Sidebar: Wrecks and the Bitchy, Cont.

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By Reason of Insanity

Phew.  I don’t know about you, but I’m still a bit of a wreck since the last blog post. It’s one thing to do something wrong and be called out for it.  But it’s an entirely different thing, a whole damned nother, to be accused of something you not only haven’t done, but wouldn’t, in a million years, do.

Reliving the moment, I couldn’t help but wonder: why hadn’t I—I mean, we–just hauled off and punched that Register Bitch right in the nose, shouting “Return this, bitch!” before flinging the ugly maroon dress on the ground and flouncing out of e.b.pepper?

Was it because we didn’t know how to punch, and even if we did, we probably couldn’t have reached her nose?

Were we too timid?

Did we fear reprisal, sensing (perhaps correctly) that the Register Bitch’s greater height and weight might prove devastating should she take us up on our offer?

Or are we the type of person who immediately believes herself guilty the moment she’s been accused of anything, whether or not she actually is?  In other words, are we, ultimately, guilty by reason of insanity?

(For those of you who have no idea why I’m writing like this, you’re probably a guy who’s never seen Sex and the City, and you’re just reading this because you’re afraid I’ll ask if you’ve read it, and you won’t get dinner if your answer is “no.”  Here’s how it works: at the start of the show, the writer character, Carrie, poses a question using the brilliantly distancing first-person plural, then provides a series of implausible answers until she arrives at a pithy, punny conclusion to which the rest of the episode will be forced to conform.  We’re having gluten-free meatballs tonight, so it’s entirely your decision as to whether you want to go on.)

(Oh, and for those of you who have seen Sex and the City but still have no idea what I’m talking about, you may want to read the previous post, below.)

(And for those of you who have seen Sex and the City and don’t want to read the previous post, below, as well as for those of you who haven’t seen Sex and the City and haven’t read the previous post, below, oh my God just try to follow along and pick up contextual clues or something.  I’m not recapping that shit.)

So here we are, stuck at e.b.pepper for at least a week now, frozen in what is probably our worst shopping moment in the history of horrible shopping moments that include the time we went to Safeway after taking Nyquil, and all we can manage to say to the Register Bitch is the one thing that one should never, ever say to a Register Bitch, which is: “I’m sorry?”

“You should be,” the Register Bitch replies.  “The return policy’s right there on the receipt.”

“No,” we say, “I’m not sorry I wore it!  I mean, I didn’t wear it!  The party’s tonight, so I couldn’t have worn it yet, anyway—I just bought it yesterday.  The tag’s still on it!”

The Register Bitch takes a moment to mentally wipe us from her shoes.  She opens the tissue wrapping and pinches the shoulders that don’t match our shoulders, gingerly shaking out the dress.

Which looks, frankly, a bit wrinkled, the way a dress shouldn’t look if it’s only been worn long enough to be dismissed as a thing that looks not berry good on somebody’s mother.

Nor should it look like a thing that no longer has a tag.

And yet it does.

The Register Bitch raises her carefully waxed brows.

We lunge for the dress.  “Seriously, seriously, I didn’t wear it.  The tag should be there, look, there,” we say, stabbing our finger at the plastic thingie that should have held a tag, and now we can’t even remember whether there had even been a tag on the dress in the first place.

After all, there hadn’t been one on the necklace, we think, or maybe say, since we’re completely falling apart.  I mean, maybe there had been a tag, since we’d done that math stuff about how the necklace was twice as much as the dress, but then what had happened to it??  We can’t remember having seen the tag since we were in the store!  But we hadn’t taken it off, because why would we have done such a stupid thing, since we didn’t wear the dress and were never going to, because it looked bad on us!  Just ask our four year-old daughter!

The Register Bitch shrugs.

There was no party!  We stayed in all night and watched Dumbo, swear to God!

“Can’t help you,” says the Register Bitch, lifting the receiver of her phone, because this was—hang on a minute—2001.

Twelve years ago.

Not eleven, twelve.  We have felt the sting of this thing for long enough that if years were doughnuts, we could have gotten an extra one for free.

But we have no doughnuts.  (Which is for the best, really, given the gluten issue.  But still.)

Instead, what we have twelve years later, besides the lingering frustration, the simmering rage, and the vague fear that maybe we really did wear the dress to an event after all, somnambulating and somndancelating the night away, is a purple Kate Spade wallet.

Which we got in exchange for the money we spent on the dress, which we did ultimately manage to return, but only for store credit, and only after not only breaking down and weeping as we fled e.b.pepper, but after returning the next day with the dated menu from the swanky party we ultimately did attend—and with, as The One With The Wavy Hair informed me after reading the last post, our four year-old daughter, “Maddie.”

As evidence.

A fact that we had completely and conveniently blocked out all this time.

“Only,” “Maddie” elaborated, “I think I forgot what it was I was supposed to say and just looked at all the shiny stuff.  I think I failed you, because you were crying.”

“That didn’t happen,” I—I mean, we—said.  “Did that really happen?  No way, I wouldn’t have brought you for evidence.  You were four.”

“Well, yeah,” “Maddie” said, shrugging.

“Oh my God,” we said, because this was rapidly becoming one of those moments where even if we hadn’t done the thing we’d been accused of, we know ourselves well enough to know that we are perilously like the type of person who might have done the thing we’d been accused of.  While we would never, ever be the type of person who would wear a dress to a party and then try to return it the next day, we are exactly the type of person who would bring her four year-old daughter to a store and ask her to tell the Register Bitch that her mother couldn’t possibly have worn something that she, as her personal, preschool stylist, had told her not to wear.

In other words, a total lunatic.

“Maybe I made that up,” “Maddie” said, because she’s fundamentally a much nicer person than she should, genetically, be.  “Maybe I just imagined it.”

“Was there a dog?” we asked, because suddenly we could see her, this “Maddie” as a four year-old, crouched down and talking to one of those ridiculous little toy dogs that probably belonged to the owner of the store, at whom we were babbling stuff about not being the type of person who would wear a dress and then lie about it, because we were a Moderately Well-To-Do-Wife, and not some Perpetually Poverty-Stricken and Lying Lowlife Liar.

“Oh my God, yes!  Yes, there was a dog!”

I—I mean, we—sank down onto “Maddie’s” bed.

“Are you okay?” “Maddie” asked, after a bit.

“I guess,” we said.  “But that totally ruins the story.  It was supposed to be a story about how awful e.b.pepper was.  But now it’s kind of a story about how awful I—I mean, we—am.  Are.”

“No it isn’t,” “Maddie” said.  “I mean, not all of it.  Besides, you can just leave that part out.”

“That’s a good idea,” we said.  “I think we will.”

Tomorrow:  How I Met Your Blue Dress

About Heather Aronson

Heather Aronson is a freelance writer and editor. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona way back in the 1980s and has put it to scant use ever since, publishing a few short stories in now-defunct magazines (including American Short Fiction) and storing a handful of novels in now-defunct boxes. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, in a new house with some of her children, her new husband, and a bunch of old stuff that totally doesn’t go together. Especially the cow creamers.

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