I step off the subway at the last stop. This terminus is mostly an enormous parking garage. There’s no connection to the suburban rail system out here, it’s just housing projects and a strip mall. I shake off the sensation of being exposed and start towards the row of slowly dying businesses; I can see the shabby storefront.
My sister Scarlet is privy to the great hidden jewels of the service industry (myself excluded, but that’s a longer, more complicated thing), so while I’m annoyed to be so far from my stomping grounds and annoyed by poor plays on language, I’ve no doubt my dress will be flawlessly taken-in.
Crossing the rails over a pedestrian bridge, I can see the city skyline, burnt-oil blue, six miles off.
There is a bell over the door which tinkles merrily when I push my way through into the cluttered space. A gentleman in a tweed suit with a measuring tape draped over his shoulders squints up at me from a sewing machine as I bundle into the shop. The wind kicked up while I was on the bridge. I can feel the slap of cold on my cheeks.
“May I help you?” he asks. His eyes, magnified by thick lenses, make a quick, and I’m somehow certain accurate, assessment of me. This man can see me, and I don’t like it.
“Bianca,” I say, lifting my arm slightly to emphasize the dress bag over my arm. “I have an appointment.”
“In there,” he says, gesturing to a closed door. “Hang the gown on the hook. You’ve brought your foundation garments and shoes?”
“I have,” I reply. That’s easily done. My skin is enough. You can’t have panty lines if you’re not wearing panties, and the dress, with its princess seams and boning, will be sufficient to render a bra unnecessary. My Louboutins are in my bag.
“There is a pedestal, put on your foundation garments and shoes and wait there,” he says. “Rivka will be in in a moment.” He barks instructions to the as yet unseen seamstress.
I take myself into the room, dress bag in tow. There is a three-way mirror tucked around a low, carpeted pedestal. A dressmaker’s form stands opposite. Bolts of cloth are shoved into the corners, and a potted spider plant, yellow and limp with neglect, balances precariously on a stack of cardboard boxes whose corners are rumpled.
A hook hammered into the wall awaits my gown. Once it hangs, I strip off my clothes, grateful for Phuong’s ministrations on Saturday. I am tidy, at least.
I pull out my smartphone to pass the time. I have discovered Twitter.
I stand nearly six feet tall in my stilettos; naked and communing with the internet on my sleek technology, I am a geek’s wet dream. I am smiling at the thought when Rivka comes into the room.