Sunday, January 15, 2006

the pink dress

I bought the pink dress for myself.

It was on a headless mannequin in the window of an upscale dress boutique called Luna, just outside Washington D.C. in Bethesda, Maryland in 2004. We had gone to the movies, to the arthouse theatre in the trendy part of town, and I saw the dress in the window as I ran across the street, after we parked the car.

The dress is watermelon pink, and sleeveless, and falls just below the knee, and the fabric is a soft, thin, effortless linen, the kind of material you are afraid to rub between your fingers because you might rub it away, like pollen. The lining is satin. The bust is corseted with ruffles on the front, and the skirt is a little full. It makes a shhh sound.

It was the kind of store you have to dress up to shop in, the kind of store where there are very few garments hanging on the racks, or strewn across shelves because they don't have to sell very many to make money. The floors are wood and echo. The salesgirls are wearing evening gowns. Remember, you're cooler than them, my old boyfriend used to say in order to convince me to go into the city, because they work here.

After the movie, we went by the store again, and I pointed the dress out to him, and he said, Just try it on.

They had one left, and it was my size. So I did.

The dress cost ___. I don't know if that is a lot of money for you, but it was and still is, a lot of money for me. A lot. And I bought it not knowing where I would wear it. I was a high school teacher. I was still using my student I.D. to get discount prices at the movies, but when I put it on, I felt myself transform. I felt better than my holey jeans and home-cut bangs. I remembered the woman I had seen once in Vogue magazine. She was tall and wore a long white dress and had black hair and bangles, and I don't even remember her name, but it said in the caption under her photograph that she was a writer.

I wanted to be the kind of writer that is pictured in Vogue magazine.

I bought the dress. I've worn it only once, to a wedding, where my old boyfriend and I knew only the couple. We sat at a table in the back hallway, miserable, and a man joined us. He was an architect. He was from Chicago. He knew about wine and food and music. We had listened to the same bands. He and my boyfriend had lived in the same towns. The three of us talked, drank wine, laughed until midnight, and then he left. He could have been my boyfriend's best friend, my husband, Jay Gatsby. I never saw him again.

But things like that happen when you are wearing the pink dress.