by Melodie Johnson Howe
I am packing to go off to the Edgar Awards dinner in New York. I have paired down my closet to one color: black. This way I decided I would never get a clothes attack and have a tizzy about what to wear. Also, I’ve discovered that the older I get the less I care. But packing seems to bring out the “what if” in me. It’s like writing.
What if I’m walking down the street with a Starbucks venti latte in my hand and someone bumps into me and slops it all over my outfit? I need back up clothes. But what if they bump into me while they’re trying to steal my purse? Extra purse. What if they bump into me while trying to kidnap me and hold me for ransom? What if Bones doesn’t pay? Been done. Bette Midler and Danny DeVito in Ruthless People.
What if the shoes I’m wearing hurt my feet? What if I break a heel? What if I break a leg? I should bring a skirt just in case. Otherwise the doctors will have to rip my trousers to make room for the cast. I’ll bring a skirt and wide legged trousers. I think they’re coming back.
What if the weather turns cold? I should bring a sweater. But really cold as in sleet, rain, snow, and avalanche. Winter coat. No, winter parka. But if I bring my parka then I’ll have to bring my snow boots. Do I even have snow boots? Do Uggs count?
Of course the opposite could happen. What if it turns hot and humid and I’m stuck with a lot of sweaters and flannel? I’ll have to bring some summer clothes too. Cool white linens. Wait. I don’t have white. Cool black linens. But whenever I wear linen I look like I’m wearing a Roman shade. A tank top! Who are you kidding? There is no way you’re going to be seen in tank top at your age. Silk. No, it clings to you like wet Kleenex when it’s hot and humid. Black cotton shirt. Perfect. I find one in the back of my closet and blow dust off of it. As a precaution I look at the size tag sewn inside the collar. Alas, we all have them in our clothes, usually poking us in the nape of our neck reminding us of the size we are and wish we weren’t. They also instruct us to wash the damn thing in cold water with like colors (is that discrimination?) and tumble dry low. But there is no such setting.
I feel an odd sadness as I read the tag. We are all attempting to look special, but we are doomed to these impossible instructions and a size we wish we weren’t. I blink trying to read the number. Size 8. I adjust my glasses. Size 8. Who wears a size 8 in this house? Not me. Maybe I’ll lose weight. They starve you on the plane. I better take it just in case.
Accessories. I need a necklace to go with one of the three black suits I might wear for the dinner. I stare at my jewelry, which looks like a tiny stash of swag in a pirate’s chest. Baubles collected in a box always make me think of a little girl’s foolish dreams to look like an adored pampered woman.
What if there’s a cat burglar staying in the hotel? I’ll take the cheap stuff. But it looks cheap. What if the cat burglar resembles Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief. I’ll take the good stuff. But only if Cary won’t wear that awful stripped sweater and handkerchief tied around his neck. It made him look like and out of work apache dancer.
I stare at my bed where I have piled the clothes I’m going to take. Piled is not quite the right word. Stacked? Heaped? Amassed? There is a mound of clothes, shoes, and boots.
My husband saunters in with a cup of tea in one hand and Investors Daily in the other. He stops dead, staring at the bed. “Oh. I was going to put my feet up and read.”
Translated, that means he was going to take a nap.
“I didn’t realize you were clearing out the closet?”
He got that I-don’t-understand-her-and-I-never-will look on his face. “I thought you we’re only going to be gone for three days?”
“I think you need to revise.” He turns on his heels saunters back out of the room.
I sit on the edge of the bed and slump back onto my mass of clothes. I hate first drafts.