"Nothing Is More Comforting"
[Saturday, November 8, 2014]
Genna tried not to grumble
about her situation, but
Pips noticed anyway --
he was just that perceptive.
"Problem?" he murmured.
"I know how that
goes," Pips said.
"It is the house?"
"Partly so. This place
is ridiculous, Pips," she said.
"My bedroom has three showers
in it. Three! Why on Earth would
anyone need three showers?"
"I have no idea," Pips said.
"It's your house now, though.
If you don't want them to be
showers, then turn them
into something else."
"That's not a bad idea,"
Genna mused. "Maybe
craft space, or a planter."
"Those could work," Pips said.
Make a note so you can check
parameters and see what you need."
Genna patted herself, grumbled again,
and went to find her smartphone.
"What else is bothering you?"
Pips said when she came back.
"These pants don't have pockets,"
Genna said as she typed.
She was wearing a set of
meditation clothes that had
come with the Can in case
people didn't have time to grab
their own clothes during evacuation.
They were white with embroidered trim
of a Greek key design done in royal blue,
the kind of thing all the resorts kept
for yoga practice or spa sessions.
They were loose and comfortable,
but they had no pockets at all.
"You don't like the clothes?"
Pips said sympathetically.
"No, it's not that," Genna said.
"I like them fine, they're just ...
not what I'm used to wearing.
I was promised provisions."
"They're not meant to be
a wardrobe, Genna, they're
just meant to give you something
comfortable to wear around the Can
and out for a shopping trip to pick up
whatever you want," Pips said. A snap
of his hand produced a gift card with
a picture of a beach. "I've got
your provisions right here."
"I don't need more gifts,"
"You need someone
to take care of you, because
you've been taking care of
everyone else for months,"
Pips said. "I know what it's
like. You need clothes, and
that's a fixable problem."
"I have clothes," Genna said.
"There's that whole capsule
from Hafsa, and my go-bag."
"That capsule is great for
a weekend and okay for a week,"
Pips said. "It's not really meant
to wear day in, day out for a month
or more, and its range is limited."
"We're on a tropical island.
The weather doesn't change
much here," Genna pointed out.
"Sure, it's pretty out there today,"
Pips said. "They get storms, though.
The first time some rain blows in and
you're caught in lightweight clothes,
you'll freeze if you don't have a sweater.
So you need to account for that -- and
something to wear when you head back
to America in the middle of winter."
"I guess that makes sense," Genna said.
"It's just ... one more thing to do, when I'm
already overloaded dealing with the house."
"The house is too big to deal with all at once,"
Pips said. "Having the right clothes, however,
will help you feel more settled in your own skin.
I know how to build a wardrobe. Let me take
some of the weight off for you. I'll do all of
the heavy lifting, you just tell me what
kind of things you like or don't like."
Genna was tempted. Really tempted.
"I should be better at handling this ..."
"You've been handling everything
since those nutjobs kidnapped Dominic,"
said Pips. "It's wearing on you. I can
help fix some of that if you let me."
"What do you want to do?" she said.
"Lay out what you have now and
take a look at it, so we can see
what you need," Pips said.
"I don't know if I have
the energy for that,"
"It's not like cleaning
a whole closet. If you get
tired, though, we can quit
and finish this another time,"
Pips said. "What do you say?"
"I'm willing to try," Genna said,
and led him into the bedroom.
"Start with the new capsule,"
Pips said. "We know it matches."
Genna laid out the pieces on the bed.
She had a navy keyhole top and twist skirt,
a black convertible dress-skirt with fringe,
a two-piece dress tie-dyed in navy and white,
a black-and-white two-piece romper,
a white caftan with crochet trim,
two extras -- a white top and
a pair of white jeans -- plus
the bag they had come in.
"See, I have clothes," she said.
"Mmm," said Pips. "Can you
make a different capsule with them?"
"Like what?" Genna said, looking
at the clothes spread before her.
"Whatever's Clean 13, or 4x4,
those are both good," Pips said.
Genna shook her head. "No,
there aren't enough pieces, and
I have two different prints," she said.
"So that suggests you'll need
more of something," Pips said.
"What do you like and dislike
about the clothes you have here?"
"They're beautiful. They mix and match
better than anything else I've ever had.
Somebody put a lot of hard work into
making sure that the pieces fit together
across different garments," said Genna.
"They're all synthetic fabrics, though. I
prefer natural fibers -- cotton, linen, silk."
"Do you like these enough to buy more
of them, or would you rather switch to
another company?" Pips asked.
"I'd enjoy more, but I could
never afford it," Genna said.
Pips clucked his tongue.
"These things get left all over
the islands, they're cheap here,"
he said. "Besides, I've got a budget
so it's no trouble to order more from
the website. Does this size work?"
"Yes, with a little room to spare,"
Genna said. "It only shows on
the jeans, really, and I can
cinch them in with a belt."
"So we can order more in
the same size," Pips said.
"Some things you just have
to try on, and fitted garments
will have to wait until we can
get to Eydhafushi or Malé.
There's no body scanner
here on Finolhas Island."
"I usually do fine estimating
with measurements," she said.
Pips managed to give her a look
even through his peacock glasses.
"You've lost weight," he said evenly.
"Things won't fit the same, and that's
hard to predict if you can't try them on.
A scanner is more accurate than guessing."
"Okay, okay," Genna said. "I was just
hoping we could get this over with."
"Earlier you were worried about
your energy level, which is prudent,"
Pips said. "Let's focus on what we
can do today, and what you need in
the next month or so. Fitted things
and winter things can wait for later."
Genna weighed the options of doing it
all at once or in sections, and decided
that Pips probably had the better idea.
"You're right," she admitted. "What
do you think we can cover today?"
"Enough for a core wardrobe in
the Maldives, and a toehold for
going back to America," said Pips.
"What do you think of the colors?"
"They're perfect," Genna said. "Black
and white are my favorite neutrals,
though I like gray too. I wear a lot
of blue. Navy is fine. I just have
to be careful with turquoise where
it starts drifting toward green."
Pips consulted his tablet computer.
"Then you're in luck," he said.
"Black, white, and navy are
the company's standard colors.
They offer a few others, mostly
as part of a specific collection."
"I really do love the way that
these mix and match," Genna said.
"I wouldn't mind more options there."
"How about we add what we can from
the same company, and for the things
they don't make, we look elsewhere
for natural fabrics?" Pips suggested.
"Sure, I like that idea," Genna said.
"You have a lot of skirts and dresses
in this set," Pips said. "Good or bad?"
"Good," Genna said. "They're cool,
and I love the convertible aspect."
"Okay, then let's start by adding
a white two-piece Goddess dress,
a black keyhole-tiered two-piece dress,
and a white ruffle top," said Pips. "That
gives you top and bottom options in
all three of their base colors, plus
one each of their top styles."
Genna looked at the screen
and nodded. "Those look good.
Do they have anything else that
matches what I already have?"
"Everything in the base colors,"
Pips said. "Let's see what else ...
ah yes, there's a beaded black top
and a white top with black fringe
that match your convertible skirt."
"Okay, add those to the list,"
Genna said. "They should
help tie outfits together."
"Done," Pips said. "Was
there anything else limiting
about the original set?"
Genna rubbed her shoulder,
feeling scars through the thin cloth.
"Everything but the caftan leaves
my shoulders uncovered," she said.
"I'm not ashamed of my scars, but
sometimes they start awkward talk."
"Then let's look at ways to cover up
a little more skin," Pips said. "Here,
they have plenty of sarongs."
"Oh, I love those!" Genna said.
"You can wear them so many ways."
"Get as many as you like," Pips said.
"Versatile garments are worth duplicating.
There's a solid black one, as well as
several more in blue and white."
Genna wrinkled her nose.
"Why does the cloud-colored one
have orange pom-poms on it?"
"I have no idea," Pips said.
"Here's a black-and-white tile print.
That goes with all your solids. What
about this mirage print? Is it too green?
If not, it has a matching caftan."
"Let me see," Genna said,
looking at the pictures. "I think
it'll be fine, especially if I just keep
the turquoise part away from my face.
That mirage pattern is beautiful."
"I've added those," Pips said.
"How much would you like
to branch out shades of blue?"
"Show me what they have," she said,
and Pips did. "I like the soft stripe caftan,
that's sort of sky blue or maybe chambray.
It should go with anything denim. I also
like the azure blue convertible kimono."
"Done," Pips said. "Those give you
plenty of ways to cover your shoulders.
Let's throw in a turquoise halter top,
too, that style is reversible."
"Sounds good," Genna said.
"Okay, what else is missing?"
Pips said. "You only have
one closed bottom."
"More shorts or pants
would be good," Genna said.
"What do they have there?"
"They don't sell shorts or
pants separate, but they have
some nice jumpsuits and
rompers," Pips said.
"I like the Antigua jumpsuit
with the navy-and-white tile print,"
Genna said. "The Hanalei romper
has a sky blue-and-white floral print."
"Those match what you already have,"
Pips said. "Are you comfortable with prints?"
"I love cheerful patterns, but sometimes,
it's hard to match things," Genna said.
"I can think of one easy solution,"
Pips said. "Put your solids in one place
and your prints in another. When you feel
tired, either wear solids -- which you can't
clash in this wardrobe -- or choose one print
and match any one of the colors in it."
"That should work," Genna said.
"There are separate closet sections."
"Okay, then we've got a solid base
for your wardrobe," Pips said. "You
could make a Whatever's Clean 13
or a 4x4 out of these. That's enough
to buy for sure. Shall we make a list
of other items you like, that we can
watch for while we're out shopping?"
"Sure, why not?" Genna said.
So they leafed through the rest
of the catalog to see what appealed.
Genna loved the prints. There were
so many different kinds, and some of them
went beyond the usual black-white-navy range.
"The warm colors do me no good, but I like
some of the other blues," Genna said,
pointing out a racerback beach dress
striped in sky blue and white, and
another tie-dye in turquoise and white.
"I saw you pause over the blue heather,
too," said Pips. "Racerback is okay?"
"As long as I have a way to cover up,
I like it because it doesn't run seams
right over the scars," Genna said,
going back to look at the short dress.
"That's a thought, then," said Pips.
"Look at these two." He brought up
the Maui convertible dress that had
blue and pink flowers on black, and
the two-piece Aruba dress which was
blue and pink flowers on white. "If you
got these, they'd add both pink and
a lighter blue. Do you like pink?"
"If it's a cooler pink like those, yes,"
Genna said. "We can watch for them."
"These use the same bullseye tie-dye print
in navy and white," Pips pointed out. "One is
a convertible skirt and the other a two-piece dress."
"I like those a lot," Genna said. "Mark them too."
They finished the rest soon enough, but she didn't
need all the black-white and navy-white prints in
the catalog. She'd wait and see what they found.
"Okay, that's one chunk done," Pips said
as he saved his work and closed the page.
"I'll place the order for you later. Check
your energy level. How are you doing?"
"Surprisingly well," Genna said.
"I'm amazed I got this far, but I think
I can do more. What else is there?"
"Lay out whatever clothes you
brought with you," Pips said.
"Since you mentioned a love
of natural fibers, I'm betting
you have some there. That
should give us a starting point
for the next part of the project."
Genna had just done laundry,
which is why she was wearing
the yoga outfit. She laid out
the rest. "This is what I had
in my go-bag," she said.
Her crisis capsule included
two T-shirts and two tank tops,
one of each kind in black and white,
a denim shirt and jeans, white shorts,
khaki capris, and a white cardigan.
She also had her travel outfit,
which happened to be black shorts
and a black-and-white striped top.
Under that she put out underthings:
socks and panties in assorted colors,
and a bra of black organic cotton.
"One bra?" Pips murmured.
"Good bras are expensive,"
Genna said, crossing her arms.
She was wearing the white one,
and that was all that she had.
"I'm not getting into this," Pips said.
He spread his hands. "I just wanted
to point out that the budget can cover
a few good bras if you want them."
"I'll think about it," Genna said.
Okay, fantasize about it, because
she never could afford the kind of
bras she wanted in the quantity
that she really needed. "I suppose
it has to wait for a body scanner."
"That would be prudent," Pips said.
"We can pick up other basics now,
though. You'll need shorties to go
under all those dresses, for instance,
and more T-shirts would help too."
"I have T-shirts," Genna said.
"You have two," Pips said. "With
four kids in the house, how far will
two T-shirts get you? Be honest."
Genna sighed. "Maybe lunchtime,
if I'm lucky," she confessed.
"Four T-shirts and four tanks, in
black, white, navy, and your shade of
nude," Pips said, making a note.
