Butterfly Dreaming
by Jennifer-Oksana

Julia's been seeing a woman out of the corner of her eye for six weeks now. At work, at the gym, on her way into her apartment. Once even when she was entering Sean's house, the house that was hers for years and is now so much not hers that she can't even begin to express how unwanted she is in Sean McNamara's home.

Any time Julia turns her head, though, the woman is not there. Or is someone else, not the almost-woman that Julia thinks she's seeing.

It's hard to know what she'd want with Julia, if she's really there. Julia is blonde and thin and a smart businesswoman and a devoted mother, but all of that is on paper. On paper, Julia is worth a damn, but she feels like pretty paper wrapped around emptiness. A paper doll or department-store mannequin who walks and talks and even fucks, but doesn't have any weight behind her actions.

If she went to therapists or life coaches, Julia might talk about how she has dreams of blowing away in the wind and how disconcerting those dreams are when placed in conjunction with the sensation of being watched by someone she can only see out of the corner of her eye.

Her mother would say that this is a symptom of emptying herself before the altar of patriarchal oppression by draining herself to be a mother instead of a career woman.

Ava would probably say that she needed to get off her ass and find something to ground herself in. Volunteer work, or a new boyfriend, or setting Sean's house on fire.

Julia doesn't really give weight to opinions not her own anymore, because between her mother and Ava, she's pretty sure the entire self-help establishment is full of shit and also? Personally out to get her.

For a while, Julia thought it was maybe Ava following her, and maybe Julia wanted it to be. The woman is tall and slender and dark-haired, but once, in a glimpse Julia got through the vents on the locker door at the gym, she saw that the woman has better tits than Ava. Ava, the anti-Sophia in terms of transsexuality: all the worst parts of a woman in the most fantastic female body that anyone could imagine.

Sophia deserved Ava's beauty; from what Liz has told Julia, Sophia Lopez was the best woman anyone could imagine, given she'd started out with a dick.

Julia doesn't know what she deserves. Her husband, her son, and Christian all think she's a bitch and a goddess; they hate her, they love her, they want to fuck her, they want to remind her she's a whore for wanting more than they can give. She made a terrible mistake once and she pays for it daily.

Julia doesn't even know if it's a mistake. It's all so fucking Afterschool Special, having illicit premarital sex once and turning up pregnant with Christian's kid instead of Sean's. How often does that fucking happen, really? Only in novels where the point is that the truth will out, blah blah blah.

Bullshit. Most of the time, the truth is nebulous and in the eye of the beholder. Julia got really unlucky, so now the men in her life treat her like a bitch-goddess they hate loving, and fuck them for it.

But she doesn't even know what she'd be without Christian and Sean, SeanandChristianandChristianandSean, running together into one perfect and perfectly awful man, even though there are definitely problems to that formulation. Julia knows better than to imagine they are one man. In fact, if they weren't so damn straight, Julia would tell them to go and be in love with each other.

After all, Matt is now their son (and that burns her, as though she wasn't involved at all), and no woman will ever be good enough for the Sean and Christian conglomerate. Porn stars, perfect mothers -- never quite good enough for the genius plastic surgeons.

Julia might blame plastic surgery, but that seems like such a victim thing to do.

Instead, she wants simpler things. Julia wants the woman who's following her to look her in the face. If her angel of death is following her again, almost Ava but not quite, then Julia wants to know.

If she's being stalked, Julia wants to know, too. She's not quite sure what she'll do, because sometimes Julia still thinks she wants to die, or at least, she's not afraid to die, but there's something about having a hovering shadow just out of reach, out of sight, but perennially in mind.

Maybe it's because Julia thinks she might turn around and see herself, the substance of herself, tied to the surface of her, dragged around resentfully. There's a smell of decay in the air, come to think of it.

Julia turns, but there's nobody there. The smell is gone.

This really shouldn't surprise Julia, but it always does. Even when she's surrounded by people, Julia feels alone, like she's been wrapped in plastic wrap and sealed away from all the dirt and reality. On bad days, Julia knows she's done the wrapping, but on other days, Julia thinks that maybe she's just imagining things.

It still bothers her that her best dream was the one where she died, where Ava was waiting for her and she was ready to go, ready to die.

So many things bother Julia, including the feeling her life is an aimless collection of incidents with no point, that she's drifting, a miserable counterpoint to Sean and his inner purpose, no matter how priggish, a symbol for Christian about how he's not good enough to be a good man.

How can she feel real and solid when the people who love her think she's an object, an avatar of their own issues and desires? Nobody sees her head-on. Nobody sees her; they see the her they create in their head.

Julia wishes that went anywhere. Nothing does, not for her. She is as she's always been -- a song sung without accompaniment, in-tune except for the flats, always somehow unfinished. Somehow unsatisfying, but not in a way where it's obvious.

The next week, the woman goes away. Julia never sees her again.

This bothers Julia even more than having her around.

For her, there is never any resolution.

Hell, there's never even conflict in the first place.

Just endless, unsatisfying this.

Whatever this is.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix