The Little White Dress

One by one, Madeline slowly slipped her pale legs into the smooth cocoon of her tight black stockings. She carefully eased them up over her thick thighs and brought them to rest at her at the base of her hips. Next, she carefully laid out three different dresses: a sliming black one with dazzling sparkles that traced the neckline, a short and sassy red one that clung to her hips and accentuated her curves, and a skimpy white one that revealed just a little too much skin for her usual tastes. Madeline let her delicate fingers trace the silky fabric of each one, before picking up the black one and holding it to her body. She stood facing the mirror as the dress hung in front of her. She laid it back down again. Madeline once again repeated the process, this time with the red dress, but again, she laid it back on the bed.

After pausing for just a moment, she very slowly picked up the white dress and slipped it over her head. She pulled, tugged, and wiggled until the skin-tight dress clung to her waist. Madeline analyzed her appearance in the mirror. The sheer see-through cutouts on each side displayed her curves in a revealing manner, and the low-cut top barely covered her fake breasts. She self-consciously tugged at the bottom. This would have to do.

Madeline reached for her tube of bright red lipstick. She painted her face just like her mother had taught her when she was younger. Thick black eyeliner lined her dark brown eyes, and her bright pink eyeshadow sparkled in the light. Her lips were as red as a freshly picked apple, and she curled them up into a small smile. Madeline could remember a simpler time when her mother would sit on the floor in front of her, crisscross-applesauce, and carefully apply each layer of makeup. She always started with the lips. The lips are the centerpiece of the face, she would say with a smile as she spread the brightly colored lip gloss onto Madeline’s tiny lips. Beautiful! She would exclaim when she had finished, sending little Madeline running to the mirror to see.

Her father, on the other hand, had never agreed. Are you trying to make our daughter look like a skank?! He would yell as he raised his hand towards her mother. He would then proceed to yank Madeline up by her hair and drag her to the bathroom, watching menacingly as she angrily scrubbed the makeup off of her tear-stained face.

Madeline quickly blinked away her tears, careful not to smudge her makeup, and hastily slipped into her tall red heels. Taking one last glance at her reflection, she grabbed her coat and rushed out the door of her LA apartment. She slipped through the darkened streets, made her way into the deepest alleys, and slowly pushed her way to the curb. There she would wait.

It wasn’t long before a sleek, silver Porsche pulled up beside her. The window tent was definitely past regulation, and it was clear that this man had money.

“How much?”

“Depends on what you’re looking for.”

“I want it all.”

Madeline thought for a moment before making her decision. She looked him over. He seemed to be in his forties, handsome, in good shape, and clearly privileged. His expensive suite fit him perfectly. A Rolex adorned his arm and on his left hand, he sported a shiny golden ring. “$2,000” she said bravely. She knew it was a stretch, but she would not back down.

“Deal,” he said without hesitation, and soon they were pulling into the parking lot of a dingy, cheap motel. As she walked into the dimly lite room, she could hear the screams of her father. What the hell do you think you’re doing?! No daughter of mine is ever going to be a prostitute! She felt the sticky warmth of the man’s hands as he began to viciously tug at her zipper. His hot breath wreaked of alcohol. Her body screamed in protest, but she couldn’t think of any other solution. No one wanted her. No one had ever wanted her. This was all she had.

As she slipped into her usual unfeeling state of mind, Madeline was absolutely sure that her father would never have wanted her to feel so alone.

 

Deep from the Bottle

Tate looked at his watch. Any minute now his plane would be landing, and he would be back in his home town for the first time in ten years. A loud dinging filled his ears as the flight attendant announced their arrival in Cincinnati. He snapped his seatbelt into place and braced himself for the bumpy landing. As he stepped off the plane and into the terminal, he almost immediately heard the loud squeals of his mother as she came barreling towards him.

“My baby!” she cried, tears streaming from her bright blue eyes. Tate wiggled uncomfortably, trying his best to squeeze his way out of her tight grasp. She stepped back, wiped her eyes, and smiled a sad smile. “I’ve missed you so much,” she said in almost a whisper.

“I’ve missed you too, mom.”

