Rounding out this week’s shortlist, Ash Warren returns with a second bite of the cherry. A materialistic love story that it’s as much tongue in cheek as it is hand in pocket.
A Materialistic Love Story
By Ash Warren
For the Shirt Story Short Story Contest
I can no longer help myself. I can no longer control the fragile fabric of my life. No loss, no degradation matters, for I have unbuttoned the clasps that once tethered me.
There is nothing left of me now. I am a void, a gap in the air, a rock hurtling quietly and endlessly between the stars. What cannot be, what cannot be borne, what tears the universe apart and stabs at my now dead heart is not to be near her. That road is darkness.
We were to each other, one small world. Nestled on our adjacent hangers, we laid in warm-wardrobed ecstasy, breasts touching, spooning back-to-front, our days passing like clouds. She was my pure-white silkiness, my chiffon dream (I called her the ‘Blouse that Wows’). And I have no idea what she saw in me, some frazzle-cuffed old work shirt, frayed-collar, wine-sullied, scarred by a thousand cigarettes and overdue for the bin.
Not that my owner cares. I’m worn around all day by ‘Shirty’ McShertyson, the owner of this vintage clothing shop, while she adorned his wife, ‘La Shirtessa’ as he calls her. By day we wandered the aisles of over-priced and exactly ripped jeans, precisely creased and oil-stained denim jackets that have never seen a motorbike, rows and rows of foreign shirts that lie about their age and longed to touch her as she passed, but she was too fleet for them and searched for me in the storeroom, hungry for my touch and mine alone.
At night as we lay hastily thrown on the floor together beside the bed, I told her stories. Things no one knows. Things I had never told anyone. I wanted her, wanted her to know me and to know me so that she would be the very pivot of me, the unmoving center around which I would turn like the hands of a clock. So she could meld with me, warp and weave, folded into my soul.
I told her of material things, of the secrets held by cuffs, the hidden algebra of stripes and of the coded music, lying silent in checks. Even now, I can see her as she was, here with me in the darkness, listening and aware, her face for which a thousand silkworms gladly died, softly glowing in the nightlight. Morning would come and we would bathe together, riding the wild surf of foaming detergent, borne on a scented sea of fabric softener and where at the end we would fly, fly like birds, clasped tight against the wall, watching each other circling faster and faster in the great roar of the Spin Cycle.
Later, drained and drying, we were lifted and borne banner-like from the Hills Hoist, or, if it rained, we tumbled close together in the hot desert air of the dryer, leaping and jumping and watching the world outside morphing fluidly through the great circular window as we trampolined from a dozen different directions. Our quiet lives were stitched together in a series of moments like a string of pearls. And we could see this best when we were clearly reflected in the mirror-like surface of the iron.
It is that heat I remember best, that steamy, incandescent moment when the hot steel caressed her and slowly brought her, with soft, intimate strokes, to a final creaseless perfection. Her exit from this life came on quickly, as if once the sentence was passed it had to be executed without delay. It began late one night when she showed me the very slightest of tears, the merest of pulled threads, along the front of her breast.
The next day, it had grown, but was still almost invisible. And then, she knew, and I knew that it was only a matter of time. She began, with a purposeful haste like one striding towards an open door, to simply unravel, almost before my eyes. It is only now that I am sure she did this on purpose, so as not to prolong the moment of separation or for that bottomless anguish to be lengthened.
And so in days, I found her ruined, lying forgotten and abandoned on the wardrobe floor, where she had been discarded.
And then she simply disappeared.
No matter where I looked, and I looked until I ached with fatigue, I could not see her. Weeks passed, and I feared the worst.
And then, one afternoon, a moment of quiet, existential horror.
I found her.
As we bent to stroke the shop’s mangy tomcat, I saw, unmistakably, lining his basket, the edge of her sleeve. Shirty noticed my love too.
‘You’re looking very comfortable cat!’ said Shirty. And the cat replied with a small cry, and settled quietly into her silky luxury.
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