I spent a couple of days last weekend looking for wedding clothes. A cheerless endeavor. It's bad enough looking for the regular stuff when you're demographically conflicted. If I had the cash I'd opt for some fabulous high-end style - maybe a Commes des Garçons pick at somewhere like Tokyo Seven - but instead I trawl the lower-price second-hand/vintage options, and the best-of-the-worst middleish high-street retail. The real finds only appear by chance. If you're trying too hard they'll always lie low - they're perverse that way. This time, with the pressure on, there was no eureka moment and I was forced to settle. Maybe I could work my dull buys into something better if I found the right accessories, I tried to convince myself. How dull that sounded.
Walking along with my less than thrilling haul, an older woman of a certain age, a woman with the looks of a minor (down-at-heel) society dame, paused as she passed me by and cried, "How wonderful to see you again! You look marvelous!." I'm getting kind of down-at-heel myself these days, but of course her words were a little flattering. And of course I tagged her as nuts, confusing me perhaps for some old East-side pal of hers. Given my looks, though, it was hardly likely. I felt a bit sorry for her. Her graying bob was windswept and the cashmere coat had seen better days. I even felt a tinge of mis-matched companionship, the two of us adrift in the Black Friday tide of ravenous shoppers. Thirty percent off every thin, shoddy item!! Buy, buy, buy!
Then I remembered that a year or so back I'd run into a woman rather like her on the same stretch of Fifth. Could it be the same person? She'd stopped me with a compliment and tried to entice me with a reading of some sort, and I'd quickly walked away. If I'd wanted a reading it wasn't with her. I had better options. If this was the same reading grifter, why hadn't she tried it on again? Perhaps this time she'd marked me, mid-spiel, as less of an easy target? Was it the way I was dressed, the way I walked? Or was I more of a victim, spared out of kindness? Or maybe, at the end of a long chilly day, she was tired, had lost the energy to try and see the thing through, and was heading home to put her feet up, drain a glass of something cheap and rough and on the rocks, to ease the nerves and usher in the evening's slow release into oblivion.