Story and illustration by Chrissy Jones
I am a thoroughbred middle-class American woman. I work at a respectable firm. This story is all about me.
Today I ate a French crepe at a petite cafe and called my bank to check my balance. Today I am going to buy the blouse at The Boutique. But what I really need right now is a refill for my Valium. I don’t mind getting a generic brand, as no one will check the label for the designer.
I meet Amanda at The Boutique. She holds up a turquoise handbag with a golden lock swinging from the strap. I say it looks cheap. She looks at the price tag. It is cheap! I really know my stuff! She tells me she knows exactly where the blouse is and will take me to it. This is great. I am happy. The cocktail dresses and blouses are arranged in neat racks parallel to the handbags and dressing rooms. Amanda has beautiful skin. I will never touch her. Her smile is white and I like the way her lips stretch across her teeth. I just bought a Rolex. She notices.
“Rolex,” she says, “is such a masculine fashion statement. A symbol of power, of class, of confidence, especially when worn by a woman. You are being most subversive with that gem on, you naughty thing.”
“Yes, it does feel wonderfully classic, like wearing a Volvo on my arm.”
“Rolex is a clear expression of upper-tier taste,” she is flipping through the racks with opal colored fingers, freshly gelled. “I can respect a Rolex.”
I remind myself to give her the croissant I saved in my bag before I go. It’s so gauche to hold food in one’s purse. We each take a few things into the dressing room.
Amanda tries on denim wrap skirts and silk tees. I never see her wear denim and silk. This must be a new street trend. I take the Valium out of my purse and open it. I take three. I do not try on anything that I brought into the dressing room, except the blouse. I saw it on page sixty-seven of Vogue Magazine last December. It took me exactly eight months to save for it. I take three more Valium. The things I did for that money I cannot say. I pull my middle-income blouse off and try on the blouse. I take the Valium out of my purse and dump the bottle into my mouth. I try to swallow but I cannot. I chew them.
“My god, Samantha, you have to tell me how I look in this skirt.”
“Amanda, come here and show me,” I breathe, “come see my blouse! My beautiful blouse! I have a croissant for you!”
“You have a croissant in your purse? You Should Not Have!”
The white silk blouse has a silver herringbone print. It has beautiful darts that drape along the neckline and long sleeves that are delicately pleated at the wrist. A picture of some unfamiliar luxury that I long for. The collar is tight enough to choke you. Sixteen silver buttons in the shape of serene ponies line the breast and cuffs.
She knocks on my door and comes in with one hand holding her silk tee bunched up at her rib cage and price tags dangling from her hips. Her head is bowed down and her pelvis curled toward me. Amanda has a scar on her navel.
“Those look good on you,” I say. “Did you have your navel pierced?”
“Yes, I got it pierced on the boardwalk when I was seventeen. Don’t tell anyone. My father made me take it out the second I got home. I didn’t mind. It looked pretty trashy.”
“I had mine taken out too, on the west coast!” I want to touch our scars together and let them breathe into each other, “My body rejected it.”
Amanda slaps her butt and mumbles something about getting fat with all of the hate in the world. I am feeling vaguely vomit. When Amanda leaves I will finish the bottle.
“My God that blouse is so beautiful,” Amanda’s ribs spill over the top of her weird denim skirt. She reaches for my blouse too close to my breast and I jerk back. “I was checking the price tag,” she averts her eyes. “A blouse like that is begging a nice doctor for his number.”
The blood in my body is boiling from the pills. I choke back the vomit, like lust. Amanda excuses herself from my dressing room and goes back to hers to try on a pair of white harem pants.
“Samantha,” she says, “If the blouse is too big in the bust you can have it adjusted. I have a great tailor you can call.”
I eat all the pills and everything else is history.
My eyes are saucers. My eyes are starting to play the opening notes of the song “Where Have all the Cowboys Gone?” Amanda is creaking the floor of her dressing room floor with her dance. I can hear her singing along and imagine her pretty lips stretching over her teeth. Beautiful cream smell of her skin. The sweat working up between her thighs.
“Can you do booty drops?,” she says. I cannot. I hear her dropping.
I look into the mirror and mouth the words Fifty-Six Chevy while calculating the cost of a fifty six chevy and, with my hourly wage, realize it would take me seventeen years. I press my body against the dressing room wall and push the air away from me. If Amanda were here I could smell her nape and press my lips against her nipple through the silk. Smear her lipstick. If Amanda were here I would put my hands between her sweat. The abandon of an orgasm. Handfuls of abandons. Press my body against the body and press my lips against the lips. I reach for her with tenderness, assuring her my thoughts are pure. I put my fingers into her mouth and against her tongue. First a small chew then she clamps down and spits. I look into the mirror. I am alone in the dressing room and up from my stomach come white bubbles.
The next song to come on is Samantha You Have To Try On That Fur Vest It Is So Wild. How did she get inside of the radio? I am alone.
Each one of the pony buttons turn their heads and avert their eyes away from my shirtless body. These tiny, galloping, harbingers of doom flare their nostrils and shake their braided manes. I long for the stampede to cleanse me. A steady destruction of impoverished flesh atoned beneath the hooves of pedigree.
I take the blouse and bunch it up over my head. I put it into my mouth. I try to eat the blouse but it is too tough. A little blood coughs up and sits on the floor. I stuff and stuff the silk and it clogs up my windpipe. When I do not hear anything but the sound of the ocean I stand and fall into the mirror. It cracks little pieces down by my feet. My pedicure is chartreuse like the color of the apocalypse horse. I smash my head into the mirror and draw back, watch the blood leak down face into silk hole. I fall.