"Leggings: yes or no?"
"Yes," Genna said. "I like
them under skirts or long tops,
and they make a cool outfit
much warmer as well."
"Then add four shorties and
four leggings in the same colors,"
Pips said. "Leaving bras to you,
with socks and panties covered,
that gives you a good set of basics."
It seemed like a lot, but when Genna
thought about how much more she
could do with just those garments,
she didn't have the heart to protest.
"Can you find all those in cotton?"
Genna said, looking at Pips.
"T-shirts and tanks, yes,"
he said. "When it comes to
shorties and leggings, those
need some spandex, but I'll
look for a high cotton content."
"That'll do," Genna agreed.
"What about shoes?" Pips said.
"I haven't seen anything other than ..."
Genna looked down at the sneakers
whose sand color didn't go with
much else she owned, except
the lone pair of khakis.
"This is what I was wearing
the day of the evacuation,"
she said quietly. "There wasn't
room in the go-bag for spares.
I'm not the kind of woman
with sixty pairs of shoes."
"Fine," Pips said. "Think about
what styles and colors you need."
He found a travel clothing maker that
also did footwear. "Here, sneakers in
shades of blue. Tan leather sandals.
Slingbacks in black stretch fabric.
These water shoes are listed as
gray, but look closer to white."
"That covers most of it," Genna said.
"I could look for something dressier
when we go out for the scanner.
Black pumps, or white sandals."
She gave him her shoe size so
he could order the ones onscreen.
It was so much easier than trying
to figure out everything herself.
"My thought exactly," Pips said.
"Flats or low heels would go with
most of what you already have."
Genna trailed a hand over
the clothes from her go-bag.
Most were cotton, except
for the khakis in linen.
"I guess it's not much,"
Genna said softly.
"It's a start," Pips said.
"You have more things
at home, too, don't you?"
"A few, but ..." Genna winced.
"I had to sell a lot of stuff just
trying to make ends meet, and
then when I went looking for Dom,
it all had to fit in the car with us."
"So we really are rebuilding
your wardrobe from scratch,"
Pips said. "That's okay, I
know how to handle it. We
can expand the range a little.
What do you miss most?"
"My crinkle skirts," Genna said.
"I had a whole collection of those.
They were so beautiful, and
so easy to keep! Just wash,
twist, and hang to dry."
"Cotton crinkle skirts,
coming right up," Pips said.
His fingers tapped and swiped
at his tablet computer. "Okay,
I found a pair in black and white.
Would you like to pick something
that has a bit more color to it?"
Genna took the tablet and
scrolled through the list.
"Most of these things look
like muted or earth tones,
all wrong for me," she said.
Then she caught her breath.
"Ooohhh ... that's spectacular."
Pips leaned over to look at
the tiered skirt of rainbow colors.
"Wow," he said. "You would
look amazing in that skirt. It
goes with your solids, too."
"Yes, but I don't have a way
to match those bright colors, and
I don't want to break up the core
that I have going," Genna said.
"Hmm," Pips said. "Let me
browse around for a minute."
Genna let him have the tablet,
but she couldn't help yearning
after the skirt. As much as she
loved the wardrobe they were
building, most of it consisted
of basic things thus far.
"Here," said Pips. "They
have tie-front tops made of
the same crinkle gauze in
solid colors. Get one each in
black, white, navy, turquoise, and
purple. They all match the skirt,
go well with your other clothes,
and would cover your shoulders."
"That seems like a lot," Genna said,
but her fingers traced the vivid hues,
like a row of flowers on the screen.
"Think of it like a module within
the larger capsule wardrobe,"
Pips said. "Rainbow skirt plus
white T-shirt and tie-front top, or
the same in black. If you wear
a colored tie-front top instead,
then it'll pop out a lot more."
Just like that, it came
together in Genna's head,
the skirt in the center with
all its matching pieces
spread out around it.
Add the crinkle skirts
in black and white, and
it got even more flexible.
"Okay," she said. "Get those."
"Simple skirts I can order from
a waist measurement, and the tops
from your chest." Pips said. "Do you
have a tape measure or string?"
Genna never went anywhere
without a tape measure. She
grabbed the nearest one
and passed it to Pips.
He was as deft as
a tailor measuring her,
but the numbers came out ...
smaller than Genna expected.
