I am 100% silk. Please be careful with me! I catch easily on sharp things like hangnails or jewelry or a leaf blowing in the wind. Even a very harsh word or a mildly harsh word or a word like sure. There is no sure in shirt—it just sounds like it.
Be sure to hang me on a velvet-lined hanger at the front of the closet, away from dust. Dry clean me. Do not iron me. Do not bleach me. Do not get me wet, if you can avoid it. Even a few tears will wear me down.
We all shed a few; sometimes it will happen. But please: reach up a hand, bend over onto your jeans, your skirt. Tears do better on denim or wool. On anything but me.
Treat me right and I will be with you forever. Like your baseball glove from T-ball for some reason or the mole on your cheek. Not like that sketch you made of your niece on a napkin. The one she smiled at, then threw away in front of you. There are no napkins involved here. Remember, dry. And dry clean. If you stain me, do not rub briskly to remove. Do not rub at all. In fact, it is unlikely you will ever get that stain out. Be gentle with me. It may not be wise to introduce me to your niece. I do not get along well with children. But this will be good. You’ve been needing a night to yourself anyhow. A night out, maybe—just the two of us. Because, frankly, no matter how many forts you build with her or Skittles you slip her, she will not be your daughter. You do not have a daughter. You have time, so much time! For the two of us.
And honestly, babe, I think we could have something special. Those long, toned arms of yours and my angled short sleeves. Your shoulders are a skoch on the broad side, true, but my V-neck is designed to deemphasize that. I am here to accent your assets and play down your flaws. I am the opposite of your ex-husband in every way. I am something you’ll want to invest in.
Speaking of investing, it’s your lucky day! Originally, I was $225. Today, I am $189. It’s the fall sale! $189 is not pocket change. It is, in fact, a stretch with your grant writer’s salary. You may need to scale back on food this month. Maybe a head of lettuce instead of Lacinato kale. Maybe no meat. Maybe get another basil plant and try not to kill it. But think of the rewards! I am an all-silk shirt, willing to be yours forever. For as long as you will treat me right. That’s all I’ve ever needed, babe. You and a little bit of TLC.
It’s up to you. I am prepared to stick this out. I am in this for the long haul.
Take a moment. Slip me on. The fitting rooms have low-watt lighting and inclined mirrors. I guarantee: you will like what you see. You will see us together. You will wonder how you ever thought you were alone in this world. How you ever sat at the playground with your niece and hated every pregnant and exhausted mother. How you ever cooked a family-sized salmon and ate it over the course of a week—salmon salad, salmon sandwich, salmon tacos—until you hated salmon and salmon-colored things. Because look at you, sturdy you, with a charming cheek mole and bitten-down nails. You’re doing just fine. Your Annual Percentage of Proposals Accepted is higher than any of your coworkers’. You have learned what to say and what not to say to make someone invest in you. You are undervalued by your boss, perhaps—he has never mentioned your APPA—but you have fashioned a ribbon from the Post-its on your desk and adhered it to the wall of your cubicle as a reminder. You know the value of hard work and a little encouragement and the feeling of silk against your midsection. Your once-flat, lately less-flat, midsection. But you have begun doing crunches and planks in the morning, and whether or not the flat will ever return, the muscles there are powerful now. This is why I’m looking at you, babe. You know the importance of upkeep, of care.
So unbutton me cautiously now. Use the pads of your fingers. Slip me back on my velvet-lined hanger and march me down the aisle to the register. Do not grimace when the total appears on the screen before you. Slightly more than $189, yes: $202 with tax. But remember that feeling, the glassy canopy that floats with your body. How I am cool in warm weather and warm in cool weather. How I follow your movements like lake water falling around you. Like swimming in your own clothing. Swimming! On the sidewalk, on the bus.
Check the bag to make sure I am folded lightly. Do not keep me in there for long. I am eager to show you the comfort of intimacy. To hug your broad shoulders and glide over your breasts. To ripple lovingly at your waistline. So treat me right: Clip those hangnails. Remove your jewelry. Steer clear of leaves as they fall. Steer clear of the ones who say, Sure, they want to save this marriage. Sure, if that’s what you want. I will not stand for that. I will catch and rip quickly. I will snag at the very least.
I am 100% silk.
I am here to give you what you have been missing. Some esprit de corps. Some joie de vivre. Something pillowy to fall into, something feather-light to escape in. The feeling of swimming away.
“Shirt” by Christine Vines appeared in Issue 40 of Berkeley Fiction Review.
Christine Vines’s work has appeared in Witness, Joyland, The Chicago Tribune, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She was a runner-up for the 2018 Nelson Algren Award by The Chicago Tribune and a fiction finalist for the 2018 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize by The Missouri Review. She was a 2018-2019 Steinbeck Fellow and a 2018 W.K. Rose Fellow for Vassar College and received her MFA from Cornell University, where she also taught English and creative writing.