Dawn threatened to break. The early morning peace was fragmented by the melodic chirping of some invisible bird. He could feel the crisp, cool air against his skin through the cracked open window. In the seat to his left, the girl was still asleep. Her chest rose and fell to the calm rhythm of her breathing. Deep in slumber, she was unconscious of her own existence; of the automatic persistence of her body, and the serene, vital energy that emanated with each breath. From time to time her eyelids seemed to quiver almost imperceptibly, and her lashes would flutter lightly, as if she were on the verge of awakening. Every movement filled him with anticipation and drove him to the brink of his heart. He waited for slumber to release her.
When he turned back to look at her, he was surprised to find her already awake, and observing him with a steadfast gaze. In subtle ways like this, she was always evading him. Every time he blinked, or glanced away, it seemed as if some small, but essential part of her was slipping through his fingers. " You elude me", he murmured, a slight smile playing at the corners of his lips. The girl sighed heavily, as if in defeat, although it was really him who should be feeling defeat.
"I want to go home. I should be home," the girl said softly. Her voice was still subdued by the heaviness of sleep.
"You are home", he said quietly, not wanting to break the hushed interior of their insular world. The girl looked around her, and recognition flickered in her eyes. They were parked just around the corner of her house. She turned back to look at him, frowning in confusion. "What happened?"
"You feel asleep on the drive home. I couldn't bear to wake you". He became afraid that his impractical explanation would offend her, but she just closed her eyes for a moment and smiled.
"You couldn't bear to let me go you mean". The lightening sky cast an ethereal glow on her face, making her skin seem almost unearthly.
"I should go before my parents notice I'm gone," she said. She turned to face him entirely, but made no move to leave.
"Of course," he said, "I've held you captive long enough".
she gazed at him unblinkingly, and said gravely, "You can't keep me you know".
He had become accustomed to these moments when she confronted him with a deep sense of conviction, and urgency; when she expressed herself in matter-of-fact statements that exacerbated her mystery. Always, there was a glimmer of desperation in her eyes, as if she wanted to make him understand. But she wasn't the sort to elaborate, so he had to ask what she meant.
She hesitated and bit her lip. Her uncertainty always made him feel helpless. He knew she felt imperiled - caught between the safety of silence and the need to be understood. "I don't feel real," she said, "No one can have me because half the time I'm not real, like smoke dissipating within the physical frame of my body. I'm caught behind the obscurity of my own haze...it's no good you trying to keep me, or get closer to me. I couldn't get closer to you even if I wanted to."
He didn't know what to say. He feared moments like this when his skill of persuasion failed him. The girl seemed to know this because she wasn't looking at him expectantly. Finally he said: "It's as if you fill the crevices of my existence with some ungraspable force, as if you permeate my emptiness with yours'. Only it isn't really emptiness that you evoke. You're more like a weightless, forgotten creature that I ardently seek to excavate. Sometimes you fill me with my childhood desperation, when yearning was beautiful... You know, when I was little I wanted to be a cloud collector. I thought it was a simple matter of climbing the highest mountains and reaching up to pluck the tufts of clouds, all kinds of clouds - storm clouds, dawn-tinted clouds, clouds that looked like sheep's wool..."
The girl looked at him intently. "You agree with me then? It's no good trying to be with me. I'd only infuriate you without meaning to, and it would be an endless frustration without catharsis, a false promise."
"You don't understand," he said, "it's the impossibility of you that transfixes me. Your transcendence compels me. Perhaps you will forever be beyond my reach, but I'm like you, helplessly caught in the dreamworld".