The reservations were made: three for non, for 9:00 Saturday night.
Silke and Ariana had decided – which is to say, Ariana suggested, and Silke
could think of no valid objection – to make late reservations to give them some
time with Silke’s mother beforehand. As excited as Ariana was about the visit,
Silke was dreading it. There were already two people in her life with whom she
found herself in totally different relationships, and she wasn’t looking
forward to a third. John’s relationship with his mother was largely
characterised by his guilt over never seeing her or returning her calls. He
loved her, but they had nothing in common. After years of awkward conversations
in which they both avoided the topic of her jackass husband (whom she had
married when John was five, to replace her other jackass husband), there was
nothing to talk about.
The one good thing
about dreading tomorrow night, Silke thought, was that it helped her get her
mind off of the more immediate dread she felt at the prospect of “digging up
her closet” with Ariana. If she had just thought for a second before agreeing
to Ariana’s brainstorm, she would have realised that a trip to a restaurant
like Il Forno almost certainly meant wearing – in public, no less! – clothes
from the vast Unwearables section of her closet. Oh well, it’s too late
to go back to Door Number One now.
“Ready?” asked Ariana,
“Ready as I’ll ever
be,” Silke smiled. “Let’s start with you.”
Walking into Ariana’s
bedroom was as strange an experience for Silke as seeing her own for the
“first” time. The room itself was very familiar; she’d spent many nights there
in another life, and it looked exactly as she remembered. The bed was king
sized, and covered in lavender Egyptian cotton sheets. Beneath it was a deep
red woven rug. The windows were framed by gauzy white curtains, above a
whitewashed desk piled high with casebooks and notebooks. The one thing missing
was the stuffed Eric Cartman doll that John had once bought her for her
Silke braced herself
as they proceeded to Ariana’s closet. She wanted absolutely no part in any of
this, but she also did not want to hurt her friend any further. And so she
stood and accepted hanger after hanger, as Ariana emptied her closet of every
“How about this?”
Ariana asked, as she held a knee-length black slipdress up to her frame.
“One for the
‘possible’ pile, then. Could I see the red thing you’ve got in your right hand
“Good pick,” Silke
smiled in spite of herself. Ariana had always been a knockout in red.
That was enough to
make Ariana decide to try it on. And once again, Silke felt absolutely nothing
as Ariana slipped off her sweater and let her jeans fall to the floor as she
adjusted the dress at her waist. With her back still turned to Silke, Ariana
motioned for her to zip her up. She complied.
“So?” Ariana asked as
she turned around to face her friend.
“You look gorgeous,”
was all that Silke could think to say as she
looked Ariana over. John, she was certain, would have trouble concentrating on
anything other than the anticipation of seeing the dress off, but all Silke could think about was how radiant her
best friend looked in the red strapless dress she’d helped pick out. For the
first time in days, a genuine smile crept across her face.
“You know,” Silke
added, holding up another of the hangers, which bore a black knit shrug, “what
about putting this on over it?”
enthusiastic answer. “Now,” she added, as she returned the dress to the hanger
and put her jeans and sweater back on, “let’s take care of you.”
Couldn’t you have drawn this out a bit? You and I both
know this shit can take hours, and you let her get done in fifteen minutes? For fuck’s sake. You do
realise what this means, don’t you? You’re going to go into that girly-ass
room, and, in all likelihood, she’s going to ask you to try on a damn dress.
How could you agree to this? How could you not have realised what going to a
nice restaurant would entail? I can assure you, my friend, there isn’t a single
suit and tie hiding in that closet to save your ass. So now you’ve got three
options: One: you can go in there and play dress-up and pretend not to hate it;
Two: you can say you don’t feel like it and disappoint Ariana; Three: you can
lie again. This is all your doing.
“Aren’t you coming?”
Ariana asked, already halfway out the door.
“Oh, right, of
course,” Silke laughed, trying to feign absentmindedness.
The walk down the hall
to Silke’s room felt like it took hours. With the gait of the condemned, she
took the last step into her room, where Ariana was already digging through her
“We might be here a
while,” Ariana laughed. “You have so much great stuff here.”
All your damn fault.
“So,” began Silke,
trying not to sound disgusted, “what’s up first?”
After a moment’s
pondering, Ariana grabbed a pair of hangers from the on-deck circle she’d
assembled on a nearby chair. Silke maintained a pokerface as she saw a purple
silk skirt and light red blouse being handed to her.
“What do you think?”
Ariana smiled expectantly.
“I’m not sure.”
“Why don’t you just
try it on, then?”
Feeling even more
self-conscious than usual, Silke pulled off her t-shirt and slipped the blouse
over her shoulders. She fumbled with the buttons, which were on the wrong side,
but eventually got it on. Much as she hated this, she had to admit that she
loved the feeling of the silk against her skin. So soft and light, like a
caress. Maybe this wasn’t so bad.
Don’t get all
relieved yet. You’re not done.
She took the skirt
from Ariana’s outstretched hand while unbuttoning her jeans with her free hand.
(here goes nothing)
she stepped out of her jeans, and into the skirt. It felt strange, as
if something was poking her. Running her fingers under the waistband, she
realised that the label was square in front, and turned it around the right
way. She straightened, and faced Ariana.
“Have a look!” Ariana
said, ushering Silke over to the mirror. Once there, Silke realised she hadn’t
been breathing. With a deep breath, she looked up at her reflection.
“Wait a sec! You buttoned one too many,” Ariana said as she undid
te offending top button, “there!”
Silke’s first reaction
to her reflection was notable for its absence. She felt nothing. Not the
disgust she had been feeling since the day took this turn, nor anything else.
She drew an emotional blank. She eyed the figure in front of her slowly,
deliberately. And then, it felt wrong. Simply wrong, unequivocally wrong. Why
was this happening to her of all people? At least with jeans and a t-shirt, there
was some degree of denial available to her. Bra notwithstanding, those looked
and felt more or less like what John had always worn. But with this outfit,
there was simply no denying her femaleness. This was all such bullshit. And
yet, there was something else there. There was something…
at all bad.
Something not at all
bad mixed in with the devastation and anger. She couldn’t help but feel
slightly enchanted by the beautiful young woman looking back at her in the
mirror. Something about seeing herself looking like this actually felt the most
minimal bit good. And just a little familiar.
“So?” came an
expectant voice from behind her.
“Nice,” Silke allowed,
announced, ushering in a flurry of outfits from Silke’s “unwearable” category
that would not end for another hour and a half. It resembled a juggling act.
Off came one outfit, passed to Ariana, back on the hanger, while a new one went
from Ariana’s hands to Silke’s, who tried it on, exchanged noncommittal
comments with Ariana, and handed it back. It all slowed down as Silke stood in
front of the mirror in a scoop-neck black dress with a full, swishy skirt that
ended just below her knees.
Ariana inspected her
from all angles, finally declaring, “I think we have a winner.”
“Yeah,” replied Silke,
shocked to be agreeing, “I think you’re right.”
Silke breathed an internal sigh of
relief, realising that this little ordeal was over. She slipped off the dress,
put her jeans and t-shirt back on, and followed Ariana downstairs. Dinnertime
was fast approaching.
After she caught up to Ariana
on the stairs, Ariana turned to her, "It's good to have you back."
Silke said nothing.