Stacie's Coach Purse
Note: Inspired by The New York Times Style Magazine: Women's Fashion Fall 2012
Stacie Makowa refuses to plea for sanity. A matter of simple willpower. Keeping one's mouth shut in a freak black hole heavy sandstorm. It's a little past three in the afternoon and the sunglasses glued to her head - a dollop behind the ears and a smearing of the stuff on the bridge of the nose - makes everything darker, but it really is helping the dust and debris stay out of her eyes.
Others weren't so lucky, pausing at the worst possible time to attend to the slivers, pebbles and whatever else had suddenly lodged in their pupils.
Upon further reflection, a pair of goggles would have been ideal, but she didn't have easy access to something like that. It was lucky that she even had her Dolce and Gabbana DG 4132 sunglasses in her purse.
Before the start They upturned the said Coach handbag - free swag from a photo shoot a couple months back - and after a quick sifting for contraband they stuffed it rudely all back in save the iPhone and pushed the genuine leather into her trembling hands.
She was then ordered further on down the line, giving only cursory glances to the other people standing alongside with her. Some wild eyed with old fashioned fear, others trying to hide it in the modern way: by chewing gum, nails, and hair, almost pointless stretching, and gabbing with anyone who would listen about their chances and changes.
Eventually another part of the They called Stacie by her real first name, which she hated with enough of a passion to pay good money to get it officially changed once the first big Hermes cheque cleared. She was paid something like $75,000 after the agency's cut to hold a bag with aplomb on a carefully staged busy Paris metro station platform. She asked the photographer very politely to use 'Stacie' and he said okay but forgot halfway through the morning. Her smiles were noticeably more forced afterwards.
So most of the cards that were important in her wallet had been changed. The ones she didn't use as often - library, MileagePlus, an old Bloomingdale's preferred customer, the student ID from the one year of college that quickly tapered off in importance - were memories of a past life, and wasn't enough of an inconvenience to change or even throw away.
So of course it's those few that They somehow glanced at and remembered, even though she saw them look at her corrected driver's license as well. It was as if They knew They would get under her skin so much easier by calling her that.
Stacie can deal with heroin-addicted boyfriends and becoming a completely different person with only the tiniest bits of nail polish and hair colouring. She can memorize the names of everyone in a room because glad-handing is the best hand to have. She could put on particular social graces as easy as lighting a scented bathroom candle.
So They's name comment shouldn't stick but it does and she almost wants to complain as They scribble her number on her wrist but keeps quiet. The They isn't the type of people who take kindly to objections, even though plenty of people can quickly find problems with them. Most of their work is done by sheer force, and whatever human rights groups might think about that, it's hard to argue with results.
So with that in mind, and no real choice but to take part, she hastily goes to the starting line and is told they have three minutes to prepare with whatever They had let them keep. Many protested that They took everything useful, that they were all down to nothing but the shit they would carry around every day that didn’t take batteries.
Stacie figured that was the point, even as she heard some sardonic remarks about her purse from a couple heads away.
She closes her eyes and thinks of how everything was much more normal yesterday. She wakes up and lays in bed for too long and finally eats breakfast and showers and calls Penelope who doesn't actually pick up until you leave a message and then she calls back immediately. Standing on her balcony taking in the streets below Penelope tells her they've been invited by some silly old rich man with a private jet to some place fun far away for the next couple days. She assures Stacie that they'll be back in town in time for her to catch that flight to Rio for the Marc Jacobs thing.
So Stacie agrees, heads to the gym, downs a valium, tries to read a book to kill time, packs, and then heads over to Penelope's.
And now Penelope was missing, the silly old rich man was watching from some nearby villa on a closed-circuit TV signal, and she was right here, about to run.
The gun went off and everyone started rushing, one of them almost pushing her over in his haste. She took a moment to find her balance, and it was in that pause that the vents or jets were switched on and flooded the otherwise empty and innocuous lot with dirt, dust and what have you, with the added bonus of gale force winds blowing this way and that.
Some people immediately stumbled, others clutched their faces in pain, some dug through the pockets to remove handkerchiefs or napkins to place over their nose and mouth.
Stacie rummaged through her purse and took out the aforementioned sunglasses (now that we're all caught up to the present), and the glue stick that every model carries with them in case something needs to stick together for more little than four seconds for the sake of the flash. They wrapped around her mid-face perfectly, almost completely shielding her eyes. The glue doing just a bit more to prevent displacement.