Tate lugged his single suitcase behind him as his mom led him through the maze of people and back to her tiny bright green mini cooper. “Don’t you just love it?” She held out her arms towards the car as though she were Vanna White showing off her prize. The bold green color made him feel queasy, but he nodded his head and climbed inside.

As they rolled out of the airport parking lot, Tate’s mother chattered happily about all the things she had been up to since the last time they had talked. He only half listened as he peered out the window. The town that he had grown up in flew past him like scenes from an old movie. Each one brought back memories he had hoped to forget.

On the corner of the street at the shell station sat thirteen-year-old Tate, his hands clinched tightly. He shivered as a drop of sweat slithered down his spine. He looked as though he were waiting for someone and glanced suspiciously in every direction. Before he even had the chance to react, his friend Craig came bounding out of the store full speed. “Run!” he screamed, and the two of them took off towards the alleyways. Craig tossed him the stolen liquor and soon they were safely tucked away behind a dumpster. Tate took a sip and let himself slowly slip into bliss.

“So are you excited for your reunion?” His mother’s question pulled him out of his thoughts and brought him back to reality. Reunion? He had almost completely forgotten about that, but it was the only reason he had come back. Tomorrow was the day of his ten year high school reunion, the one he hadn’t even wanted to attend. However, his therapist had suggested that he go. “It will be good for you to face your past,” she had said. Tate wasn’t sure if he agreed with her, but decided to give it a try. As they pulled into the driveway of his childhood home, he was hit hard with a painful flashback.

There he was, only fifteen, holding a brown paper bag in between his shaking hands. It was a quarter past midnight, and he knew that he was way past his curfew. He took a deep drink from the bottle and tossed the bag out behind the bushes. As he stumbled into the house, the lights flicked on and his angry father sat menacingly on the couch. “Are you drunk?!” he barked as Tate fumbled into the room. Tate laughed and tripped over the rug.

“Earth to Tate!” His eyes blinked as his mother waved her hands in front of his face. “Come on inside! I’m making dinner.”

Up in his room, Tate glanced around at all of his old things. It was just as he had left it. A model airplane that he and his dad had started working on still laid half unfinished on his old desk. A pair of dusty sneakers were thrown lazily into the corner, and his pillows were tousled as though he had slept there the night before rather than ten years ago. “I wonder…” he said to no one in particular as he leaned down to feel underneath his bed. Just as he had suspected, his fingertips gently grazed the cool metal of an empty flask. As he pulled it out, he was hit with another memory.

Screaming. That’s all he heard as he angrily threw his things into his bag. He was eighteen. He was an adult. He wasn’t going to let them tell him what to do anymore. Tate took a swig from his flask as his mother continued to bang her fists into his locked bedroom door, demanding that he open it. He continued to pack his back, ignoring her furious cries. Suddenly, the door flew open, and his dad came barreling in. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Tate could smell the alcohol on his breath. He laughed. “As far away from you as I can,” he said smoothly as he stared deep into his father’s eyes. His father stumbled towards him, fists flying, but Tate dodged his swings and quickly ran out the door. “I don’t need him. I don’t need any of them!” he thought to himself, and soon he was flying down the highway.

The flask made a loud clang as it hit the hardwood floor. Tate blinked. He was back in his room. Back in his town. It was as though nothing had even changed. No. Something had changed. Someone was missing. Another flashback came.

The call had come late at night while his cellphone sat on the counter of the bar. It was a number he recognized. His mother’s. Tate ignored it and called to the bar attendant for another drink. His phone continued to buzz noisily. He continued to ignore it. The dinging sound let him know that he had a new voicemail. Should he even listen to it? He hesitated for a moment, but finally decided to press play. “Tate…” his mother said softly. “It’s your father. He’s dead.” Tate dropped the phone. He could hear it clang against the hard floor as he the threw his bottle of whiskey across the counter. It smashed against the wall sending tiny shards of glistening glass trickling around the room. The hot tears burned as they fell.

Liver disease. That’s what had killed him. His excessive drinking has finally caught up to him, sending him to the grave at only fifty years old. He was too young to die. Tate picked up the empty flask and threw it at the wall. After his father had died, he had stopped drinking altogether. It had been hard, but he knew he wasn’t ready to face his father’s same fate. It hadn’t been easy. How many times had the bottle called out to him, tempting him with just one tiny sip? He closed his eyes. The pain cut him deep. His father had tried to stop him. Tried to make him better. But his own abusive use of alcohol had lead Tate spiraling down the same path towards destruction.

