Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pockets - Flash fiction inspired by the art of Naomi Okubo

Anything reflected by a still pond spoke to Thea of Narcissus.  Unless a tree grew very near the bank, something rooted and unmoving to which she could cling, she didn't trust herself to lean over and see what the water might show.

Thea added pockets to any garments manufactured without them.  Of course one needed the means to store and transport essentials, though she also loved choosing a wildly disparate print from which to make pockets for the existing pants, skirt, jacket or dress.  She grew uneasy in solid colors, as though she had lost the power of movement.  A wall.  She felt like a wall in solid colors, especially shades of blue.  Once at a party, forbidden to wear anything her mother found embarrassing, Thea grew clammy with fear of being absorbed into the living room's plastered wall.  The cup of punch accidentally tipped onto her white shirtwaist saved her.  That was long ago.

What some, her late mother included, saw as eccentric or worse, the unmatched prints and textures, oddly out-of-place patches all helter-skelter on a once-normal tunic, did not brand Thea as peculiar.  Foible grew into fashion.  Thea-style became a thing, a look which drew aspiring yet unsuccessful copycats out from beneath cellar stairs.  Such an intuitive flair would not be matched.

Bringing her widely swinging focus down to the point of a pen, Thea drew rococo flowered borders resembling bas relief around the edges of her business cards, then used the hand-illustrated cardboard rectangles as price tags.  She only sold her fashion at garage sales and let word-of-mouth be her advertising.  A line of customers, jittery with anticipation, stretched up the block hours before she was due to open.  Made unhappy by the need to do so, she nevertheless imposed a two-item maximum on purchases, knowing that anything else would mean the first five customers got everything.  It was impossible to make the process any more fair.  Thea grew to dislike the first people in line, not a rational response necessarily, but an honest one.  The day arrived when she could no longer bear the stress of it and stopped holding the sales.  What she needed was a middle man, preferably a retired circus barker with no qualms about anything who would figure it out.  She'd rather be performing on the trapeze than see the disappointed faces of those who left empty-handed.

Harem pants in pin-striped linen, satin cropped pants, drawstring-waist pajama bottoms that could be rolled up to any length, all were sewn with pockets so deep one could scarcely reach all the way in with outstretched fingers.  Smoking jackets with velvet lapels, kimono tops made with five different floral patterns, mandarin collars and frog fastenings, unmatched vintage buttons from neck to hem of a dotted navy blue rayon dress with sprigged red piping, Thea's garments would stop people on the street.  She marveled at the ability of manufacturers to produce endlessly unattractive clothes when it was not much harder, or not harder at all, to offer something that flattered and gave rise to mirth.  Her tender heart kept an exclusive chamber reserved for women of more than average size, whom, it seemed, designers would rather torture with muddy colors, ridiculous and unnecessary belts or attached scarves and fabrics that could guarantee to make you sweat.   Really, Thea thought, there ought to be laws.

Over time and with the help of Buddhist friends, Thea grew to know that her work, her only task, was to pour all her genius into the clothes, not to fret over anything other than bringing them into being.  She stopped taking on the pressure of how they would be sold, who would get to buy them, would they go to the right  homes, would everything be fair.  The bare spots on her scalp began to grow hair, her eyes lost their haunted, faraway stare, she no longer fainted without an obvious reason, she fell in love with her lawyer.  Her clothes grew more wonderful over the years and nothing ever went out of style.


Erin in Morro Bay said...

I love this! her only duty was to create the clothes. Wonderful!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - Oh, thank you. I'm so glad you liked it. xo

Elizabeth said...

OOOO. I love this. And the picture --

Marylinn Kelly said...

Elizabeth - Thank you. I love her art, so many patterns. xo

Claire Beynon said...

I know this woman! She's marvellous. A role model and inspiration.


Marylinn Kelly said...

Claire - Hello! Thank you, so happy to see you here. I hope all is well with you. I will write back soon. xo

Melissa Green said...

Utterly charming. And how relieving for those of us who make things--yes, that is our only given task, the one sent by the old gods. To be a maker--not a hawker, a barker, a broker--just someone who creates. And all those glorious pockets on garments that women of a certain age and size are never shown--nothing but swamp-colored polyester, taupe, grey and black, without real buttons and without a pocket for miles. Ah, sigh. Yes, Thea (and you) have put all of the pieces together--and stripes do go with polka dots, silk with wool, soft jewel-colored linens with florals and smocked sprigs, with capacious pockets everywhere, the size of Lady Bracknell's reported (and aristocratic) handbag, found in the cloakroom at Victoria Station, the Brighton Line. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Melissa - Ooooh, the dreaded swamp-colored polyester, and not even a rather rich and algae-influenced swamp green, just drabness, muddied nothing, color's opposite. Looking yesterday at a Sundance catalog, ignoring price, one wishes they somehow found women of a certain age and size to be a desirable demographic, for they certainly grasp the concept of comfortable, flattering and art-as-in-wearable. I am chuckling still at Lady Bracknell's handbag, the Brighton Line. To just be a maker and not need a life coach and endless courses on how to sell ourselves. Hawker, barker, flogger, such hard additional assignments for a creator. I see a pile of folded - soft, even fragrant - garments on the doorstep, perhaps with brown paper and string, awaiting the whisking of an invisibly benevolent universe to see they are sold and distributed. while we slumber, then sew again. xo