Three Things I Lost

The Third Dress, Līga Kļaviņa

1. Silver Chanel ballerina slippers, size seven

I found them in my favourite thrift store on Newbury Street. Some people don’t like wearing secondhand clothes, but I’ve never had a problem with germs. Besides, I reasoned, these weren’t the kind of clothes that came with germs. The shop was crammed full of ridiculous castoffs — full 80’s taffeta skirts; blazers with crimson epaulettes — that rich mad women donated after the divorce to get rid of every last memory of their husbands (Goodbye, Otis, and good riddance!)

They were sitting on a shelf high up. They were deceptively simple: a dull, beaten silver with the famous interlocking Cs on the front. I tried them on, and found they folded up just like real ballerina slippers. I hugged them to my chest, scared that another shopper would wrest this treasure away from me and sprint to checkout. They were in perfect condition. (Otis, what did you do?)

I had them for two years. I wore them every day. The days I didn’t wear them, I put them in my bag: ready for the nights I kicked off my heels while I walked home drunk; golden barefoot girls and the residue of summer all around me.

2. My mother’s sari

I wore it exactly once. Beforehand, I watched sari-tying tutorials on YouTube.

“Don’t be silly,” she’d said. “Wear a dress like everybody else. Saris are too hard.”

It was a black chiffon sari with diamante. I’d insisted on borrowing it from her for law school graduation. It looked as though somebody had emptied a box of glitter dust on a black painting.

I tried it this way, then that way. I folded pleat after pleat and tucked them into the underskirt and pulled and adjusted until I was slick with sweat. It was surprisingly heavy.

“Did you manage it?” said my mother. I looked down at myself. It was on my body — in the loosest sense of the word — but I looked nothing like the women I had seen in the sari-tying videos.

If it fell off, I thought, I would still have my graduation robes to keep me from public nudity.

“Ma?”

“Yes?” she said, her voice crackling on the phone because she was calling from the opposite side of the world.

“How the hell do you go to the toilet in this thing?”

3. A Winnie-the-Pooh pyjama shirt

My friend had this great idea.

“Since we’ll never be here again, let’s give each other one thing from our wardrobes.”

It was the end of moving-out day in the dorms, and we were in the basement waiting for the trucks. I was sitting on a Sellotaped box of lamps — or possibly books, I couldn’t tell- and I was too tired to be profound. After all, she had always been the one who valued ritual.

I rootled around in the nearest open box, and handed her something. I didn’t care what it was, even if it was my favourite pair of leather pants. I had that end-of-the-world-feeling that one has after moving.

She nodded solemnly. “Here, take this.”

It was a pink and white pyjama shirt embroidered with little Winnie-the-Poohs (each eating honey out of a sticky pot).

“No bottoms?”

“No.”

I tried to be grave. “I’ll treasure this.”

At the sound of the trucks, I hugged her. I felt no need to say a proper goodbye, knowing as I did that I would see her again. It felt impossible that our friendship could fade or even weaken when we had seen each other through those four riotous years, those splendid youthful years, when everything seems so vivid that surely it must remain forever.

I never knew where I lost it. When I looked for the shirt (throwing everything I owned on the floor in the hope of spotting that distinctive pink and white), it was gone.

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