After observing the signs and signals that I am, however slowly, emerging from my post-breakup fog, she suggests that we take a road trip. My crush on her is (mostly) safe, I think, so of course I let my mind run wild. I picture California, Vancouver. Hell, at this point, I'd probably salivate over a drive to Barrie. She'd freak if she knew she's the current focus of my lusty, ongoing fantasy life, I'm (almost) sure of that. Snapping me out of my reverie, she explains that we're going to The Bay in search of new bed sheets, as a kind of cleansing ritual. Great underwear to follow, she winks, as if promising the Sonoma Valley.
Has she guessed already that my lingerie is less-than? Jesus! (Note to self: Buy very hot underwear, very soon. Think Nicole Kidman, think of elastics that still do their job, think under-wires that are still under their needy cargo. Think of Australia, of the Queen of England... Christ, think of anything but what you're thinking of now.)
We're elbow-to-elbow, studying duvets and pillows. Now we're moving on toward the primary focus of our mission: sheets.
Here we stand for a long, long silent time, quietly wondering in tandem why such a simple decision is eating up an entire afternoon. Breathing each other's air, surreptitiously -- or so I imagine. In reality, she's probably worrying about her taxes or something. Oh, she's warm, I think. I bet she likes to cuddle. I wonder if she bites in moments of passionate distraction.... (Hello, M! you're standing in a department store! Right.)
How complex can choosing sheets be, after all? As it turns out, very.
At last she asks, without actually looking my way, "What exactly do you want your sheets to say to a potential paramour? Colour and thread count are gonna matter, you know." Little smile in the cute corner of her mouth, her eyes straight ahead. As I have learned the hard way, the eyes I tend to love are always "straight ahead." But I'm sure God/Cupid will spare me just this once.
I remain mute, uncertain, then blurt, "How about, "Come on in, have fun, then get the hell out before I have to lie about a breakfast meeting?' Or maybe, "Come on in! No, I've changed my mind. No, come back! Oh, fuck it, let's do it already! Blow my mind, ignore my pathetic housekeeping skills and, yes, please, do leave quickly'?"
"Red?" she suggests. I don't know about red. If she'd previously expressed any sort of revealing personal enthusiasm for the colour, well, "Toro!" and yes, indeed, red all the way. As an Aries, I'm supposed to love red, but due to various other astrological complications, I don't "love" red. I like black, dark blue and silver, none of which are sensible hues/non-hues in the bedding department.
Egyptian cotton's nice, she adds. I can't very well tell her how a former-former-former lover once spoiled me with a thread count that made my post-her Zellers-brand no-iron sheet-set a real come-down (literally). But if she likes the red, the Egyptian cotton, well.... The more things change, the more they stay the same, non? I am doomed. I can see that much.
"You don't," she ventures, "want anything too domestic, too cozy, which pretty much eliminates dark green, taupe or peach."
"God, no peach," I stammer. Who wants to be reminded of her mother at that very crucial, if yet impossible-to-imagine moment? A client of Sigmund Freud's maybe, but not me! I'm Jung, all the way!
At the ripe old age of 33, I've learned that black sheets, while foxy, are totally impractical, acting as an archive of every juicy moment one has ever known. (Some things just can't be Shouted out, it seems.) White bedding? Equally foolish for any woman who hasn't yet passed through menopause. I lean toward whatever colour is flattering, will complement my Scots pallor, the atypical/unknowable complexion/flesh of my next amour; any hue that might make my eyes look bluer than they are.
Stripes are not, to my mind, sexy. They remind me of grandfathers and libraries, which, sadly, fail to excite me, with apologies to grandfathers and libraries everywhere. As for floral patterns, well, I'm not old enough (or young enough) for flowered fucks.
Slyly, I ask, "I dunno. Which ones do you like best?" A beat passes. She gives me a quick up-and-down look of the kind that only "straight" girls seem to be able to pull off without fear or shame. She then snatches up a charcoal-blue swirly lightning-bolt set and fairly runs toward the cashier. I pursue her in bewilderment, asking, "Why those?"
"Because," she grins, handing over her credit card, "they're so you. They make me think of you and all the fun you're going to have."
And then we're gunning for the car park at an impressive clip. Hunting for her keys, cranking up the car stereo, she asks if I know how to make hospital corners. I admit that I don't, explain that my mother is a nurse and so, consequently, I've pretty much (perhaps even pathologically) avoided learning said skill.
She nods. "But, well, I think a shiny quarter would look so good bouncing off your bed, don't you?"
And I see that she's driving with this expression.... She's going to make my bed and lie in it, too.
I tell her, "I need to go home now, right now." Because now I know why God invented shopping. And why he decided -- or she did -- that new sheets were an absolute must.
Marnie Woodrow is a Toronto novelist and freelance writer currently at work on a young adult novel pretty much devoid of sex.