"Don't worry about it," Pips said.
"I'll make sure you've got
some growing room."
"Thanks," Genna said.
"I guess I've lost more
than I realized I had."
"I suspected as much,"
Pips said. "It's easy when
you're too worried to eat right,
too busy to keep a schedule,
and you never know just where
your next paycheck will come from."
"That's the last eight months in
a nutshell," Genna admitted.
"Okay, let's take stock," Pips said.
"You need a lot more tops, and
a few more bottoms wouldn't hurt,
especially if they come in colors."
Genna tried to hold all that
in her head, but lost it.
"Think in sets," Pips said.
"The synthetic stuff leans
a little dressier. Cotton will
have a more casual look. If you
get some two-piece sets with
a bottom and an outer layer, then
that'll match your tanks and tees."
With that coaching, Genna found
that she could mentally sort things
into solids and prints in synthetics,
the new skirt module in cotton, and ...
her sad little spread of cotton basics.
"You're right, I do need more of
the cotton things," Genna said.
"Give me a minute to find a supplier
who offers a range of garments in cotton,"
Pips said, tapping away. "I'll make notes,
and order things after the body scan.
Any requests about style? This
is one of your favorite fabrics."
"Something breezy," Genna said.
"We're living on a tropical island,
and even though we're heading
to America next month, we'll
come back here. I'd like things
that go with the environment."
"Searching for a beach theme,"
Pips said. "Okay, I've got one.
You wear the same cool colors
that I do, so this turquoise looks
promising. Does it work for you?"
Genna looked at the picture.
"As best I can tell from an image
on a screen, yes," she said.
"Let's start with a matching set
of shorts and T-shirt," Pips said.
"They also have Key Largo pants
and your choice of other shirts."
"I like the Siesta Key blouse,"
Genna said. "It buttons up
and it has long sleeves,
almost like a cardigan.
"Good catch," Pips said.
"All right, that gives you
a Core of Four in turquoise
with your black, white, and navy."
"Plus the tie-front top," Genna said.
"That will mix and match beautifully."
"Looking for another set ... this one in
medium blue has a button-up top with
shorter sleeves than the Siesta Key,"
Pips said, showing her the image.
"I like it," Genna agreed. "The color
is deep enough to go with navy,
but bright enough to stand out.
"Here's a sweater with buttons
in an angled line," Pips said.
"It's not really a winter sweater,
but it'd keep you warm here on
a blustery day, and it's enough
to keep you from freezing
when you land in America."
"That's better than trying
to shop for a winter wardrobe
from a tropical island," Genna said.
"I don't think my imagination would
stretch that far. Put it on the list."
"Done," Pips said. "Now you
need a good bunch of tops."
Genna watched him rack up
a whole stack of the things.
"Surely I don't need
that many," she said.
"It looks like a lot,
doesn't it?" Pips said.
"But most of these are
basically copies. I only
have four sets here."
"Okay, show me how
they go," Genna said.
"Start with the appliqué tops,"
Pips said. "The purple one has
a fish on it; the white one has a flower.
They both use the same concept, just
different details. Plus the appliqué
gives you texture to touch when
you need comfort or grounding."
"I hadn't thought of that," she said.
"I did," Pips said. "I noticed that most
of your basics have plain textures, but
you have those linen khakis and you went
right to crinkle cotton when I asked for input."
"I miss my cableknits too," Genna mourned.
"I had a whole collection of wool sweaters."
"Then plan to catch the after-Christmas sales,"
Pips said. "People return the holiday gifts
that didn't fit, and most of that goes
straight onto the discount racks."
Genna made a note. There was
no telling what their schedule would
look like in January, but she could
try to catch the sweater sales.
"Moving along, the palm leaf print
uses a lighter shade of the base color,
one blue and one black," Pips said.
"They're good for monochrome, and
it's the same shirt in different colors."
"The print won't show stains
as much, either," Genna said.
"The next ones will, which is why
I picked three," Pips said. "They're
all the same cut and color, but with
different designs -- a white top
with a bicycle, butterflies, or
dandelions printed in black."
"That would tie together
my black and white clothes,
especially the crinkle cotton
I just got," Genna said.
"Exactly," Pips replied. "Now
the last set is embroidered with
seahorses, per your request for things
matching your environment, and again
it gives you some texture. It comes in
white, bright blue, and chambray."
