It was the night after he had gotten too drunk and dreamt that she said "I'm in love with you" in the old mall food court while carrying a Styrofoam plate full of cheap Chinese. He then recalled seeing his own expression as if the dream was a film reel with static undertones. Jonathan smiled largely, his eyes going wide; the act of his heart instantly sinking, visible even to the the naked eye as both showed their teeth and sat down for further discussion.
Of course, that mall had been torn down years before and replaced with a freshly-painted building for professionals dead-set on overcharging their clients. Furthermore, Beth hated Chinese food and would not so much as crack a fortune cookie open for some kind of throwaway prediction of ambiguously-defined future events. She preferred salads full of hard to pronounce vegetables or not eating at all. Nevertheless, Jonathan couldn't help but think of the childlike expression on his face in the dream; its subtle contour throwing him off balance as if such an expected occurrence instantly cured all of his complimentary ills.
The way his face looked that night as he dressed appropriately for a prom-like theme was distilled. Jonathan was halfway between awake and asleep, stoned and of sound mind. His mouth was closed, able to smirk only when his eyes would shut and the same invading images would pound away at his insides. He was at the round table with Beth, pleased before the anticipation of sex and lazy Saturday afternoons managed to filter into the background, and yet even the well-defined version of Jonathan in widescreen was still fearful of waking up and realizing it had all passed by.
He cracked his neck, straightened the white checkered tie, downed the four remaining shots in the fifth of generic rum, before locking the only exit to his apartment and lighting his first real cigarette of the night. The sidewalks were starting to clump with lines of trashy elementary education majors wearing tight, form-fitting outfits purchased out of spite for their mothers. Mumbling cavemen with crucifix key chains stood behind them, sharing the functions of new technology with their fellow fire-seekers.
Jonathan passed them all by, leaving a trail of smoke behind him as questions of substance and genre filled his descending brain. He had checked the webpage of guests who had bothered to RSVP, a standard sense of fear and intrigue washing over Jonathan; swinging barroom doors soon changing into cluttered front porches as the make-up of the town shifted with each step. He felt sorry for and envious of the shut-ins with their lights off and blinds closed, knowing that his lack of will power to shun an invitation was as much of a plague on Jonathan's well-being as the dream. He had no control over all of his eternal struggles, such a habitual standard to pick themes and types of beer, weighing down on Jonathan as he entered the scene without knocking and started to search for her.
Beth was hula-hooping in the backyard, swaying her hips back and forth to poorly chosen reggae as a parade of guests lounged in their formal wear. The majority of the men were enthralled with her circular motions; the lime green dress flowing in a pattern that even the fabric was taken aback by. Jonathan found his limbs frozen stiff at the sight, Beth's grin like his from the dream: full and involved. He wondered if she was actually happy or just fucked up, before the hoop fell and subdued cheers filled the air. She laughed with her chest, picking up the half-full blue plastic cup from the ground and placing herself back into the mix.
Jonathan was the first to offer her a cigarette; Beth obliging him with the open spot next to her on the poorly-crafted picnic bench. Both sparked the white stick blowing their breaths towards the wind before she shot up with the vitality of a recently-hatched bluebird.
"So I almost forgot... I had this dream about you last night, Jonathan." She said, enthusiastically.
He couldn't fashion a reply until his next puff. The lingering joy of possibilities was crippling.