Saturday, July 24, 2010

A week ago, Nick and I dressed up. He wears a suit well for an informal soul with no use for finery. Some guys retain a First Communion-like amateurishness in a suit well into their 20s, but not Nick. He deflects my lecherous commentary with a frown that is also a smirk. My dress is short and I’m wearing coral suede pumps of indefensible height. I trot next door to grab Ana and she looks me up and down in mock-schoolmarm-horror: “Can you dress that sexy for a wedding?” “What? It’s a wedding. It’s a party”, I defend myself.

We’re all dressed up today, too. He’s wearing a gray suit with a black tie. I have on a conservative black sundress but Ana shakes her head at me. “No black. Mom said no black.” I take the stairs two at a time to my room (certainly late because have I ever been early?) and scan the overwhelming ecology of clothing here, both on hangers and underfoot. It seems my hot weather dresses fall into two maddening categories: black and slutty. I shift and twist into a navy floral dress (not even 10 a.m. and already I’m all-over-damp with Freon-chilled sweat) In my haste, my ankles become ensnared in the black dress, flopping me chin-first onto my bed. I laugh, out loud, alone.

Back down the steps and I avoid glimpsing my reflection anywhere. The dress is imperfect - cleavage-skimming and cheery - but it is Not Black. Does this seem neurotic, this outfit-evaluating? Sometimes clothes feel like armor to me, like if I get it right, I can defeat anything.

But I can’t. At the service, I cry snot into tissue-papered palm. I make secret sobbing noises usually reserved for bedrooms. At Ana’s childhood home later, we excavate and delight in tiny Victorian dresses and sawed-in-half dollhouses and painted guitars. I have dueling twin urges - to fall deeply and narcotically asleep in the heat-fogged country house where I’m standing and to manically squeeze all the juice from every hour I’m granted.

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