Arms laden with gowns, she lurches towards the racks, her feet teetering forward in a pair of clunky patent leather heels. “Could you put these on?” she asks in that high-pitched, helium voice, each word strangled by her twee, Napoleonic frame. Helena Bonaparte, that’s what we call her. All hair and high heels, a pinched face and a forced smile. Her liking of us is flammable, like rayon waiting for matchsticks. Hers is the life of a disgruntled salesperson.
The antibac girl is gone, boring someone else in another showroom downtown with her “my family this and my family that,” flipping through pictures of her dumb cat for people pretending to care. In her place is a girl I actually like, a rough-and-tumble, tell-it-like-it-is girl with strawberry hair and the drawl of a truck driver. She’s exactly what you need on days like this, getting zipped in and zipped out, trotting around like a horse in front of stores from Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and the Upper East Side.
In between the silent parade between tables, we tell stories, slurring profanities while a dresser with sore fingers closes the top buttons of gowns destined for celebrities and debutants. I’ve always relished in this disparity, the presentation versus the reality, how no one in the showroom knows what us models really like, who we are, how our voices sound. Gorgeous, overpaid flies on the wall, that’s what we are.
There’s a lull in appointments. We sit in gray robes on plastic chairs, feet pink and screaming from the stilettos we wear. Strawberry Girl gets on her hands and knees, reenacting a scene from a more single life, one that I cannot go into in great detail. We howl into our hands, laughing until tears form in the corner of our eyes. It is here that I remember I am human, and that it doesn’t matter that no one on the other side of the wall, those stuffy women sitting in front of their cold coffees and white roses, cares in the least.