I used to have nice clothes; things that would've been appropriate for a funeral. But most of what I didn't leave behind, I had long since sold, leaving me in a quandary over what to wear to Sella's funeral.
The service would be small, and limited to Father Cash and the neighborhood rabble, so it wasn't as if a high standard of dress would be required. Nevertheless, for the first time in a year, I found myself peering into a mirror and actually giving a damn what I looked like. I told myself it was just because it wasn't proper to go to a funeral looking like the whore and drug mule that I had become, but the issue ran deeper than that. Although Father Cash had informed me of the time and place for the service, he hadn't exactly invited me, either. He had merely left a note of the date and time, stuck to my door with a piece of tape.
I couldn't not go to this thing, but I couldn't show up in boots, faded leggings, and a jacket. I needed to look like I cared enough to wear my best, and my best sucked.
I had just gotten my heat turned back on, otherwise I would've probably bought something appropriately solemn at the thrift shop. Lacking that option, I called Arlo. It took him a few rings to answer, and when he did, he sounded hung over, so I got straight to the point.
"I've got a funeral I've got to go to today," I said. "I got nothing to wear."
Arlo muttered something that sounded like, "Not my problem."
"Yeah, well, I was wondering if you could float me some cash. Just enough to buy, you know, a dress or something."
"I don't do loans. You know that."
"Well..." I thought fast. "I meant like, if you've got something I could do for you tonight, you can maybe pay me now, more like an advance..."
"Don't do advances, either."
I sighed in frustration and tried to think if I had any other arguments I could bring to bear. Before I could give up and tell him thanks for nothing, Arlo spoke again.
"Come over. We'll figure something out."
This sudden shift was in some ways more disconcerting than his earlier refusal. Arlo never fucked his subordinates, so I knew I wouldn't have to worry about that, but did he have some even more unpleasant task for me? Lacking other options, I told him I'd be right over.
By the time I got to Arlo's little walk-up over a liquor store, I had allowed so many crazy scenarios to populate my mind that I almost turned around and went home, clothes be damned. But I hadn't walked all this way in the cold just to leave empty-handed, so I knocked. After a moment, there was a shadow at the peephole, and then a scrabbling at the lock.
The door opened and instead of Arlo, I saw his skinny girlfriend, Donna. She was tousle-haired and bare-faced, with only a smudge of gooey lip gloss on her fleshy lips to indicate she had made any effort at her appearance. She let me into the room and motioned toward an item on the sofa. "Arlo says you need a dress."
She said it with such piercing contempt that I considered telling her to keep her dress and go fuck herself, but that would've pissed off Arlo, who had obviously leaned on Donna for this favor. I couldn't afford to get on the bad side of anyone who could get me some work, no matter how degrading, so I picked up the black dress and held it out in front of me to see if it would fit.
"It's all I got for a funeral," Donna said. "I want it back by tonight, and if you mess it up, you buy me a new one."
She opened the door again. "See you later."
I folded the dress and forced a smile as I left, but once the door had slammed behind me, I wadded it up and shoved it into my satchel. The apartment had been too dark for me to assess it properly, but I could tell by touch that the fabric was thin and cheap, hardly worth Donna's protective attitude.
When I got home and could examine it more closely, I was even more annoyed. The dress was clean but faded, with pilling around the underarms and back of the skirt. It also needed ironing, and of course I had no iron. I did have gas again, though, so I heated a clean skillet on the stove, spread the dress on a table with a towel for padding, and did the best I could to get out the wrinkles.