Shopping

I feel free. I think.

It feels like all sorts of things are being stripped away. And even if it smarts like a fresh scrape, and it’s a little off-putting to have just a little bit more room under my skin, I think it’s going to be good.

I think it’s going to be great.

I think freedom requires patience and patience requires courage.

I think even if I’m uncomfortable in the not-knowingness, things will unfold as they should.

I think if I drink just a little bit less coffee, my heart will pound just a little bit less.

My friend Nicki’s over, trying on dresses. Which is odd, since she’s always ragging on me about how I dress.

“I do not,” she wants me to tell you. “I like the way you dress.” She pulls a silver-laced mini-dress with a euro-trash ruffle down the back from the closet. “Most of the time.”

I bought the dress in a moment of desperation. I haven’t worn it yet. I don’t know if I ever will. I’m too short for ruffles.

I thought it might be a nice New Year’s eve dress, even though I can count on no hands the number of times I’ve been out on New Years. But, last year, I came close. Who’s to say I won’t come close again, in which case, I will have a dress to almost wear.

“I didn’t notice the ruffle until I brought it home.”

“Don’t you try these things on before you buy them.”

“No.”

“You shop for clothes like you shop for dates.”

This comes from a woman who would be stalking the boyfriend of her boyfriend’s wife if she knew his last name.

She turns back to my closet, pulls out my pair of silver shoes.

“What’s your shoe size?”

“Seven.”

She tries to squeeze her foot into them anyway.

“Why do you need to borrow a dress for?”

“Tom has a work holiday party.”

Tom’s her married boyfriend.

“He invited you?”

“No.”

“Why are you going?”

“So I can see his wife.”

“That doesn’t sound healthy.”

“I’m not going to talk to her, I just want to see what sort of person would date Bob.”

Sometimes I wonder about my choice in friends. At least they’re never boring.

“You can’t wear something of your own?”

“I’m pretending to be someone else.”

“Who are you pretending to be?”

“You.”

She tosses my navy dress on the bed, and turns in the mirror to catch a glimpse of the silver ruffles down her back.

“It’s festive.”

“I just don’t think that’s a good idea. Any of it”

“At least I’m not chatting up battered and broken middle-aged red state divorcés,” she says, a tinge of anger beneath her charming smile.

“It’s for science.”

“What happened to the date dress? The control? You know, the one you decided to wear jogging in Denver?”

“I left it in Iowa. There was a hole in the armpit.”

“So much for science.”

“Do you love him?”

“Who?”

“Tom.”

She pauses, turns, steps out of the ruffle dress and hands it to me. She slides into the navy dress and stands with her back to me so that I’ll zip it up, which I do. She looks in the closet, listless, and quietly, she mutters her answer. “I don’t know.”

A nice, honest answer.

She’s right about me. I do shop for men like I shop for clothes. It used to be that I’d whip through a high-end discount store and pull things off the racks. Maybe I’d hold the items up to myself in front of a mirror to see if it looked like it would fit. And then I’d rush with my stash to the register, pay, and try everything on at home. Much of the time, I got it right, sometimes, things would be very wrong. Rarely did I return anything. I’d keep whatever for a time and hope something would change. And then, when it didn’t change, I’d give it away.

Now that that discount store has closed, I shop at thrift stores. And it’s the same thing, only the expectations are a lower. Most things in the store are stained or just a touch worn out, and it’s a small miracle to find something in my size. When I take the things home, even if they’re pristine, I still expect a little history to be left behind.

“All I’m saying is that if you’re shopping on the sale rack, you’re gonna find clothes that want to go home with you, even if they don’t fit.”

I know she’s right. But, somehow, I just don’t care right now.

“What happens when you find Bob?”

“I don’t know,” she answers. The navy dress looks good on her, too.

“Maybe you’ll fall in love with him.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s the hairless wonder.”

You know what would be fun? If Bob was her soulmate and she knew it the moment they met. And I could say “I told you so” while sparkling in my brand new-used dress that looks better on me than it ever will on her.

“I don’t make fun of how you dress. I make fun of how you shop.”

“Whatever.”

“And sometimes your shoes.”

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