I’m in SAKS Fifth Avenue in Sarasota, Florida and I’m very young and desperately searching the shop floor for a cool leather jacket.
It’s 6 PM and the store is teeming with plastered women clumsily clutching champagne flutes whilst feverishly pawing at horrifyingly expensive apparel. I’m at one of those genius shopping events where stores get their customers Nice & Hammered before encouraging them to drop 2k on a handbag made in China that’s already two seasons too late.
“Do youuths thinkth this is chic?” A sun-fried woman slurs to another sun-fried woman. They both have short haircuts. Not cool lesbian short haircuts. A Kate Gosselin circa 2001 haircut. A “may I speak to the manager” haircut. A “my son would never” haircut. A “isn’t IT FUN?” midwest chop. I can smell their hair gel. It smells cheap and toxic. Just the way I like it (purr).
“Honey, I think you destherve it.” The woman slurs back to her friend. The garment in question is a black and white striped maxi dress with long sleeves. I think it’ll look nice on the sun-fried, short-haired lady so I tell her.
“You should totally get it,” I vocal fry even though I don’t know either of the women and no one has asked me for my opinion. I say this with great authority as if I’m fucking Anna Wintour — not a tattered twink with pitted acne scars and ratty clip-in extensions bought at Sally’s Beauty Supply for under a hundred.
The women warmly smile at me and we clink champagne glasses and for a moment I feel a deep wave of sisterhood swell in my chest and crash into my heart. “You deservth the dress,” I slur in solidarity to my new friends.
I wink and twirl away.
My eyes suddenly zero in on a black leather jacket with shoulder pads that look like arrows pointing toward the sky. THUMP THUMP THUMP. My heart pitter-patters like I've just done a bump of cocaine. I set my flute of champagne on a little shelf peppered with Juicy Couture perfume and hungrily tear the jacket off its hanger. I feel like a dog biting into the flesh of a raw elk. I slither like a snake into buttery leather. I don’t need to look in the mirror to know it fits but I do my due diligence out of moral obligation to the council of Department Store Etiquette. I might feel like a savage but I don’t act like one. Ever. I'm British, remember?
I swag like a 1950s dapper lesbian toward the mirror. The lights are florescent and age me a decade but I look more myself than ever before. I feel more myself than ever before.
“YOU HAVE TO BUY THAT JACKET! YOU HAVE TO BUY THAT JACKET!” A boy’s voice bellows behind me. There’s a sexy, sophisticated Mexican lilt to the sound of his voice.
I whip my head around. The boy looks like a fawn. His eyes are large and brown and Bambi-like and his skin looks like it’s been lightly kissed by the Swiss sun on a skiing holiday somewhere bougie: Gstaad, St. Moritz, etc. He’s wearing a sky-blue button-down and skinny black dress pants and shiny black loafers. His legs are long and lean: Deer legs.
He extends a bronzed hand toward me.
“I’m Eduardo,” his eyes twinkle like a gay Santa Clause.
“I’m Zara.” His hands are soft like the buttery leather jacket.
“I know your mom.”
“Yes. She’s a client at the salon at The Met. I work at the salon at The Met.”
“Oh shit.” I twirl a lock of damaged hair around an unmanicured finger self-consciously. “I know who you are.”
Eduardo smiles so brightly the room vibrates and the light bulbs flicker and dopamine floods the floorboards.
“She talks about you all the time,” I say shyly.
“Shall we grab some more champagne?” Eduardo purrs. The subtext of Shall We Grab Some More Champagne is want to be best friends for life?
“Fuck yes,” I say to the champagne and the best friendship.
I buy the jacket. It’s the first time I’ve ever spent big girl money in my life. It’s so worth it. People stop me in the street to ask me where I got it. A model I know buys it too and I feel like the most glamorous girl in the world because a model has copied me.
Eduardo and I go out every single night to a dive bar downtown called “Smoking Joes.” We start calling it “Smoking Lows” because it’s a dark crowd. It’s all heartbroken misfits screaming into buckets of gin. I like it because you can smoke inside and I'm an anorexic aspiring actress, so cigarettes are my life force, naturally. Sometimes I carry little bright orange packets of powdered Vitamin C in the fake Chanel bag I bought on Canal Street in New York and sprinkle it into our Vodka diet cokes.
“This will stop you from getting a hangover in the morning,” I always lecture with great pride. The truth is we don’t get hungover. We’re babies and despite being rail thin and sucking back sticks of poison, we are obnoxiously healthy and have no idea how good we have it and how bad the hangovers and the bloat and the anxiety will get in just a few short years.
By 1 AM Eduardo is always wearing the leather jacket. It looks good on him.