Something goes spark and then, luminance. I try to think logically. What symbol of power? My Rolex tick tocks Hello. I glance at my watch and whisper, “You were my hopes and dreams, my dressing room acquiescence that has led to the failure of sensitivity and morale. I have been lost for so long.”
My Rolex tick tocks Goodbye.
The glass in my head goes deep. There will only be moments pass before a little sales girl diva comes to the rescue. If I survive I will need reconstructive surgery, about sixteen thousand dollars. Total social sui. This is hardwood flooring. Choked by silk stomach distress. I hope this is not too big a deal. Don’t want to be on the news. As I stand vomit comes out of my mouth, I guess. Pretty certainly. I throw up fabric and glass. Grab handfuls of mirror shard and try to pull myself up. I fall. Mirror remains crack though the part of my throat that gurgles and slicks.
Let’s try to be logical, I whisper to myself. Death is a major vacation. Glitter and blood everywhere, my head wounds, wasted life, college loans that I can’t pay. Nothing has worked for a long time. I have never been so lost. Openings in my body piss out life force gallantly, brave and on the way to the next challenge. Coming out in steady spurts. I feel no pain. I fall. The door opens and an Amanda scream. My eyes are red moons. The tick tocking of my Rolex and the silk silk wormed blouse coming to life to haunt with me. In vivid comprehension I know this dressing room is my tomb and my chariot. Mirror in my palms and it looks like rose shiny quartz.
Someone call nine one one or whatever is she breathing.
I don’t know. Oh my God there’s so much blood.
Someone call an ambulance.
Check for a Pulse.
I don’t know. Oh my God I don’t know how to do this.
I don’t want to touch her.
Breath to not complete. Muscles getting tight. Jaw is eating itself. I can’t. Blood like a fountain. Pennies at my feet I can grant a wish.
I am the physical intention of the spiritual world. The boundaries are blurred and what’s left wuick wuick wha what if. No one knows I am here. My eyes are wet burns. Nothing more to envy in a woman. I saw that on the TV. Favorite show watched in a rhythm. No more.
Headaches. Wet whinny from pony mouth. The mirror sees the dog sounds I have been making. It notices, if only for one more chance at a good sale. There is only the reflection of the face of a pony. I have known this pony in my childhood. It spits a stream of black. Here comes my favorite friend. It sure has been a long time. In diffused light, having a look-see. Nurturing hue.
Lots of sounds and begging are coming from some kind of upstairs. Don’t die on me.
The mirror remnants are creasing up up and around me like a pleated jersey skirt. My pony, the white face and green body and glitter eyes. My friend with gold stars. He crashes out of the blackness and crowds me into the recesses with the sound effect of a hawk eating a pigeon. Covered in blood. Lower the curtains. Drip. Pony Mouth. A stream of jet black vomit surprise from pony mouth to cleanse my mourning ache. I complain about the endless work days. Boo hoo hoo. My job is me. He forces me to take a gander.
Pony head moves like no care in the world and it makes me nervous. His mane moves like lavender silk worms in skim milk.
Do you know it is over?
Yes, I slur and cannot move my left side
Because all you were here for is complete
No longer needed wah wah get over it
The sound of the diamond star
Why was I here? Why so much pain and meaninglessness?
My skin like a raw dead thing
He licks me
A chain of events, the greater good, moving the shirt to the cocktail dress rack
You never knew? A comedy of errors.
I could have never understood
Very well toot toot very well toot
My hamburger-head makes me nauseous
A selfish little girl with them pills
My fountain of life source
Keeping you company on this journey
Do I go to the world of rot?
You got nothin nothin nothin
I should have said goodbye, wrote a note, anything
No way, Jose
Will they miss me?
I should have kissed my widdle sister before I left
It is time.
Veins spread out on a mirror. A web of seduction. I can remember loving various people. Odds and ends. Mistakes. Their attempts at loving me back. I remember days without completion. Shopping. Another chance at a good sale.
I remember the feeling of never being able to.
Windshield test dummies move in slow mo. Who cares. I never could. My childhood friend keeping my company on my ascent. I appreciate it. The afterlife moves into internal organs forced to pay rent in cash. To halt and decay in muted earth tones. Just another kind of rejected credit card application. This magic death makes pure all the trivialities of daily rhythm.
Red moon eyes lose life. Pony how sweet was love. The only thing that kept me. Still it clings to me with my last. In diffused light it is visible by nose, then breath. Sniffing the floor blood from my head wound. He sinks down to my level and nuzzles against my neck. My arms fit around him perfectly.
I want to go with you, take me up
Come with me I will take you there
I raise my hand to the nose of the pony. His mouth is smiling with sparkle teeth. To run your hand across his snout is to feel the velvet regalia of the inevitable. The silk stallion glides his tongue out of his mouth like a banner of raw meat and licks my wounds. I relax into this blissful cake walk.The pony bites a large piece out of my shoulder. I scream and feel out of control.
Although I asked to be taken away, I fear the pain. I fear real damage. The pony has a will and mind of his own. Upon seeing the exposed bone and muscle, I take comfort in knowing it will all be over soon. Something bites into my stomach and splish sploshes. The breaking of ribs and falling things with medical names. Pain. The pain has no end in sight. The pony bites my thighs away in quick succession, little nibbles, then eats my lower legs and feet in a few immediate bites.
When the pony is finished eating, he sinks back into the void with little fanfare. Another day on the job. All parts digested. The blouse lies prone on the ground, worthless.
Chrissy Jones is a multi-disciplinary artist originally from Feltonville, North Philadelphia. She creates timeless imagery that revels in chaos. She currently lives in Providence, RI.