Lots of blues and greens. Mostly dresses, organized by color, then by designer, crowded onto a three-foot rod, jammed into a three-foot closet, inside an eight-foot bedroom, inside a tiny bedroom on the island of Manhattan. Spring cleaning. A ritual familiar to all those self-aggrandized lives shoved into small spaces. A hairball of dust along the floor molding distracted me. Retrieved a broom and dustpan and dumped it into the dustbin.
Entering the Catherine Maladrino dress section, which paralleled a period of relative prosperity and emotional security, I spotted one of my would-be wedding dresses. The attached silk scarf of the viridian halter gown felt cool against my cheek. I didn’t wear it to my own wedding, but I wore it to my friend Jenny’s more than ten years ago. I haven’t worn it since, nor have I seen much of Jenny.
I pulled at the skirt of an indigo MoMo FaLana gown. The MoMo brand peaked at the height of Sex and the City, as did I. It was also a halter dress, which I wore to my student Katya’s wedding, and I don’t see much of her, either.
Opened the fridge, looking for answers. It was empty. I distracted myself with an Oreo cookie lunch. I double-ate and returned to the closet. Its contents reproached me. “This is why you rent an eight-foot room in someone else’s apartment. This is why you don’t have a graduate degree.” But underneath the reprimand I heard something else. “You bought me when you were falling in love with Joe and wanted to be pretty for him. Don’t give me away.” My closet was not only a road map of financial decline but a hope chest of great loves lost. Silence rushed my ears. How do we decide whom to keep and whom to give away?
I kept my boyfriend Kostya. He wasn’t the most handsome or the funniest. He was that go-to dress you pull out of the closet, knowing it will fit, even on those fat-and-ugly-and-nobody-will-ever-love-you days. That kind of dress wears over time, needs to be replaced. Or you wake up one day and no longer like it. Who knows why? Why did I no longer like bacon when I had enjoyed it throughout my youth? Kostya was my partner until he wasn’t. Maybe I was his bacon.
Into the vintage section. Sucked in my breath at the remembrance of a lacy frock’s price. Why had I needed it six hundred dollars badly? Why had I fallen in love? If it still makes me swoon, I’ll know it was real, and I will keep it. Otherwise, into the discard bin with its recriminations.
I stood back to survey my effort. The rod was mostly full, a testimony to my fidelity. Some of the gowns in the discard bin still had their tags. I had known they were wrong choices as I made them. Whose wrong choice was I? Did he know as he made me? I want to climb out of the discard bin.
Images: Sex and the City
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Alex Poppe is a teacher and creative instigator. A former actor/business consultant, she has worked in Poland, Turkey, Ukraine, Northern Iraq, The West Bank, Germany, and The United States. These places and their people inspire her work. When she is not being thrown from the back of food aid trucks or dining with pistol packing Kurdish hit men, she writes.