BY AYSEGUL SAVAS
Here are some basics. The skeleton, if you will.
I can start with warm or cold. That’s a classic fork in the path.
Say I go with warm. Then it’s brown trousers or canvas, and I build upwards. Green, beige, or mauve. Knitted, cotton, loose. I let them play it out.
If I pick cold, then it’s grey or all black. Cold means fitted and starched. And if I’ve come that far, the wool and the silk, the buttoned or ribbed, all fall into place in minutes.
Other paths are equally simple.
Some days my legs call out, they want to speak! And I reach for a dress to give them the stage.
Other days they’re silent. And we go from there.
And the weather, of course. Boots can lead the path to everything else.
But mostly, the weather’s inside. A day wearing glasses is always rainy, no matter the clouds. And some days are pure turquoise, even in the dead of winter.
But this day, I was lost in front of my own wardrobe. By the time I came back for a second look, I had tears in my eyes.
Sometimes I get a glimpse of someone in the park, in a museum, at the bakery line, and I go out to assemble all their pieces. It’s a pang to see them like that—such strangers in their perfect nests of clothing, looking so much like themselves.
All this makes me feel naked, laying it out piece by piece.
My mother had sets of clothes like costumes. They hung side by side, each one on a hanger with its own set. That was the thing with my mother, she always knew who she was on a given day. All she had to do was pick from left to right, Monday to Friday.
Trouser, shirt, blazer. Skirt, jumper, necklace. Skirt, blouse, scarf.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.
Strict and soft. Tireless but tired.
On weekends, it was jeans and a sweater and that meant young and witty. Mothers in jeans have a way with words.
At one time, I would write down the combinations for each day, to leave no room for confusion. All I had to do was look at the menu first thing in the morning and see what was being served. Sometimes I made a little sketch next to each one. The flare of the skirt, the straightness of a coat. To remind myself what I was thinking when I decided. Never doubt your old selves! Let them speak!
At some point, things used to be simpler. That was the era of the prized items. There were only ten or fifteen of them. Each year had a certain number of days when they would be worn.
The most prized were those long gold earrings, like they come from the dowry of royalty. And sure enough, those earrings ushered in the Queen. Eyeliner, combed wet hair, something dark and velvety to match the reserved smile. The Queen sent waves of charisma all across the room. I knew this the moment I saw the earrings, and I yearned for the Queen for months, before I could bring her home.
Another prized item was the blue suede heels. The librarian. I say that with affection. Yellow cardigan, green socks. You know the type. Flustered but cheerful. I would know on my way to the wardrobe that it was the day of the librarian, and I would hop with joy to greet her.
And the medicine woman, if I had to give her a name. Mismatched, with a whiff of the alchemist about her, or a witch—rings, shawls, and colors of the forest. But she stopped appearing when we caught up to her imaginary age. When old became old.
Characters that were never meant to be in the wardrobe can easily be imagined in there. A touch of the haggard, the humiliated, the ordinary. My rule is this: if an outsider imagines a character that’s not in your own wardrobe, then any trace of the character must be wiped away.
My mother used to say of a woman in our neighborhood that she let herself go. As if the woman was swept away by an ocean tide. I can’t remember what her name was, and I guess that’s the point. What this woman should have done was to go in there and take out anything that drooped or swept or sagged. Anything that couldn’t hold up to the pull of life.
When I set the rule of wiping away the traces, prized items became abundant.
And what struck me, as I stood staring in my towel, was the beauty of it all. No witchy tatters, bookish sweaters, threadbare shirts. The items from my mother weren’t there, either. Sentimentality is one thing, but we’re all busy people. The days rush by us.
There was nothing to reproach, nothing lurking in the shadows.
Listen, we don’t have all day to take things apart. All I’m saying is it was resplendent. And I ached to know this person, residing a step away.
Aysegul Savas is an essayist and fiction writer based in Paris. Her work has appeared in Guernica, the Paris Review Daily, Pleiades, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. Her first novel, Walking on the Ceiling, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books.
Next (Tom Lakin) >
< Previous (Peter Krumbach)