Mannequins

She got back home around 6 O'clock. Maurice greeted her at the door, and his cologne woke her senses. He had made dinner and they enjoyed it by candlelight, talking finances, memories, future hopes. They watched an episode of Mad Men. In his effort, she saw a twinkle of romance and was grateful for it. His strong features, nose and lips, the thinning hairline and dark impatient eyes inviting to be, not a girl, but a woman. They made rough love that night and it did the trick, the mood staying with them ‘til they both fell asleep. That night she dreamt that she was in a desert with him. He had on his uniform and was standing next another soldier.

"You look pale," the soldier said to her. There was blood dripping from a wound on his forehead.

"You have one too," he said, knowing that she was staring at him.

He pointed at her forehead. She realized she was carrying clothes in her hands and something wrapped inside. As she unwrapped it, a headless child bloomed. The soldiers laughed when they saw this and Maurice came to wipe his bloody hand on the baby's stomach. She woke up frightened. Four in the morning when she looked at her watch, Maurice sound asleep next to her, looking like a total stranger from her angle, like someone she'd never really know. It's just a dream. It's just a dream. She went to the bathroom and washed her face then went back to bed feeling better, coddling herself against Maurice, relaxed by his warmth and smell. She started to masturbate but couldn’t finish, then tried to wake Maurice up to have sex, but he was too tired. She needed to set a mood, so she got up, made them breakfast, fed the cat, cleaned the dishes and the floors. After their breakfast and a little romance, she felt capable and went to work feeling better. By one fifteen, the slideshow of hell of Mouna and all the other thirsty associates eyeing out whatever they could had taken its toll on her. The draining effect of that reserved savagery that retail etiquette demands. She went outside for a cigarette and ran into Walter, one of the usual smokers, a big, older man with a cool manner, gracefully lazy, and a stern expression that never changed. He greeted her lazily, as she disappointedly predicted. The feminine curl in his pout bothered her so she quickly looked away as she sat down, the two of them annoyed by the minute of silence after he reciprocated her gesture.

"So the other day, I get a king size mattress and wood platform for eight hundred, not a bad deal no?" he said to break the silence.

"That's pretty good," Taylor said, disappointed at the subject.

"Yeah, I was satisfied. I mean, pfff, it’s a deal,” he said and looked away.

How've you been?” he quickly added to apologize.

"Oh the same, nothing really new. Work and all,” she sighed, side eyeing him playfully, acquiescing his apology and effort.

“I had this weird dream last night..." she added feeling a conversation opening up.

"Oh, I gotta go back in, it's been a little over fifteen minutes. Hope it wasn't a bad dream."

"No, just strange. See ya."

That's what people do, they talk about their mattress frames and leave when the conversation could get good. See ya. Two-eleven on her phone. She went for a walk around the mall; busy Saturday. She could feel the weekend excitement all around, the nervous energy creeping to her hands, slightly shaking her shins, the eyes and faces of associates, the shifting lines and crosses of customers, ants around candy on the sidewalk. The cancer of retail is the crack cocaine of the American economy. Weekends that were once exciting now became confirmations of the continuation of labor and the weight that follows, the endless rushing, the hustle and bustle towards nowhere and nothing. She wondered who these people were here, chasing after this empty dream. That was a mall, a vessel for empty dreams. She looked at the mannequins on the store fronts, all the glitter, the vain promise. With the absolution that came from her resignation, a renewed rigor drove to her to organize the rest of her day, and with that came the hope of making up for her late losses and impressing her manager, but not before stopping at Pretzel Factory for a salt pretzel with cheddar dip, and then at the Home store. She smiled to herself, walking to the Home store, her teeth pulling from the soft bun and gently tearing through it, a dollop of warm, melted cheese hitting her palette after every bite. The fitting rooms were going to be a mess, but her sanity mattered more at this point. She relished the thought of getting a few things for the house and bought a griddle for twenty dollars and some sheets and pillow cases on sale, the set for nine dollars. She was happy, her hands full of simple treasures. And she remembered her husband. She went back outside for another cigarette and called him. Two twenty-one.

"Hey baby.”

"Baby I got you something, you're going to love it!"

He laughed at her excitement.

“What did you get me?”

"It's a surprise," she said.

He laughed again.

"Come one, what is it?"

"It's a surprise. Ok, let me just tell you..."

"Oh shit baby I gotta go. They need me in a room. I'll call you back in a bit."

"Love you," she said but he had already hung up.

After putting her purchases in her car, feeling warm from the sun outside, away from the deadening, pervasive AC, she officially went back to work at two thirty-seven and as expected her department was looking like a devil went through it, her insinuations of hell confirmed by the long line at the register.

"Where were you?" her manager asked.

"I was taking a fifteen," she said.

"Well, get to it, we're busy. Maybe you can make some good sales today," Lisette commanded before turning sharply and walking away fast. Don’t trip, Taylor wished, at the click of her heels.  

"You alright?" Mouna asked her as she walked by the register.

"Yeah, why?"

"You look tired."

"Didn't get much sleep last night."

"Take longer. I’ll cover," Mouna said. "If you need it."

"Thanks," she said sweetly and surprised, before she realized that Mouna would be making a killing in her absence. She walked a little farther away to be alone for a moment and stopped in front of a mannequin by one of the exits. She stared at it. No. Maurice shouldn't go back to the military, they would figure something out, she thought, staring at the mannequin, bland face, no eyes, perfect features covered in a coat of wax that made it gleam under store lights, this one in a royal blue top, loose at the shoulders, and a tight, short, black pencil skirt she’d never wear, its back tilted, and hand resting stylishly on its hip, the other extend, gesturing you to stop, perfect and empty, ready for a secret.

 

 

Darryl Wawa

Darryl Wawa is a Port-au-Prince born Haitian-American who studied Photography and Creative writing. He enjoys chocolate and good books. That said, maybe a movie is a good book. He loves to work with images and words and their pairing.

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, October 28, 2018 - 10:40