When You Pawn Your Soul in a Dress Shop
When You Pawn Your Soul in a Dress Shop
“Mom…?” Jay’s voice cracked when the word struggled to free itself from his parched throat. It was as though he had just wandered across a vast, empty desert. His esophagus burned when he tried to speak.
He couldn’t understand how his mother was in the room with him. What was happening in this house?
When he was twelve-years-old, his mother had a blood clot shot through her veins like a bullet train racing across the island of Japan. It traveled from her foot to her brain in less than a minute. Once it found her brain it exploded like a bomb on a timer.
Jay and Tom didn’t find out about the stroke until several hours after their mother had died. Their father took them to Masconomet Diner for dinner. They were skeptical because their father had never brought them to a restaurant for dinner without their mother. However, when he told them they each picked a piece of pie out of the shiny, turning pie rack on the counter of the diner they knew something suspicious was going on. If they ever had been offered desert, Jay and Tom were forced to share. They would argue for twenty minutes over which flavor sundae or between the chocolate lava cake and the cheese cake on the menu. That night their dad told them they could each have their own piece of pie. They wouldn’t have to battle each other over the wide variety of flavors. That night, they would only have to struggle against their own urges.
When each boy was seated in front of his heaping slice of warm, dripping pie, that was when their dad broke the news. For some reason, he didn’t wait until either boy even had a chance to taste the flavor they chose. The forks were poised high above the steaming, sweet goodness, when the man said, “Mom is dead.”
He would have preferred to use a different word. But the whole terrible truth fell out of his mouth at once. He wanted to grab it out of the air and pull it back in. But it was too late. He watched as the light drained from his son’s eyes. The forks clambered on the table. They fell out of the boys’ hands and landed on the formica table top. They bounced and rattled against the plates, the water glasses. One of the forks bounced and spun into the salt shaker toppling it over and spilling salt in a small pile that looked like an ant hill. The man considered snatching a pinch of the salt between his fingers and tossing it over his shoulders. He didn’t think of himself as a superstitious man, but the urge struck him. After a moment of consideration, he realized the worst luck of all had already befell him.
“Mom,” Jay whispered, as though someone else in the vast room, beyond the carousel, might over-hear him. “I’ve missed you so much,” he said.
He could feel the tears welling in his eyes.
He didn’t understand how it was possible she was standing in the room with him. He couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t turn around and look at him.
It was at that moment that he remembered his mother used to call the dress she was wearing her Marilyn Monroe dress. It was her favorite dress. She bought it at a discount boutique one day when the family visited Boston for the weekend. Jay’s dad had won a free hotel room for the weekend at the company Christmas party. The family had never stayed in a hotel with room service and a man who brought your bags to your room before. They had a room on the nineteenth floor, and Jay remembered waking up in the middle of the night and standing by the window to watch the lights blink across the city. He had never seen a city from that high up before. The next day they visited the Constitution that was docked in the harbor, the Old North Church, and Beacon Hill. His mother had always wanted to shop on Newbury Street, so the family indulged her. She dragged her husband and two boys through three stores with women that smelled like lavender and folded shirts on tiny tables. Jay remembered hearing his mother gasp when she looked at the price tag on a blue, sequined dress.
Down three steps, below the street, she found a vintage clothing boutique. It was inside the cramped enclosure that she discovered the dress. It was the man behind the counter who told her that it was the same dress Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch. She didn’t know the movie, but she decided even if the man was lying she liked the illusion of old Hollywood. She liked the way the dress fell across her hips. She knew she would never have the proper place to wear it. The dress became something she wore at odd times just to feel like a girl because she lived in a house full of boys.
Suddenly, the carousel began to turn. The horses began to rise and fall, as the machine began its slow rotation. At first Jay could hear the gears turning beneath his feet. But quickly that sound was drowned-out by the music that began to pipe through the speakers set at varying intervals around the amusement ride. It was so loud, he involuntarily brought his hands up over his ears. The music came out scratchy and flat. It sounded as though it was being played on an old gramophone. He didn’t even know what a gramophone sounded like but he had seen one in an old movie once and he knew that must be the sound quality he was listening too. It was old circus music. His head pounded with the noise.
“Mom,” he screamed. He lifted his voice loud enough she could hear him over the music.
“Where did you come from, mom?”
As the carousel increased its speed, Jay had to take faster steps to compete with the mechanism. He was still trying to reach his mother. But the rotating horses and carriages seemed to be working against him. It seemed to be trying to prevent him from reaching her.
Jay started to run. He dodged the horses that rose and fell as they turned.
“Please, mom, look at me…”
He reached out his hand to touch the dress…
That was when the frame he was convinced belonged to his mother turned.
The body in the flowing dress spun just as his hand almost touched the material.
His face fell.
His heart pounded.
There was no body inside the dress.
He couldn’t fathom what he was looking at. Inside the dress was filled with light.
The light was so bright he clamped his hands down over his eyes.
It was as though the light had set fire to his brain. He thought his eyes were being burned from inside his head.
He squeezed the palms of his hands against his eye-sockets because it lessened the pain.
He thought he felt something wet against the palms of his hand. But he was too afraid to pull his hands away from his eyes to see what could have produced the moisture.
He began to scream…