artists block. I growl quietly to myself and put down my brushes. They won't do it. Right now I'm working on a stormy sky. I hate simple stuff like that, but hey, it's called layering. I'm gonna keep building on it. I figure I'll use my fingers. My nails. Something to scratch.
Everyone has the intention to make their artwork as pretty as possible in this room, but no way is that my agenda. My art right now is about expression. In particular, my dreams. And in no way, have those been either pleasant or pretty.
What's that saying? Mr Nietzsche? That when you gaze long enough into the abyss, that the abyss will stare into you? This is certainly no abyss. It's an enormous, dense, black fog, the stench of gasoline wafting through it. If I squint, I can make out squiggly, almost non-existent threads in it, of red and green. That damn significance. I know what it represents by now. I walk through it, no sight of the surface I'm walking on. I'm blind. It's a guess. I could trip or fall any moment.
The fog washes out in force into my face, as there is an impending revelation before me. What appears to be an eye, the sclera a wet, irritated red and the iris a blunt blue. It blinks at me, the spherical monstrosity, and further detected movement beneath me startle me, like something is slithering at my feet, like lizards or snakes. The pupil shrinks, and it floats upward. I don't know what it wants, but I no longer wanna put up with the chilling anticipation of what this thing could do to me. I turn and run. I hear a crack, like that of a whip, and a suction, drawing me back. The fog clears and reveals empty blackness. I look behind me, still running and see the hypnotic clouds of fog disappear into a infinite seeming tunnel, the eye resuming its hard stare at me.
IT'S JUST A DREAM.
My fists feel like concrete and my chest a rush, filled with adrenaline. I turn with a smirk and allow for the creature to reel me into the tunnel. Something I love about these Lucid dreams: You can do anything. Suddenly, I'm strapped with some form of black body armor and out of nowhere, I draw out a katana. So awesome. Again, the pupil of that creep shrinks and my blade pierces right through it. A bulls-eye. The entirety of the tunnel dissipates from existence and I'm left with the eye, limp on the ground, like a beached jellyfish. For sheer amusement, I poke it with the katana. What's next?
What? That voice...
Out from the slime stands a girl with long, chestnut hair. Brushing off her skirt and kicking the fragments of jelly from her boots, she cleans the lenses in her frames and looks to me. "Hey"
"Of course I'm not Daria. I'm a figment of your imagination. Just an animated image in your unconscious"
"Well, yeah I gathered" I say dully, not amused by her matter-of-fact statement.
"Why've you been running away from me?"
"Because, I can't bare the inevitable"
"I can't stand the idea of telling you my feelings. I'd think I'd just drive us apart"
"I didn't ask to feel like this, Daria! I'm not happy with this situation at all. It sucks! I wish it would leave and I wish it would die! I was happy with you as my friend. I was happy knowing I didn't have to care so much. Why do I care now? What's the deal?" I verbally lash out. I know she's not really there, so there's no consequences with what I say.
"So, you DO love me?"
"Of course I love you! I mean..." my hands tremble with self-hatred, rage, then I sigh, my arms going limp.
"You're afraid of me knowing your feelings?"
Technically, I realize I'm just talking to myself at this point, just with Daria's voice being on the other end. I feel like I need to reside somewhere in that book she was reading on my bed the other day. Not in a strait-jacket, maybe just a padded cell, a little like her bedroom. God dammit!
"Yeah, I'm afraid!" I respond, spitefully. Daria steps over to me.
"Jane, the worst that could happen is me saying 'I don't feel the same way'. I don't have any disdain for gay people, so we can still have a chance of being friends"
"I'M NOT GAY!" I shout.
"Miss Lane?" calls Miss Defoe, gently shaking my shoulder.
I jump, startled by the contact. I then realize everybody's staring at me. I turn and look at my work. It looks a little like the logo for Sick Sad World, at least the swirl of clouds does. A white figure, me, is stabbing through the giant eye, limp on the ground. There's scratches of red paint, almost to resemble blood, made everywhere on the picture, like I was half attempting to destroy it. My heart is still leaping in my throat. I zoned out too much.
"Are you alright, Miss Lane?" she asks, her mood in tone indicting wanting to usher me away somewhere to talk. I don't wanna talk. To anybody. I feel myself shaking a little from the adrenaline in my dream recollection. I walk out the room. I hear Daria calling out for me before I close the door behind me.
As the paint temporarily bleeds into the hot water, getting washed off, the moment gives me time to recollect myself. Perhaps I HAVE made this too personal. Damn Daria and her logic. Where did these thoughts and feelings even come from? None of this occurred to me at all before this stupid experiment. I'd brought the clutter in my brain to a stand still and now all I can hear are these questions. "Does Daria feel the same?", "Could we have a chance?", "Would I be pushing her away?" SHUT UP! There's been no clear indication until now that I had feelings for her. Was I just stupid or blind?
"Oh hi Jane!"
I cringe in response to the squeaky projection of idiocy coming from behind me.
"Brittany" I acknowledge, with a small grunt.
"Your painting looks good... although... It's a little scary"
"Yeah, yeah... as is the case with almost all my paintings" I shrug, drying my hands.