So she's walking carefully through an artificial storm, doing her best not to walk upon people already reduced to crawling forward or a quaking mess.
The lack of clear vision ahead of her was not of great concern. She's walked many a carpet with flashbulbs burning her retinas with pure unceasing white. This was just an easily adaptable opposite. Heel, toe, heel, toe. Stacie was familiar with walking with, against, or beside wind machines as well. And instead of listening for orders being screamed by organizers and guards to know where to go, the straight up screams of the others around her told her what areas to avoid.
No danger of breathing in a terrible gust of debris, either. Stacie didn't open her mouth, having perfect breathing carefully and undetected through her nose. No one takes deep breaths on the catwalk.
As the fake dust storm died away, her bloody, lung hacking competitors quickly gained ground and they almost all came upon the puddle at the same time. It was a large, murky manmade pond that couldn't have been more than four inches deep.
The competitors eagerly removed their shoes and tossed them in the nearby bins that They provided. One contestant - bleeding from their right eye - practically dove into the water with the intention of swimming across.
Stacie blanched for rather pathetic reasons. She wouldn't have minded losing the sunglasses since they were free, but dumping her Brian Atwood Maniac Leopard Print Pumps - that she paid for herself after trying dozens on all afternoon at Neiman Marcus (a bit of slumming for her, to be honest) - into a box that she'd never see again gave her a rather long and probably inappropriate pause.
She was about to take that deepest of breaths and expose her lovely feet to the elements when a strangled scream came from the field and she snapped her neck up to watch a woman crumble into the marsh and clutch her foot in pain. Then this woman tried to bolt right up again, and Stacie could see something jagged impaled in her thigh. Then another person howled in agony, and it seemed to multiply, so suddenly all advancement ceased.
"Oh, god what is this?!"
The people ahead of her practically freeze in place trying to see into the bottom of the murky and now much more dangerous waters.
Stacie doesn't think twice and immediately begins to stride forward - shoes confidently on her manicured feet - like it's a red carpet with no real ending.
The ground was a quite soft but the Atwood pumps held their own. Much better, in fact, than the sneakers some of the others had the good fortune not to abandon. Some of the pieces of metal tore right through their rubber soles and into the ripe wet skin inside. Her opponents either fell into the water in terrible pain - sometimes impaling more vital areas in the tumble - or refused to move any faster than a geriatric shuffle to be sure of what they were about to walk over. Stacie's pair had leather soles and 3/4 inch platform, allowing her to essentially sail over any violent unseen protrusions. The only added challenge was striding through a four inch puddle without losing one's balance.
The sun beat down on them all, the cool water deceptively refreshing as everyone now walked with paranoid steps, Stacie once again moving to the front of the pack, with only the barest hint of sweat rolling down her cheeks.
From a distance in the middle of the flooded field it looked like a fence was on the horizon. Only when she emerged from the pond was it obvious that on the very top was a line of particularly barbed wire. On the other side of the fence was a series of small school desks and chairs, each with a number spray painted on the back of the chair. In the further distance beyond that was a cluster of banners and flags.
Checking her immediate surroundings for loose piles of dirt that might suggest a minefield, she removed her shoes and then quickly wiggled out of her turquoise spongey knit Lanvin dress, the only piece of clothing she had on save her Andres Sarda lycra panties.
Instinct came over her and raggedly holding onto the dress put both hands on her hips and posed for everyone and no one, purse still in hand. Then she broke into a smile for the ridiculousness of the moment, modeling lingerie in what some might call a fresh new breath into the concept of hell on earth. She was quite proud of herself for being able to do everything that was subtly demanded of her so far.
She did her first nude shoot with Terry Richardson because a friend dragged her along, and even though Stacie wasn't very comfortable with it Terry was very polite, and it was he who ended up referring her in some sort of haphazard fashion to Grace at Img. And it was only after getting signed that she finally took her sudden career seriously, and replaced the timidity of standing in front of a half dozen people and very bright lights clutching a scarf or examining a watch that cost as a much car wearing nothing but very heavy makeup with a more 'fuck you I'm amazing even if I don't know why' attitude.
Stacie looked back behind her and the barefoot people were still taking their sweet time avoiding every jagged nook and cranny in the field. It reminded her of her own shoes, which she picks up and tosses over the twelve foot high fence.
She began to climb and even though the steel wire fence dug into her finger joints and feet she made good time, flinging the dress over the razor sharp barbs and then carefully spreading it across the top as wide as possible.