The sound of his mother downstairs in the kitchen, the haunting chime of the clock in the hall, the creaking of the wooden floor beneath his feet. It was almost too much to bare. The memories. The heartache. The pain. He shouldn’t have come back. He shouldn’t be here. Tate flung open the door of his closet and desperately threw out all of his things. “Where the hell is it?!” he snarled between clenched teeth before feeling his hand touch the smooth surface of a well-hidden bottle. He grasped the bottle between his shaking hands and raised it towards the ceiling. He knew what he should do. He knew that he needed to smash it, to rid himself of this poison for good. But something inside of that bottle called out to him once more. His pain, too great to bare, threatened to break him, but the bottle, he knew what it could do. He knew it could make him forget all of this.

His sudden burst of energy now gone, Tate sank to the floor on his knees, cracked open the bottle, and took a deep drink. He felt the warmth of the liquor as the tears began to fall.

Keeper of Memories

Collect things—that’s what I do. Yard sales, garage sales, thrift shops, consignment stores—these places are where I belong. There are so many treasures out there. So many things that people just want to throw away. Valuable things! Things that could use just a little bit of love. Some things just need a little paint. Sometimes its as simple as dusting them off and giving them a good cleaning before ta-da! They look brand new! Hoarder? No. No, I wouldn’t call myself that. I’m a collector. I collect things. That’s what I do! Who says I have a problem? I can see no issue with the way I live. These things, my things, they’re my treasures. Can you not see how each one of these items needs me? How I need them? Well, just let me tell you. Let me tell you, and then you will realize that I am not a hoarder. Oh no, I’ve never been a hoarder.

Ever since I was little, I have always held on to things: paper clips, receipts, dolls, stuffed animals, shoes, clothing, books, you name it. Why, you may ask? Well you see, each and every thing has value. You may think I’m a hoarder now, but just wait. I will show you how I am not a hoarder. I will show you how each and every item I own has meaning, or, a purpose if you will. Do you see this right here? This is the very first toothbrush that I ever bought. Garbage, you say? Blasphemy! You just don’t know how to repurpose it. Now think of it like this, and I swear you will understand why I must keep it. I may not be able to use this old thing for my teeth anymore, but what about cleaning other things? I can use it to scrub my watch collection, and to get into those tiny cracks in the floor. I can also use it to polish the dirt and dust off of my shoes! What do you think of that? Oh, well now you must be wondering why I need a whole collection of old toothbrushes. That’s simple! I don’t want to use the same toothbrush to scrub my watch collection that I used on the floor or my shoes! Are you finally beginning to understand? I am a collector! A treasure hunter! I have many titles, but I can assure you that hoarder is not one of them. “Oh, but look at all this mess!” You say. What mess? I see no mess! I only see possibilities. And memories. So many memories.

Do you see this porcelain doll? Her face may be broken, and she may be missing a limb–or two–but that’s not the point! I’ve had her since I was little. She was my best friend—my only friend. She may not look like much now, but at one point she was stunning! Her hair was a rich red, her eyes a brilliant blue. Her dress wasn’t a dingy shade of mustard like it is now, but a yellow as bright as the sun itself! She was there through it all, the sadness, the tears, the angry shouts emerging from my parents’ bedroom at two in the morning, the abuse that I watched my mother go through, and the abuse that was soon turned on me after she died. She was there for me when my father locked me in the closet for misbehaving, when he forced me to use my own toothbrush to clean the entire house on my hands and knees, when he told me I was worthless, selfish, and unworthy of any love from him, and even when he blamed me for the death of my mother. So you see, it was only fair of me to be there for her when my father pulled her from my arms and threw her against the wall, when her pretty little face shattered into a million tiny pieces across the kitchen floor. I picked up every little chip and placed them all into this plastic bag because it was my turn to take care of her.

I cannot let go of anything because each item I own represents a small part of who I am. So, think of me as a keeper of memories. A collector of all things that once were. The one who brings life to the things forgotten. But never, and I mean never, call me a hoarder.