Writing by Kyle Freelander
“What’s your story?” LBD grunted as soon as the door was closed. Having been worn more than the rest of us, and being a full outfit on her own, LBD appointed herself our leader. No one fought her on this. She was worldly, always coming back in the closet with tales of parties where she rubbed against shiny ties and pants so pressed you couldn’t guess their age. Sometimes she didn’t even get washed before she was returned to us and we could smell the drinks and smoke that made her cooler than any of us put through the spin cycle.
“What do you mean?” The green sequins on her body shook as she responded.
“Do you have a name? Where are you from? When are you leaving?” LBD was always harsher towards dresses than us shirts.
I wanted to tell LBD to cut her some slack, but I knew better than to mess with her. Even if I was only a T-shirt, LBD was a force not to be questioned. I knew if I stood up for this stranger, LBD would exact some revenge. She’d probably skip over the obvious paint spots I got from when Owner redid the kitchen and jump right to my initial design. On my front side, I said, “S—haw– Swim team 2003” (some of my lettering had gone away over the years while LBD who was here even before I arrived still maintained the appearance of being straight from the store).
The green sequins shook again as the new dress went to reply, “They call me Mermaid…I’m from the mall…” We all shuddered at the word. Most of us were from some mall or another, a holding pen for us as we begged like shelter animals to be taken home. “And I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to go back there.”
LBD scoffed. She didn’t want to compete with new dresses for Owner’s attention. She prided herself on being out the most, of seeing the most, of doing the most, and making us all feel inferior. It worked. I used to see pools and scantily clad bodies but now I was lucky to have even made it to the kitchen. Defilement by paint or not, I was lucky to leave the closet.
“What do you think of the newcomer?” Blue asked me. She and I had become friends a few months into her arrival here once the dresses shunned her. From her exterior alone, you would never have guessed that Blue wasn’t a sundress and, since no one thought to ask her if she was what she appeared, she was accepted as one of them. LBD didn’t feel as defensive when it came to her since Blue was clearly a casual wear and LBD was for “special occasions,” as she liked to say.
It was only when Blue got caught on another dress that her secret was revealed: she wasn’t a dress at all. She was a jumper and dresses couldn’t be friends with the jumpers. Most of the shirts had shunned her as well for deceiving us all, but I was rather forgiving on the matter. Blue couldn’t help the way she looked anymore than I could.
“She seems a little skittish,” I replied as Mermaid shook her body in a manner that made it look like she was drowning. I wished that someone would tell her that it was going to be all right, that she just needed to ignore LBD. One of these days Mermaid would get to see a piece of the world the way we all did and she would no longer care about her first moments pulling on the white plastic hanger, holding on for dear life, while LBD interrogated her.
Mermaid made it through the year, getting taken out three times in the summer and early fall to events that LBD pretended not to care about but we all knew that she did. Even though she got out more than any of us, LBD wanted nothing more than to be taken out every day –practical or not. Blue got worn once that year –on a boat she had said with a smile so large it looked like a matching long necklace hung on her. I, on the other hand, hadn’t left the closet at all. There was one close call when Owner almost pulled me down, but she settled on a different shirt instead when she notice the splotches of paint she had put on me. As evil as she was, even LBD knew better than to say anything about this occurrence. We all feared the day when Owner wouldn’t want us anymore.
Then came the day we always knew would come as it did every year: spring-cleaning. We could always tell that day was on the horizon when Owner wore less sweaters and shorter dresses. Today was that day. As owner walked into the closet, I stared at the black body bag in her hand. Her nails were painted the same shade of green she had painted the kitchen walls –the same shade of green that I wore in spots across my skin. In a weird way, that gave me some hope. Owner still likes the color and I have some of that color. Maybe she still liked me. We had been through so much together. Surely she remembered that?
Owner started at the back of the walk-in closet with the dresses and worked her way forward. I could tell that Mermaid was holding her breath the same way all the new articles of clothing from the past year were. I wanted to tell them it was stupid to worry so much. They had the least to worry about out of all of us. Owner wasn’t going to get rid of something she hadn’t even had for a year yet. My seven-year stance in the closet was living proof of that and LBD’s nine-year stay was even more comforting.
The bag remained bodiless as Owner walked passed Mermaid, LBD, and the dress owner had worn to homecoming as a high school freshman and hadn’t worn since. If she could keep things like that around, she would certainly keep me. Then again, Sparkles was in perfect condition and I was flawed beyond repair. As Owner inched closer, tossing in a few white blouses that knew what their fate was given that they couldn’t even button around Owner anymore. I still fit though. At least I think I did. It had been a while, but there was still room for growth the last time I was worn. That comforted me for a little bit, but I still found myself holding my breath like I was a newbie when owner stood in front of me.
Owner paged through the hangers, throwing them down the post they clung to so that one shirt ran into the next and barer bar was exposed. I was flicked down the row in the same quick, careless manner that slammed me into another T-shirt. A wave of relief came over me as I realized today wasn’t my day. I was going to be here for at least another year and not placed in the body bag with the ill-fitted blouses. Owner still wanted me.
Owner continued flipping through the T-shirts, getting to the end of the collection without adding any new additions to the body bag. I mentally applauded my groups success for Owner’s clear desire to keep us, but I let my guard down too soon. Owner flipped backwards through the shirts she had just gone through, bringing us all up to the block again. Before I knew it, Owner’s green fingertips were on me, blending in with the spots that I had gotten from the kitchen paint like we were two pieces of the same whole. Maybe Owner saw it too –how we fit together so perfectly even though she had forgotten me over the years. I could forgive her for all of that.
That was my last thought before she yanked me down from the hanger and stuffed me in the body bag in a motion so swift and unexpected that I didn’t even have a chance to cry out. I watched the patch of light fade from my sights as Owner tied off the body bag. I imagined Blue crying out for me, begging for Owner to bring back her friend. I could practically see Mermaid shaking her fish scales like she had just been pulled out of the pond and thrust onto the cutting board herself. I knew LBD would carry on like nothing had happened. She would probably say something sassy like how I brought this upon myself with the message the back of my shirt said: “No shoes, no shirt, no problem!” Now there was no shirt as I was dragged away from the only friends I had ever known into the world I still wouldn’t be able to see.