When Cho dreams, it's not about love: no weddings, rings, bells or cherubs.

If there's lace, it's the lace at the edge of reason (in creamy pink) where things go fuzzy and edges wear away. Sort of like when you faint, and there's those sparkles in your mind's eye -- all those colors together, like cream in soup, and you swirl until you've drowned. Drowned, which is like kissing someone for the first time: always somewhere else to go, a different hill to shimmy up. Chlorine doesn't always smell the same. Satin can be harsh. And if you've been, you've seen: sometimes there's a heart or two cut into the fabric there, at the edge of the reason. Sometimes there's the dream of champagne on someone else's tongue. And always, dizziness.

Dizzy up in heels, like an inner ear problem.

Still --

When Cho has the time and she feels gifted, it's the best it can be: pearls before swine. Irony tastes like this -- like purple, she thinks, grape purple. Both swine are intellectual idealists, and one of them might as well have never existed. She can't remember what it's like to have him near anymore, and fighting over those pearls couldn't be worth that little.

Around her neck now, they only burn the fragile skin; and underneath she's still smarting with love marks, as if she's just been bitten within an inch of her life, bitten forever.

When Cho dreams it's in symbols, Freudian and balanced, and when she wakes it's almost like getting caught at something wrong -- not bad, not evil, but wrong all the same. In powder sweet kisses, mint-chocolate dark, even the nightmares seem delectable. She wants to play in her own fear. And it's a habit, probably -- her fate. She's always in love with a corpse.

Funny.

So when she closes her eyes at night, it's not to see images of a boy waiting for her at the altar. In dream land, when she glances down at herself, there is no white to be seen.

She's naked. She's not hoping for anything else.

-

When Cho opens her eyes, it's December.

Her hands are lost in their white mittens.

When she looks up, it's to a flash of dark but perfect red; underneath is a face she only half-recognises, someone she almost knows. Stranger ghost. The sort of man who'd be browsing for books, or glancing shyly into the distance over bookish frames. She imagines him in an office somewhere, being contrite. And he doesn't drink coffee. Only tea.

They talk about nothing in particular. He mentions her seeking, back in school, and then asks what she's been up to since then.

-

Deeper into the dream.

Analyse the sentence.

Deeper. Sexual, emotional. In all cases, yearning. As a child it was all about deeper: deeper into the fairy tales, deeper into a growing mind, deeper into the dirt, deeper, dig to China. Growing up it was a quest to find a way out of the hole; how to unlearn selfishness, how to unrequire independence, and wrap those lessons so tight in the sinew of beautiful boys. That undesire grew up, too: only months ago, "deeper" mated with coincidence and gave birth. It came out wet and hot, a mumble between her lips, and moments later she realised she'd been crying the entire time.

Into. Disappearing. Obscured by. The dream of men everywhere is to go into, get into. But Cho had the same yearning from the time she began growing older, from her first bleed: to fold into her own flesh and wander away forever. The potential is always sweeter than the finished product, see. And she wishes she could have stayed sixteen her entire life: heartbroken, coltish, with who knew what ahead of her. But now, three years later, the only thing she's disappeared into is silence and sometimes freckled skin.

The. If.

Dream. Tastes like blood or Irish creme, and Cho's are full of objects like keys and boxes and questionable colors, white and yellow and brown, the number three, wild animals. When she dreams of his skin it's white as paper; as she touches it, it ripples under her fingers. Then they kiss, she falls asleep behind his teeth, and he makes her dream within the dream.

-

Here is the standard line: "I really like you."

Recalls: schoolgirl days, secret crushes, short tartan skirts.

But when she says it, he doesn't blush or look sheepish... at least not at first. At first he just looks at her over his book -- looks, looks, rhymes with books and crooks, crooks -- and then settles more firmly into the loveseat.

So she repeats it.

"I really, really like you." Has he heard this before?

To remedy it,

"I," drops like lemon, stings his eyelids with a forceful kiss. "Singular pronoun, metaphysics, the ego."

Strawberry gloss.

They fumble at eachother's clothing and her fingers get tangled in plastic buttons; but as always literature proves more interesting than bones and callouses. Cho ends with her head on his shoulder, squinting her eyes at the oversized paragraphs, and then begins reading aloud in sing-song accent.

-

"really", Cho cries

1 in reality; actually
2 genuinely or truly
3 indeed
4 (used to express surprise, exasperation, etc.)

He whispers into the shell of her ear, calming her. Surprises are a box full of photographs and new poppy red lipstick.

Pours juice in the mornings. Forces her to eat, forces the spoon into her mouth.

This is all
deep in sky blue sheets, light reflecting in a pool, innocent tongues. He presses that wetness along the pulse in her throat, and Cho's sigh grows ragged. When their conversation turns to more pressing needs, sometimes she has to turn and look at the wall; something in the whiteness there makes her feel pure.

He offers to talk to her about anything in the world. He wants to know everything, everything she knows. And Cho agrees, that would be best, but there's no translation for the void where a soul used to be... nevermind in seven pieces. Such things can't be replaced with kisses and academic prowess -- at least, not all the time.

The definition for "like", which forces its way out with the sobbing?

3 to wish or prefer

And she wishes for some difference, some dissonance; she has to make sure this is real. But in the end the preference is for rapid eye movements, the sleepy twists, turns and reachings of a body in love. Swallowing pearls in his much-larger hands.

-

Sometimes she feels herself growing wet at the sound of doors opening or closing, and especially at particularly mysterious creakings -- as if they could have a human weight behind them, muscle and tendons. As if presently one will open the door and smother her with a pillow, or perhaps only his (mundane, ho-hum) desire. No, she's in exquisite danger, like a heroine, danger that can only be warded away with equal hope. You have to want it. You have to wish for death. As the house settles she imagines the noises as having sharp, aquiline profiles, hiding their lust under a fringe of crimson hair.

Elusive creature.

It comes and goes as it pleases. There are moments she can't bring herself to want anyone, and moments later new moments to replace them, furious in their loneliness. See, as swine, it doesn't feel so shameful to writhe in someone else's hands; it even feels right. She can mewl like a virgin, having every impulse laid out and defined, and her body pinned like a butterfly under his sparrow's weight.

In a dream his ribs grow out like awning and shield her from the cold; when the blizzard ends, she crawls out of his body like a newborn, slick with tears.

Scientifically proven.

-

It's not about love: no weddings, bells, rings or cherubs.

"You," he mumbles, and then she's awake.