As she very carefully flipped herself over the fabric - pricking herself only on the hand and thigh - and onto the other side she saw the few remaining people clamouring up the fence after her, some not bothering to use their own clothing but just making a beeline for her own self-created crossing. For the flash of a second she thought of bringing the dress down with her to block them, and stopped only because she realized that the time it would take to actually wrench the dress free or tear it to become unusable would be a waste.
Plus she didn't want anyone using her shoes for whatever would come next.
At the bottom of the fence - her long legs helping skip as many wire rows as possible - she shuffles back into her shoes and rush across to the desk that corresponds to the number scribbled on her right wrist.
On top of the desk is an old tape recorder with a pair of headphones plugged in. Stacie puts on the headphones as she slips into the plastic chair, putting her purse beside the audio antique.
She presses play, and a cold voice tells her the following:
"Pay attention. This will only be stated once. A question will be asked, it will not be repeated. You must answer the question by using the phone inside this desk and pressing the number one. You will say the answer to the person on the other line, and if they tell you it is correct, you may stand and proceed for the final sprint to the finish line. If you answer incorrectly you must remain at your desk. If you stand after answering incorrectly, you will be shot by a sniper. Here is the question..."
At this point she has already unscrewed her Chanel rouge coco lipstick and is prepared to scribble the details up and down her left arm.
She listens intently. Lipstick poised. When the question ends the tape abruptly cuts out with a garish crunch, and only her now rapid and panicked breathing can be heard. Stacie has not written a single thing down. Her eyes dart back and forth but there is no one except the few ragged competitors struggling into their respective chairs. She wonders if they are going to get the same question, or at the very least a similar one.
She resists the urge to stand because alarm bells are ringing in her head, that this is too easy, that there has to be more to it than it seems because there's no way that could have been the real question. She must have misheard a key word or something.
In the corner of her eyes she spies someone quickly getting out from their chair before opening up the desk to grab the phone. They make it three feet before the left side of their head simply explodes, the rest of the body beelining for the dusty ground.
No one gasps. They're all pretty much beyond such reactions at this point.
Stacie's mind whirls. The person didn't know the answer, knew they would never get it, tried to make a run for it. That means it's possible that they heard the same question she did.
A big maybe there.
As the last remaining competitors straggle over the fence in similarly disheveled and half-missing clothes, she decides that she can't wait much longer, and that there really isn't any other option.
She carefully opens the desk as to not let the tape recorder or her purse slip off, grabs the phone, dials one, put the phone to her ear and waits.
Someone picks up.
Stacie pauses for a moment. Even though the recording said she could remain in her seat if she got it wrong, it didn't clarify what would happen to her while she sat. But saying nothing is worse. That's the wrong answer. So she gives the single word correct one:
Pause. Stacie Makowa stares off at the horizon and probably ages a year.
"That is correct. You may proceed."
She is hung up upon, and she finds her arm shaking. She places the phone down on the desk, picks up her purse and very slowly stands. She holds her breath for many seconds as she spies no one else daring to stand up, or even lift the desk's counter to grab the phone. In the faces of the closest people to her she saw exhausted dread, a hollow-eyed acceptance of the fatal absurd.
No one else knew the answer.
Stacie walks like a drunk for the first few steps, as if getting used to walking for the first time. Her head feels heavy as she tries to process this. A set up. For her and apparently her alone. It was possible for someone else to know the answer, but completely unlikely.
Who else would know that she was the latest person from the Img agency to be signed for next spring's Donna Karan line?
It's fucked, she thinks, and shook off her shoes, picking them up in each hand and beginning to sprint the last hundred yards. If there was any other trap between here and the end, so be it.
Stacie crossed the finish line and a much warmer They greet her and offers her a robe, which she puts on mechanically, hoping it could shield her in many more ways from their prying eyes and private machinations.
Light applause travelled through the small crowd and she was handed a flute of champagne. She sipped it because her mouth was as dry as the ground beneath her bare feet.
A voice mentions that she was given four to one odds, and that her backers will be thrilled.
Someone dared to tell her with a smile that it was over, but Stacie didn't believe that for a second, and even though the rest of the weekend was spent on a beautiful hilltop estate looking over the grounds full of food and non-lethal activities, she still waited with a dead eyed numbness for a secret blade or bullet to steal the life from her.
Only in Rio five days later, sobbing on the floor of the hotel bathroom did she come back to herself.
|Regarding emergency plans: A time when everything has to go right when everything else is going wrong|