The Garters

 

Her name is Madison. We were in college at the time. She sat across from me in a workshop, or something. She wore a skirt. Probably a blouse and shoes, too. But they are largely blinded by my memory of the skirt. 

It was a plain skirt – black. Now that I think about it, the skirt isn’t that important either.

The garters are the key to this memory. Madison was seated across from me. She spun on her chair. And for a brief moment – not more than a nanosecond – she spread her legs, and not very far at that. My reflex observations are somewhat sluggish so I must have been looking in just the place, at just the right time. Or maybe I was waiting in anticipation for such a maneuver, but that is something I should save for analysis at a later date. 

What I saw in that moment was the top of her knee-high black stockings contrasting her white inner thighs. Then I saw the garter straps holding the stockings in place. 

This is not profound. But I have not been able to shake that image for over fifteen years. And I still can’t determine why.

At the time it excited me. And not necessarily sexually. I had no desire for her whatsoever. At least that I can recall. I was simply amazed that she wore garters. I guess I was under the assumption only brides-maids, movie stars, and hookers wore garters. And Madison was none of these, that I knew of. In short, her garters changed my perspective on the world. I became suspicious of every woman I saw, wondering if they too were concealing scandalous garters beneath conservative clothes. I lost my trust in everyone, having witnessed duality for the first time.

Contradiction. I decided that first impressions meant nothing. At least for Madison. This timid, red haired girl, nineteen at most, wearing garters to an 8 A.M. class. 

I quickly superimposed this mystery on everyone I encountered. Even those I’d known for years. I began to question if I really knew anyone at all. Or even myself. I was not cognizant of hiding anything from others. So I began to feel wholly superficial and down-right insignificant. And this feeling, attached to the image of the garters, has followed me like a shadow ever since.

Recently, I’ve seen Madison on occasion. Our impromptu meetings are polite but insubstantial. The pleasantries we exchange fall meaninglessly into the well of my mistrust. I think of the garters, and nothing else. I want to ask her about the garters. Tell her about that morning in class. And how that morning has stuck with me and changed my vision like a pair of glasses. Or, more like a pair of glasses I have taken off – the fuzzy unknown replacing clarity. But I can’t. Partly out of embarrassment for the innocent glimpse of her thigh. And partly because I’m afraid her response might return my clarity, thereby dissolving the image of the garters forever.    

by Michael D. Durkota

Phony

 

I walk by her every day and all she does is beep and ring.  Not the usual sort of pleasant sounds that one is accustomed to hearing, but a metallic sort of noise that only her sort of people make.  She stands in the crook between the stairs and the wall of a brick office building on 22nd.  Every day she’s there, rain or shine, and she never once meets my gaze.

I started to notice her kind not that long ago.  On my way to the deli on the corner of 42nd and 45th, about two months ago, I had my first sighting.  A short squat woman of twenty or so years of age, with large glazed eyes and pale skin. At first glance she was unusual, but upon further inspection, I noticed the sounds.  Her hands moved about as though she had no control over her digits. 

She stood motionless, staring at the space between her two cupped hands, beeping and ringing.  A friend of mine, Harry, walked by and caught me staring, but he didn’t seem to understand my alarm. 

“She’s busy, mate, quit your staring.”

“She’s beeping.”

He laughed and clapped me on the shoulder, as he walked on his way I heard him laugh again.  But this time, his laugh sounded… different.

I’ve started to call these people “Stacey” because the first one I spotted reminded me of a girl I knew in grade school of the same name.  I seem to be one of the few people who can see them, huddled in a corner by themselves, with their eyes illuminated.  The only grand movement they make is when they stretch one arm up and out in front of them in a sort of salute.  That, and the constant movement of their hands and fingers.  My friend Gina was the one to notice their odd gestures. She suggested we take a photo, but neither of us had the means to take one. 

Gina and I were walking to the movies together when she pointed out an unusual Stacey to me.  This Stacey was in some sort of herd, surrounded by several other girls of similar stature, in the typical Stacey uniform of black pants, brown boots, and pink jackets.  The Stacey in the center was blankly staring at the space between her hands, while the others milled about around her murmuring barely audible nonsense.

 “The one in the center is their leader,” I surmised.

“They appear to be on some sort of hunt,” Gina mused, “I wonder why the others appear to be powered down?”

I didn’t know.  It was one of the few times I’d ever seen two Staceys not communicating with beeps and clicks and whistles.  We watched them for a moment, and then the herd began to move.  It was a slow and almost unnoticeable procession.  Each of the Staceysmoved their feet only slightly, in very slow-motion.  Yet, the whole group seemed to travel along as one.

They drew near to the ticket window, and then suddenly a second herd, this time of male Staceys, began to intertwine with the original herd.  The male Staceys all wore navy blue polos, baggy jeans, and white basketball sneakers. Their heads were adorned with various baseball caps, all worn backward and slightly crooked.  To my distaste, I suspected none of them played water polo, basketball, or baseball. The three of which would have provided an impressive trifecta of skills. Though not surprisingly, their false advertising seemed irrelevant to the Staceys.

The man in the ticket window watched with confusion and ample disgust. 

“Have you see them before?” Gina asked him.

“Far too many times,” the man sighed.  “They arrive in a mass, pay in a mass, and never once say a word.”

“You mean to say they’re going to watch the movie?”

The man scoffed, “No, that would be some sort of blasphemy.  They clump in the theater, eyes all aglow, all of them atwitter.  They cause such a disturbance.  But hey, business is slow, and they pay to get in.  I can’t turn them away.”

We paid for our tickets and walked inside, a few paces behind the slow crawling crowd.

I spotted Harry slumped up against the popcorn machine, his attendant hat askew.  We approached the counter to purchase some snacks and immediately heard the sounds.  

“Harry?” I called to him.

“I didn’t know you worked here, mate.”

Harry let out a beep, his gaze unwavering. 

Gina and I passed each other an uneasy glance and stepped away from the counter.

(Continued on Fiction Page Two)

Copyright  Better than Starbucks 2016, a poetry magazine

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