Joyland

Toronto |

I Want Too Much

by Mona Awad

edited by Emily M. Keeler

Probably one of these days I’m going to kill Trixie. I have my reasons. I can hear her squawking to another customer just beyond the change room door which isn’t a door it’s a curtain, it’s a dark red curtain like a Lynchian portal to hell. On the other side, Trixie is telling some woman how, with some cute boots, that skirt could really be cute. Or a cute shirt! What about a cute shirt? What about a cute shirt and cute boots?! So cute. Something happens inside of me whenever Trixie says the word cute. My shoulders meet my ears. Heat crackles up my arms. I grow afraid behind my curtain, bracing myself for the moment when the shrill edge of her voice becomes pointed in my direction. Because it’s only a matter of time. The robin’s egg spaghetti strap number she chose for me has my tits in a strangle hold and she’ll be coming to check on that soon. There’s a soft quick click of heels, the papery rustle of very moussed hair, a long nailed hand tugging on the curtain.

Then: "How are we doing in here?"

It’s always we. Never you. Like it’s a team effort. You and Trixie together.

"Fine," I say. Anyone would be daunted, even offended by my tone. It’s awful and I never use it on anyone but Trixie, but she bounces back just fine.

"Okay," she says. Then: "Can I see?"

Her voice rises to an impossible shrillness on the see. I can feel her see in the roots of my teeth. Her genuine desire to help buzzing along my mandibluar nerve.

"No," I say.

Because Trixie never helps. Because of Trixie, I have already made several regrettable purchases.

"No?" she repeats.

But she knows my no isn’t a real no. She knows it’s the no of a petulant child refusing to play their part. It’s true that when it comes to shopping for clothes, I have a history of having a bad attitude. That’s what my mother used to say to me all the time: You have a bad attitude. You’re making this harder than it has to be.

I have a flashback of being in Addition-Elle. A muzak version of “Natural Woman” is playing and I’m sitting with folded arms on the change room bench in a bra the color of gun metal. All the sweater shrouds and stirrup pants I’m supposed to try on are lying at my feet like kicked cats. Meanwhile, my mother and the fat saleswoman are knocking on the door. Let’s see! And I’m being difficult, shaking my head.

You’re making this harder than it has to be, my mother would sigh afterwards over food court frozen yogurt. You need to change your attitude. Though she also had to make do with Addition-Elle slacks and sweaters, my mother always wore a necklace that matched her earrings that matched her bag that matched her shoes. She called this jazzing it up. My mother and Trixie would have gotten along famously.

Trixie’s cooing at me now to come out, come out, so I do, I pull back the curtain and stand before the mirror under the track lighting, Trixie hovering behind me.

She looks me up and down, her head cocked to one side.

"Cute," she says. But this means nothing. To Trixie, even the apocalypse is cute. Scorched earth. A horse-filled darkness. The shadow of the scythe-wielding dealer of Fate bearing down on her. All super cute.

But the dress isn’t. There are huge gaps between the front metal teeth where my chest is pulling the fabric in opposite directions. When I point this out, Trixie sort of wrinkles her nose, looks troubled, squinty. I’ve cast clouds over her clear horizon. I’ve done this before.

"Can’t you see this gap here?" I ask Trixie, pointing to my chest.

"Not really," Trixie says. Why is Trixie so eager to see when she can’t see at all?

"Here? Right here?" I say, thumping at my own dress throttled chest until I feel it burning under my palm. “You’re telling me you don’t see that?”

She squints hard at my chest, sort of shakes her head, like she’s confused. Then her eyes suddenly brighten.

"You know what I would do?"

And that’s the thing with Trixie. She always has a solution.

"You could just put a cute necklace! With a pendant that covers this part? Or a scarf! What about a scarf and tie it here?" Trixie says, resting her fingers on the wide space between the teeth. She asks me if she can show me a scarf?