"No, I mean when you were in there just now. Usually, you look pretty... I dunno... happy with what you're doing. You seem confident-"
"Confident and pretty chilled. But, just a while ago, you were trembling, indecisive with your actions, you even started scratching your canvas pretty wildly"
"Great, as if I didn't have enough positive attributes to my reputation already. Now I'm a nutcase. That's a tasteful one to add to the list"
"So..." she continued, twirling her hair. "I just wanted to see if you were oka-"
"Yeah. Feeling better already, now that I've talked it out to you" I say hurriedly, in an efforts to get this personified, static joy bundle away from me.
"Well, no problem!" she emits, her cheer as bright as a neon light.
"Okay. Go back to the room. I'll be there in a sec"
She nods and prances out the bathroom. I roll my eyes and just when I think the worst is over...
"Hey, Drama queen"
"Last time I checked, you weren't committed. So you may have failed in your attempts in outsider art with your creative establishing of impasto" Daria commented dully.
"Jane, it's been nearly a week. Why won't you talk to me?"
"I haven't been... feeling right"
"It's the experiment, isn't it? Maybe you should give it a break"
"I have. But I keep having these dreams. They won't go away"
"Well, lessons are almost over. Shall we discuss it over pizza? I'm buying"
"I dunno" I mutter, reluctant.
I can't resist it. I can't avoid her forever. That would just drive her away completely and I can't bare the thought of that.
"Not in the mood for pizza. But, you can come over to my place and we can order later"
From what I felt, things were going better than expected. I figured whatever Jane wasn't telling me, it was really eating away at her. I'd hate to think for whatever reason I couldn't help her. Unlike what Jodie said before, I don't think this silence is a want for an expansion of personal space, it's almost like a cry for help, and thankfully, my interpretation may very well be correct. Hearing the jingling of Jane's keys and opening the front door, I've always felt comforted coming here. Oddly enough, it's as if I have a second home, when I know that's far from the truth.
Heading into the room, she throws her bag on the floor and sits on the bed, switching on the TV for audio accompaniment.
"You err... don't mind if I look at your paintings, do you?" I ask, seeing the collection of canvases stored at the side by her easel.
"Sure" she allows, dismissive in her voice. It's hard to tell if it's genuine lack of care, or a facade, a mask of her true emotions. I guess I'll find out soon. The pictures range from an A5-A1 size. The smaller ones have less detail, but still deliver information in-explicitly. Black, green and reds. One of them is pure scratches across a solid black background, like a whirlwind, with two white dots in the low center. Seriously, after what she displayed today, it's easy to tell that the scratching is kind of a statement of frustration and anger. There's a sting in my chest understanding that now. From what I'm picking up, according to the resemblance with the colours; obviously green being for myself and red for Jane, all of these paintings from her Lucid Dreams are about us. I hold up the small, scratched one to her.
"So the re-enactment of the crazy cat lady today wasn't the first time?" I suggest, cockily.
"Eh, I think there's a crazy cat lady in us all, wants to lash out and eat tinned tuna and crab meat once in a while"
It's nice to be like this again. It seems like forever since I've just sat here with her and had the pleasure to hear her voice.
"Brittany was right though, even painting, you weren't acting like yourself"
"You heard from Brittany?" she queried, tilting her head to me.
"Jane, I can hear her chew toy vocals from miles away"
"Even then, I didn't have to hear from her. You're worrying me"
"WORRYING you? Oh my, I think there's been a breakthrough on your connection with regular human emotions"
I've missed her snarky attitude and her aura. I can't let it distract me though. I put down the painting and sit with her on the bed.
"Speak for yourself. If it weren't for your display in Art class, I'd have thought your emotions had been completely withdrawn from your system"
She looks to me, sternly "Well I can tell you, my emotions are functioning pretty okee dokee right now"
"Maybe so, but they're being ignited so easily. You seem on edge"
"God, Daria. Can I not experience some sense of humanity without you judging me?" she bites. This is pissing me off.
"I'm not judging you Jane, I want to know what's bothering you. Ever since you showed me that painting, I've been feeling a distance between us. Did I say something I shouldn't have? Did I do anything?"
"No you didn't!"
"Then why have you been avoiding me? It gives me the idea that I've hurt you and you know that's the last thing I'd ever want to do"
Her tone abruptly softens. Her fierce front has been knocked down. "I... I know"
Jane looks away, a dim mood printed on her face. She hugs her knees, staring at the screen.
"I just want you to understand that... everything is so loud right now. I guess after silencing my head, whats left to actually listen to is amplified. It's all that there is and all I can think about. I want it to leave and I try to distract myself to cluster my head up again to drown it out, but now I know it's there... I can't ignore it"
I listen closely. She's not crying, but her voice is croaky, quiet. I reach to rub her back soothingly and she offers me a tiny, pained smile. Her eyes are just orb cages to a misery festering deep within her.
"Tell me when you're ready... whatever it is, even if you think it's insignificant or not worth my while, you're my friend and I'm listening" I say calmly.
She nods and turns her head away and back to the screen. Both our visions fixate on the box with flickering colours and noises. I think maybe without directly looking at each other, it'll make things easier for her to say. Maybe that's what she's thinking.
"...I love you"
End of Part 2