Monday, January 7, 2013
He followed the girl into a dress shop - he almost stepped on her heels exiting the revolving doors of the Apple store, his mind was reeling with spending $1700 to recover his laptop . . . but his novel was worth it, wasn't it? He thought about the Olivetti his grandmother gave him when he was in high school, he wished he still could write like that, banging on those mechanical keys, but he was ruined and now this. But the girl in grey led him past the water fountain and made him forget it was cold and now he was in a dress shop, and he decided to behave as though he were shopping for his niece even though he had no niece. The grey girl whisked through wracks of dresses, disapproving in the kindest way, he could see she had an occasion she was shopping for. He fingered silk blouses as though he really was considering them, but he kept one eye on the grey girl - she selected a pair of wide legged sailor pants, navy and heavy - ah, he thought, Hepburn and she rounded the corner and pulled a grey chemise off another sale wrack . . . he found a geometric bright thing and suddenly imagined the grey girl in it, she needed color in her life, didn't she realize? She was so business like in her grey car coat, and her black paddock boots. He spied mud on her heel, she was genuine he thought, genuinely horsey, although he'd never known a horsewoman in his entire life. She headed for the dressing room but paused to take a hat off a shelf, a felt thing with a sequin decoration and his heart jumped at the thought of her beneath the brim, "can I help you sir? Something special for your wife?"
"My niece . . ."
"How old is she?" He was in deep now . . .
"I have just the thing . . . " The shop girl beckoned him toward an armoire brimming with angora and glitter and he hesitated, the grey girl swooped into the dressing room and now he was presented with a handful of sweaters, "the girls are all wearing these this year, you'll be a favorite uncle if you send her this for Christmas . . . "
"a Monkey's uncle you mean . . ."
"oh nothing . . . fine, I'll take one of those"
"do you know her size?"
"yes but is she small? medium? large?"
"oh, she's very small, like her mother, lilliputian."
"lilli . . . "
"ah, nobody knows Lilliput anymore."
"shall i wrap it for you?"
"yes, yes, that would be fine . . . " the shop girl spun away with the angora handful and he spotted the grey girl putting the felt hat back on the shelf, and heading for the counter to pay. He crossed the shop and took the hat off the shelf and took his place behind her in the checkout line . . . she glanced back at him and he smiled, "Oh, you're buying the hat?"
"Yes, for my niece . . . "
"lucky girl, it was too big for me."
"Really? I imagine it would be just right for you" and suddenly he felt flush.
"Oh no, I look . . . "
"Try it on again, " he handed her the hat and to his surprise she put it on.
"See? it's too big." She smiled at him and it was a delightful crooked smile and he thought she and the hat were the most perfect thing he'd seen in years.
"Oh no, no it's lovely, far too lovely on you to buy it for my niece . . ."
"But I can't, you've got nothing for your niece now."
The shop girl called to him, "Would you like a greeting card to go with the wrapping for the sweater sir?"
"Yes, yes, that would be fine . . . see? you take the hat, my niece will never know, the sweater will be enough for her."
"If you insist," she twirled the hat on her fingers the grey girl did, and for a moment he wanted to ask her if she'd like to have coffee, but he only followed her because he needed a sketch of a girl for his new story, he didn't need a girl, he had a boyfriend at home already and now a sweater for a niece that didn't exist.
"I insist, but you must promise to wear it with something colorful . . . "
The grey girl smiled and turned away, the shop girl called him to her register and before he signed the receipt she was gone through the glass doors out into the snow that had just begun to fall.