A Dress You Don’t Recognize

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The dress is pale pink tulle threaded with glitter. Strapless. Ballerina style. The kind you’d have coveted as a little girl. You think for a second about how it would’ve gone well with those sparkly white plastic Cinderella shoes you had when you were five years old. There was a button on the sole and when your heel pressed down on it the shoes would light up and play music.

The pink tulle scratches dryly against your skin and you stare down at your feet rubbed raw in ill-fitting black shoes that you did not choose and you try not to trip over the train of the dress as it drags in the red dirt and a buzzard circles overhead in the flat blue sky that ripples with heat where it reaches the horizon.

The air hangs thick and dry and the harsh white sun screams through shattered windshields in uneven slices. Stuffing spills from torn leather seats scarred with cigarette burns. Cars piled up in unwieldy stacks. Cars crumpled like the pages of old magazines. Cars torn apart bit by bit like sad limbless animals. You can feel the ghosts. The people that once owned them. Rode in them. Made love in them.

This isn’t what it’s supposed to be like.

Two old cars—a white VW bug, a powder blue Pontiac. Parked nose to nose, making a V. The bumper of the Pontiac hangs off, heavy with rust. Red dirt swirls in small circles across white fold-up chairs where people sit. Faceless tuxedoed men. Ladies in pastel evening gowns. The frantic beating of the fans they wave to cool their faces. Like the beating of wings. You can hear them talking and laughing the way you heard your parents talking and laughing in the car when it was late at night and you were drifting off to sleep in the backseat and you weren’t sure if it was a dream. Words that you recognize. Strung together but not making sentences. Cheap makeup catching in the places where their faces crack and crumble. The jammy blur of a fuchsia lipsticked mouth that whispers with a nightmarish slowness into the shadow of an oversized sun hat There she is.

One of the faceless men is standing over you. He says you’re not supposed to be there, there being in the center of the V made by the two cars, the blue one and the white one, and then he looks worried and says Shh, it’s starting, it’s starting.

Your brothers.

They stand like two penguins on a hill of red dirt. Dabbing sweat from their faces with bright silk handkerchiefs. Staring into the distance. Sundrunk. You grab one of them, the one you’re not close to. You throw your arms around him. Dirt on your palms. You cling to his sleeve. Anything. He grasps you with unsure hands. The sun strikes you hotly in the face and you buckle a little at the knees. Then. Beyond the stiff linen of your brother’s shoulder you can see him. Him being the groom. Dressed in denim. Cowboy-handsome in a way that makes your guts ache.

When you start to run you can see yourself from above. Dress dragging, dirt flying, hair falling, nose running. Dizzy with heat. The atmosphere spins and heaves. The scent of hairspray, cigarette smoke, suntan lotion, baby powder, too much cologne on one of the tuxedoed faceless men.

This isn’t what it was going to be like. You didn’t want a pink dress.

Photo By: Michelle Yao

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About Author

Annabel Graham is a Los Angeles-based writer, photographer, artist and actress. Her work has been published in Pas Un Autre, Autre Quarterly, Surface Magazine, Out of Order Magazine, Eunoia Review, YOLK, The Courant, and The Gallatin Review, and is forthcoming in No Tokens Journal and Cosmonauts Avenue.

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