Choosing a raspberry cardigan

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I went shopping for clothes with my daughter. We entered a young person’s clothing store. Beautiful, with wood, space, light, and music. And metal – the racks, the posts all shone.  The clothing displays matched – hazelnut, vanilla, snow grey, powder blue, black. Cinnamon. Chocolate. Everything caring about the approach of winter. The staff were young. Confident. They approached my daughter, but not me. I stood near the boxes of coat hangers and clothes relegated to discards. This is the place to be. From here, all of life.

There are people turning in front of mirrors, first one way, then another, faces softening between despair and possibility.

‘It’s not me.’

‘I love this.’

Craning the neck, ‘What’s it doing back there…is it straight?’

‘Is this all right?’

Staring hard, intensely, into the streaky shop mirrors at reflections that won’t obey. Not blinking. Willing it to work.

‘This isn’t working.’

‘Ok, that’s ok, do you want another size?’

‘No.’ Depressed.

Levi’s, Moto, Lee. Outland. A sign that says Nudie Jeans are coming. Another sign taped to the wall, Recycle Your Jeans Here. Ask Us How.

A young woman stretches gently a raspberry cardigan. It is still on its hanger. She turns it this way. Then another way. She rubs her thumb delicately across the tiny fruit buttons.  Is it soft? Is it strong? Will it be kind to me?

What are we looking for when we shop? What are we looking for? What do we think we know?

‘I’ll get this.’

The shop staff, they love everything. Everything is cute.

‘Great. Isn’t it great. It looks great on you. I love this too.’ 

I’ll pay with card.’

‘Great. That’s a cute bag.’

‘Oh my God, thanks,’

There are huge crosses on the floor. At the entrance, a table with hand sanitizer. And printed instructions on How This Shop is Keeping You Safe.

‘How much are the shoes?’

‘Do you have any eights?’

‘I was hoping for black maybe..’

At the entrance, a commotion because school has finished and young people are gathering, loud, exuberant, and not standing on the crosses.

One saleswoman calls, ‘Ellie, can you go sort those kids, none of ‘em have used the sanitizer.’ I watch Ellie, with chewing gum, head strongly for the door.

 

When we went out for the evening somewhere and there were books behind the bar.

 

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I liked it here, wherever it was, somewhere on a mild night in the city. Because they had placed books behind the bar, in small rows and in one long row across the top, behind the ladder, dim in the yellow light, the leather ridging beautiful in the yellow light.

Perhaps not many people saw them. The books did not have much to do, just sit there superbly, which they did, above the heads of the bar staff and over the life and heat of the evening. The bar staff were making cocktails, pulping green apples, swirling ice with ice, faultless, making cocktail after cocktail, spinning lids, confident with glass and colour and audiences. And the place was filling up, the music was louder, it was getting darker, except for a glowing mezzanine floor up high and behind an iron balcony. Up there were lamps and a group of people, just their silhouettes moved to and fro. One woman danced by herself, she poured champagne from a great height, the bottles glowed emerald green, she was Aladdin in that smoky light, Aladdin or Scheherazade perhaps, belonging only to herself.

Young people enter and leave and enter and leave, following some unknown tidal rule. There is shouting at the front. The barman presents four cocktails at once and with a flourish and there is cheering. There is a surge of interest in apples and ice and whisky.

Near to us, a young man drops his glass to the floor, he is leaning on his friend, they are arguing, there are two young women sitting nearby and they draw in their legs, looking at the spilt drink, the ice and the glass and the young men. One of the young men begins to weep.The books on the shelf lean back, complacent, having seen it all and already containing it all.

Up behind the balcony, the dancer dances on, consulting nobody.