Genna looked at the V-neck tunics,
admiring the asymmetric hem
and the subtle embroidery.
"I like them," she said.
"Just think of having
four accent shirts, each of
which has one or two spares
in case of spills," Pips said.
"I could hang them in those sets,
instead of sorting everything by color,"
Genna said. "Toss the dirty shirt
in the laundry hamper and just grab
a clean one from the same place."
"Now you're catching on," Pips said
with a warm note of approval. "Okay,
check again for missing pieces. You
could use a fitted jacket, in navy or
black, although it'll have to wait for
the body scanner or trying it on.
"Agreed," Genna said. So far,
most of the outer layers she had
were breezy, casual things.
That point reminded her
of another important gap.
"I don't have any coats,
not even a raincoat."
There hadn't been room.
Or time. Or money.
"Hang on, I think I saw
something a few sites back,"
Pips replied. "Yeah, here
they are, crinkle raincoats.
Do you want blue or black?"
"Blue, please," said Genna.
Black would go with everything,
but that was too gloomy -- and
hard to see -- for a rainy day.
"Okay, that we can order now,"
Pips said. "There's no telling
when you might need it."
Genna checked her phone.
"The weather forecast says
clear skies today, at least."
She sighed. "I had hoped
to get out to the market."
"Then let's go," Pips said.
"Wait, what?" Genna said,
waving a hand at her clothes
spread across the bed."
"Leave those for now,"
Pips said. "We've made
great progress on building
a real wardrobe for you,
not just a weekend capsule.
You can make smaller ones
if you need to take a trip."
"Whatever's Clean 13,
no problem," Genna said.
She looked at the clothes,
trying to remember what things
they'd ordered or picked out.
"Okay, I can do a Core of Four
in black, white, and navy, plus
turquoise after that order comes in,"
Genna said. "I have plenty of tops.
I have prints, mostly bicolors, that
connect the solid colors together."
"A tricolor wouldn't go amiss,"
Pips said. "You liked a few
of the black-white-blue things.
Let's go hit the beach market
and see if anything else pops up."
"I feel selfish, getting all this stuff
just for myself," Genna said.
Pips flicked the card in his hand.
"Genna, this is your card," he said.
"Victor already has his. I can give
Saul his, and the ones for the kids.
Let him do a share of the shopping.
The kids don't need as many clothes
because they outgrow theirs faster."
"They do grow like weeds,"
Genna agreed. "Pips, why
are you doing all this, really?"
"Because I can," he said. "You
took good care of me when I was
a miserable, soggy wreck and we didn't
even know each other then. Now I have
a chance to help you, so I want to do that."
"You needed a soft landing," Genna said.
"It was no trouble at all to give you one."
"Just as it's no trouble at all for me to help
with your shopping. I'm good at this.
I take pride in my work," Pips said.
In fact, he had taken one look at
the staff rooms in the back of the house
and then refused to take the guest room,
no matter how much Saul had argued.
The katheeb had been so charmed
by Pips' skill that he agreed it was
appropriate, so Pips had taken over
the one on Genna's side of the house.
"Okay, I appreciate that," she said.
"You're still spoiling me, Pips."
"Consider the budget part of
a concrete apology," Pips said.
"We know it's hard on people to get
yanked away and stuffed in a Can.
We can't always prevent that, but we
can give them some comforts afterward
to make up for the stress and hardships.
It reduces the chance of lasting damage."
Genna thought about how nice it was
to have someone else help her to make
decisions, narrowing down infinite choices
to the simplicity of skirt or shorts, black or blue.
"It's still kind of you to walk me through this,
instead of handing me a card," Genna said.
"I know how much it means to have
soft clothes with cheerful colors when
it feels like the world is crushing you,"
Pips said gently. "It can't fix everything,
but it can take some of the weight off, and
give you a little support where you need it."
Recalling all the things she'd had to give up,
Genna admitted that maybe she needed
the restock emotionally as well as physically.
"I wasn't expecting for a shopping binge
to make me feel better, but it has," she said.
"When you get lost in a really strange place,
nothing is more comforting than having
a friend whom you trust to show the way,"
Pips replied. "So what do you say?"
"Let's go to the market," Genna said.
* * *
This poem is long, so the notes appear separately.