LOVE AND STITCHES by DF Lewis
I’m merely writing to tell you the latest in the saga of my ball gown. I know it’s your turn to write, Edna, but I couldn’t let another day pass. The whole thing really should be exciting but it’s so worrying as well. Please tell me I shouldn’t worry.
As you know (and how many times have I told you?), Dick and I are appearing in Tv’s COME DANCING the week after next. Well, that’s a lie to start off with – the programme is being recorded live at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom the week after next. It probably won’t be seen until yonks.
Anyway, to the point. You know how I’ve been struggling manfully for weeks now, sewing on each sequin by hand. Dick made a joke of it and said the fruit’s growing mouldy in the bowl through neglect! The chocolate boxes, too. Neither sleep nor food have passed my lips. I’m feeling a little light-headed as I write this, in fact. Dick says it wouldn’t do any harm to ply myself with an odd medicinal tot of some hot stuff. Do me the world of good, he says. He’s gone out for a bottle just now, I think. I’m not convinced. Drink goes straight to my head. He says it’ll steady the needle in my hand – stop it flashing. I’ll probably end up with a monster migraine, whichever way I turn. The cotton thread’s too strong to break by hand. Even the scissors cut bad, these days. When the knife-man comes round again with his upside down bicycle-wheel of a grinder, I’ll give him his head with my dress-making tools, I think.
Let’s stop rambling. The last sequin went on last night. The gown was effectively complete. I say “effectively” as it looks nothing off. I need to wear it to see it fully complete. But, the long and the short of it is, I can’t, I literally can’t bear to slip it over my shoulders and listen to the hiss of the underlays falling about my hips. In fact, I’ve decided I must be suffering some sort of phobia.
So much care, so much love, has gone into making it. You just need to feel its quality, not its width, don’t they say? The simple cut-outs on the floor, me kneeling with the shears. Dick said that the sound of my snicker-snacker was a pleasure – feeling cosy and together, him reading, me snipping. Then there was the trial tacking. Fitting. Hemming. Attaching the lace trim to the optimum positions. Fluffing out the flounces. Pinning the bodice. Now, all that’s been done and finished, I can’t bear the thought of it on my body. Indeed, as I write this, I’m sitting stark naked (except, of course, for a nod or two towards modesty with a silk scarf and a few feathers) and making the odd glance towards it hanging on the outside of the wardrobe. It looks so ugly with nobody in it. I fear the rucks and rumples are forming even as I watch.
Dick says I may be going off my head. Getting out of hand. Well, he doesn’t actually say that, he merely implies it, which is worse. The needlepoint, the long stitch, the frayed edges, are all coming clear to me. Staring me in the face. It’s as if I’m a hack seamstress. You know that I’ve run up dresses galore (and trousers) on the Singer for years now. Not to speak of the many frocks that I’ve hand-sewn for your daughters, Edna, when you were not so well-off. You wouldn’t think I got any doubts as to my own abilities, would you? But, here I am, a silly goose of a female, fretting over just one item of my handiwork. It’s as if each nip and tuck are cutting into my own waist. Middle-age spread under force of arms, as it were. My body all pins and needles.
Soon, believe it or not, I fear that the scissors will be slicing along the seams of my own flesh. Perforating the base of each breast. Nicking into the calves. Jabbing the bum. I feel I’m a whodunnit outline on the floor. Manufactured from tissue, traced out upon a wide human-long segment of loo paper. You must think I am going doo-lally.
Dick’s popped out for a packet of cigarettes as well, I think. I wish he wouldn’t. Some of these materials I use are so inflammable. I never understood that word. Flammable or inflammable, which is the word I want? Anyway, I sit here with the longest, sharpest darning-needle you can imagine – the threading-hole within its thickened middle. I can almost touch the gown with it on the other side of the room, like a wary naturalist turning over a stone. Lift the bustle with the prick end. See who’s inside. Whoever it is, it’s not me, that’s for sure. The thing’s trying to fall off the hanger. At least then it’ll be seen for what it is, wriggling on the floor with its million tiny scales glinting under the standard lamp. I am going doo-lally.
Ah, thank goodness, that sounds as if it’s Dick returning. A bit thoughtless of him slamming the front door like that. I am indeed a silly goose. My imagination’s run loose. Pull myself together. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be introduced by Angela Rippon on telly and I’ll be gliding as one with Dick, my glorious gown shimmering in the spotlights. The art for a female is to appear led, whilst in fact leading the male, using him for one’s own devices, as it were – rippling like one beautiful creature to the see-saw of the waltz. Then, as everybody else joins in the finale for the TV cameras, surging manfully to the veleta, the ruffs bouncing to a rhythm possessed…
I’m getting carried away. You know me. I had to get some of this down, before my head burst, so it might just make sense. Does it make sense, Edna? I hope it does. I shall have to start eating again. The fruit’s rotting beyond a joke, though. The darner has retracted to its normal size. Something to do with beams of spirit from the finger-tips. I learnt that from faith-healing classes. Dick says I shouldn’t be so gullible. But if you can’t believe in an after-life, what can you believe in? Certainly not a before-life where you’re concerned, Edna, shame to say. I only hope things will be coming together for you, before long.
Must sign off. Dick’s taking his time lumbering up the stairs, I must say. He must be loaded down with something. Anyway, you won’t recognise me on Tv, I bet!
Love and Kisses, Cherry.
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Published PSYCHOTROPE 1994