She told me to wear a sundress that flutters out at the bottom, that shows shoulders.
“To blend in?” I asked.
She told me the dress wouldn’t help if they brought the dogs in. Hers was a polite teal, or a randy mint, with hibiscus flowers splashed over it, or no— Orchids. White orchids. The kind of dress you wear to a cousin’s bridal shower. Where’s the dress now? She couldn’t tell me. Maybe dropped off outside a women’s shelter that didn’t accept clothing donations.
“I had just gotten off work, and a friend I worked with begged me to go, even though I didn’t want to, so we showed up—that old afterhours in Chinatown the triad mafia used to work out of, supposedly, it’s shut down now—and the place was empty, maybe fifty people in there, max. Before I’d even opened my first beer…”
She’d been working at a nightclub and was halfway into twenty-two years old that night. Her boyfriend was a drug dealer--high up, much higher than I realized at the time—and she sold product to her friends, her co-workers, and less often, customers at the club she worked at. She didn’t make much money from it. Ten bucks profit a bag. The rest went to him. She was packing two eight-balls in her panties when she walked into the afterhours. The chemical heat between her legs shot ribbons of anxious excitement along the length of her torso and down into her fingernails as she passed the threshold and greeted the doorman.
“Did you ever feel guilty, like a criminal?” I asked.
“Honestly, no. Not until that night.”
The police entered the afterhours and flipped on the lights as the condensation of the unopened beer can pooled in the space between skin and aluminum. The police ordered all patrons to sit and began their assessment. The afterhours itself was an illegal venue. She sat on the floor with only two articles of clothing between her and two-plus years in prison for possession with intent to distribute. One of those articles of clothing was a tiny thong, nestling damning cargo. She considered reaching under her dress, removing the drugs, tossing the bag under the nearby staircase. She looked at her friend, whose fear circled her eyes like weird cartoon bangles. She held still, and a police officer approached. Each passing second, sharp, pixelated with apprehension.
“Where were you tonight?”
“We’ve been working. A few blocks from here, at F———.
“Any previous offences?”
“So, they didn’t catch you?”
“They let us leave first. After questioning us briefly, they let the two of us go before anyone else. If you really want to get away with a crime, try being a young white girl in a sundress.”
“Hm,” I said. I tried to picture the exact blue-green of her dress, the species of flower printed on it, tried to imagine a world in which it was the sundress that made the difference.
Margo LaPierre (www.margolapierreeditor.com) is a queer, neurodivergent Canadian poet and editor. Her debut collection of poetry, Washing Off the Raccoon Eyes, was published by Guernica Editions in 2017. She is a poetry selector for Bywords.ca, board member of Arc Poetry Magazine, and Membership Chair of the Editors Canada Ottawa-Gatineau branch. Her work has been published in filling Station, CAROUSEL, Train Journal, and others. She/her.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.