“Striking, darling. Simply marvelous.”
“Fucking…it’s 2016, Greg. Stop talking like…I don’t know…bougie? God I hate that word.” Chrysanthemum posed before a full-length mirror, twisting and turning, watching her dress sash and move with an elegance she’d never know.
“My dear, it’s simply not enough to be a gentleman these days. One must entertain the notion of fully becoming a gentleman.”
“Also your name’s Greg. Also also, how’s my ass look?”
“Cut the shit.” Chris caught her sight in the reflection and immediately felt guilty and little. She wilted into a pile of expensive materials she couldn’t bring herself to pronounce. Above her, Greg puzzled over her flowing gown turned still, subtle ruby accents no longer blurring into a marvelous display of passion and longing.
“I’ll never be smart. I’ll never be pretty. I’ll never have money.”
“Girl, what just happened?” Greg said, head cocked, tragically breaking character.
Alone in the mirror, Chrysanthemum leered at salespeople intently watching her. There was no escape, and the mirror only magnified the severity of her situation. Behind her, Greg stared too, and it wasn’t helping. Chrysanthemum envisioned herself jumping out the gown, out the store, and far the fuck away from everybody. Her legs became weak – they wanted to book it.
“I don’t deserve this.” She said, full of shame. Chris wondered if the salespeople were as lonely as she was. If they knew anything that she experienced or felt. If they’d been born with silver spoons – that was fine. She just needed to be felt, understood. Instead, they stared, motionless and blank-faced. Nobody assisted her and Greg. Nobody asked how things were going. It was like they knew.
“Of course they know. You’re low-rent. You shouldn’t be here. You’re just wasting space for somebody else.” Chrysanthemum turned her gaze downward and remembered a hole in her sock she’d felt this entire time, thinking it was a knot in the rug – like that were possible. She folded her toes under her, embarrassed, and turned to Greg.
“We should go.” She couldn’t look at him. Instead she glanced over his shoulder long enough to see a white oval blur in a black suit. Another salesperson next to her leaned in and whispered into her ear.
“They’re talking about us, I bet. There saying shit about me. We need to go.”
Greg, oblivious to what was going on, tried desperately to bring a little sunlight to Chrysanthemum.
“My dear, I do believe…”
“Cut the shit, Greg. Unzip me and lets go.” Chrysanthemum’s face was all straight lines. In an instant, her dress was unzipped and she was throwing clothes around the dressing room. Within 90 seconds she was out, denim and t-shirt, the ruby dress back on its expensive hanger. She took Greg by the wrist and hurried him towards the door.
“How did everything fit?” A salesperson, Marcy, asked with feigned enthusiasm.
“Nothing…er…no thank you.” Chrysanthemum said, thinking only for an instant about how it made no sense, before going back to her bout of self-loathing.
“Girl, are you gonna tell me what happened in there?” Greg said, speeding to catch up with her down the block. “And slow the hell down! I ain’t wearing my trainers today and these shoes are too pretty to scuff. Unless you wanna lick the marks off later, I suggest you slow your skinny ass down.”
Chrysanthemum did. When they met, she looked into his eyes, then down to the ground. She picked her eyes up when she realized the tears would fall faster that way, then raised her entire head to the sky. She was trapped, just like the store. With her forehead pressed against Greg’s shirt, Chrysanthemum let out a wail, jabbed his chest hard, but fought her tears. There was no way she’d be caught crying in the middle of the city. Instead, she walked silently with Greg until they reached the apartment she shared with two women and a gay man.
“Are you going to tell me what happened back there or what?” Greg badgered the entire way home. He was a good friend, but a little relentless in his wanting to understand everybody, always.
“I will, just not now. I’ll call you later.” She said, fumbling for her keys in her faux-leather bag. “Keep it together, girl.” She had repeated the entire journey to herself, and continued at her front steps. She did just fine. After finding her way inside, Chrysanthemum made it to her room just in time for the tears to disappear entirely. She wanted to cry – she’d considered anticipating the event. But alone in her room, she was left with a dry face and broken spirit.