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.’
‘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?’
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 at? What are we looking for? What do we know?
‘I’ll get this.’
‘Great. Isn’t it great. It looks great. I love this too.’ The shop girls, they love everything. Everything is cute.
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.