Yoharie: Because Society (part two)
She was at the Oakbrook mall, the single customer of Bernadette’s. Behind the glass case Bernadette culled crimped-paper holders, empty éclair oblongs, doughnut rounds; fixing cards under trays: Half-Price! BOGO!
The same thing. Bernadette, which one do they go for? Giarma didn’t ask, and Bernadette worked her shop’s late afternoon disappointed, philosophical, five-staged to acceptance (of bankruptcy?), with eyes lowered. Giarma had already paid; she could get up and leave, being done…
She went to the counter. Thinking, they’re whole-wheat crullers, she asked for three.
“Would you take four? There’d be only one left.”
“Six, you mean? Or…not BOGO?”
“Sorry. But just have the fourth, I’m not charging for it.”
“Oh, and could I have a coffee to go?”
With coffee and food, exiting Bernadette’s within sight of the owner, Giarma had to stride with faux-purpose along the faux-street, until the faux-gaslamp signaled a corner to be turned. A niche garden, deserted…fountain noisy, dotting drops on every bench…
The crullers could go in the tote. The coffee needed drinking—but caffeine was life, no bother to have a little more. Why did malls have to make you sad? And obligated, and awkward, with the too-nice and the too-rude alike.
She was phone shopping while she store shopped. But, because you did these days, not to cheat and brag on social. You needed to know if the thing was the thing: a black sweater, fine, but the grail of black sweaters… A bargain, okay, but the crux of bargains, the purchase self-absolving.
Always, you’d needed to, always the closet full of mistakes.
Trawling with her mother at twelve or so, in love with shopping, but wasting Renata’s time, she had got her first adult sense of it.
“You won’t like that. Where would you wear it? Besides, baby, I don’t think it’s your size.”
It was a size two sequined bolero. Really not hers, and it had been a woman’s jacket, not a kid’s. The mirror showed Giarma lumpy, arms too full in the tight little sleeves. The mirror showed a girl from her school, smirking in the racks. Smirking with a vengeance when she knew Giarma could see her do it.
Which was deliverance. She could be ridiculed at the Hell Place—the school cafeteria—as much for having tried it on as for wearing it, and escape at least the misery of no escape. Dad sent crazy amounts of money when he’d been paid a bonus. Her mother put most of it away and let her have fifty. That year she’d bought a sweatshirt and a pair of corduroy overalls. The outfit was in a Christmas picture; she ought to let Trevor see it.
“So it’s best we don’t have children. I carry the corduroy overall gene.”
Oops. That was to bring the subject up.
She ate a cruller.
The shopping was work, worth putting the mind to. Her own genius blog, her YouTube channel… What these would be when they existed.
This was research.
She didn’t love the hundred tasks of internet ubiquity, but an entrepreneur should face reality. Eyeballs are needed. The Proposal being like, ladies, show me what outfits make you feel strong. What’s your best self-confident look for the job interview, the first date? Her own stuff, her ensembles, her discoveries. Price points, seasons…to be menued by… Modeling maybe. Or ask Dawn and other perfectly fine-looking women… Cathlyn, Roberta. Basic women, not self-interred, effaced with the artificial face. Fashion taken out of the arena of drag, of making personas spackled together from “being female” signifiers, or whatever femininity was…
Hair that can’t be mussed, nails that force mechanical incompetence, shoes that queer the gait, tight-cutting waistbands that remind you all day you’re fat.
Pinchy hook and eye closures. Had a man ever had to endure one?
Across from Oakbrook was the Walmart she ought to check…she was a little tired. But stood, slotting bags onto her left arm. How PC was a good question… An old business class exercise, who is the customer? Don’t shut out the people you can sell to in favor of ones you can’t…
And what was she selling?
In the driver’s seat, she decided home, Dad’s house. Trevor was okay, they had plans, he didn’t have to see her today. A little nap. Saturday’s hike would be the start of a new discipline. She would carry Dad a plate of crullers and a cup of cocoa. Even sit and share, and try so hard not to turn business and relationships over in her mind while he talked about his Downies, the cardinal he’d named Martha. She had a white patch. That was how he could tell. This time answer…
“That’s so great!”
Phony. Say, “I hope…”
We will all get our shit straight. When she lay stretched on her duvet, she allowed marriage. She allowed Hibblers and the gossip about them, Busbys… Mat was stalking her, half-hearted. Half-hearted about everything in life, but he’d find another woman to marry him, you could never doubt it. She and Trevor should not, no way, never get married; there was no reason these days. Reasonable people, who weren’t reproducing, and didn’t care about classing assets, didn’t.
The idea of saying, “I have to stay with my husband. We’ve been married for nine years”… It was so ball-and-chainish. The legal tie has to equate to, not love, but the sanctified mouthing of the word; you need the right to sue for money…
But if you love someone, are you that nervous? Wouldn’t you say, you don’t owe me anything, you don’t have to pledge me anything? I’m here because I choose to be.
Well, self-sacrifice. A man who loves fantasy ought to be high on quests.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)