What I want to say to Trixie is, Trixie? Why do I come here? Why do I subject myself to this humiliation? I don’t deserve this, Trixie. I ate turkey shavings wrapped in hydroponic lettuce leaflets every day for a whole year. I gazelled. Do you know what a gazelle is, Trixie? It’s a cardiovascular machine that’s a hybrid between a treadmill and an elliptical. You can only buy it on television. But then I look at her blinking happily at me from behind what have to be false eyelashes and I know she’ll have no idea what I’m talking about.

So I say "Show me the scarf."

She trots off happily to get the scarf.

Beside me is another woman also being serviced by Trixie. The woman has a big ass and she’s wearing jeans which are far too tight. It was Trixie who chose these jeans clearly. I heard the woman warn Trixie that she had a big ass and Trixie said, No problem and she handed the woman several pairs of pants which I knew, just by looking, would not fit the woman’s ass. Now Trixie has coaxed this woman out from behind her curtain and dragged her under the track lighting which sheds a light that only Trixie looks good in. And on her way to pick up my scarf, she looks at this woman muffin topping out of her jeans and says, "Cute!!" And when the woman says, "What about my ass?" Trixie says, "What about a belt?" Like a big belt! And some cute boots. With a big belt and some cute boots, she’d be saved from her own ass. She’ll go grab some belts.

But this woman isn’t like me. She’s grateful. She believes in Trixie’s solutions. She waits patiently for the belts, turning herself this way and that and I know she’s telling herself that her ass doesn’t look that big, not that big after all. But it does, is the thing.

Trixie is now fastening the scarf around my neck like a flaccid noose and I feel my chest getting red and patchy and hot underneath her hands. She is uncomfortably close. I can smell all of her smells: hair products and Greek cooking and enthusiasm.

The pattern of the scarf doesn’t at all match the pattern of the dress. I’m about to say something about that but Trixie anticipates this and cuts me off.

"This is just to show you," she explains, looping it around my neck. "This is just so you’ll see."

As she ties it around my neck, she accidentally scrapes me with a nail.

"Oops. Sorry."

The scarf covers the gap in the front teeth of the dress but otherwise looks ridiculous. As I knew it would.

But Trixie looks terribly pleased with herself. Like she’s a genius or something. Like by tying this mismatching scarf around my neck, a scarf that looks ridiculous with the dress not just in pattern but in principle, she’s shown me a solution to the problem of my flesh.

"See?"

"Yeah," I say, tugging on the scarf like it’s choking me. "The thing is? I don’t want to have to wear a scarf to wear this dress. Or a necklace. Or anything else. I just want..."

Trixie raises a threaded eyebrow, waiting.

"I just want to, you know, wear it…."

"Oh," she says, furrowing her brow. She gives me a look like perhaps given my size and all, I want too much? I wrench off her knotted handiwork, revealing the gap in the teeth again. The other woman, the big assed one in the too tight jeans who is being placated with belts, looks at me like I’m being mutinous.

"Because it really is too tight, isn’t it? I mean, really?"

My eyes say, Say it, Trixie. Say it for both of us.

She smiles, looks both ways like a caged animal before she bores her eyes into me and nods a little. It’s a barely perceptible tilt of the head, like to be this honest just isn’t allowed but she’ll do it just this once.

Then she adds, aloud: "I don’t think so. Not if you wore a scarf. But you don’t want to wear a scarf you said so…," she shrugs. Like that’s the last trick in her bag of tricks.

She turns on her heel and trots off to get more belts for the big assed woman.

And I feel suddenly deserted. Discarded. Cast off like a bad dress. Suddenly I want to bathe in the light of Trixie’s eyes. I want her to ask me to turn for her again. I want her to fix her eyes, the eyes where everything fits, where it’s just a matter of the right accessory, the right attitude, on me. I want my mother’s eyes.

As Trixie walks off, she puts a hand on the big assed woman’s broad shoulder and squeezes and says she won’t be a minute with those belts. And the woman glows, basking in Trixie’s attention. She says, “No problem at all,” her eyes moony with love as she turns to once more admire her terrible ass in the mirror.