The Surface Stories: Closet Wars


She reminds me of Hilary, except that I like Hilary and I cannot stand her. She’s the girl who sniffles all the time and asks around the room if anyone has “anti-bac.” The news junkie who laughs to herself while scrolling her iPhone, laughing a laugh that begs someone to ask her what she’s reading. A waterfall of self-satisfied chuckles. It doesn’t matter; if you don’t ask, she’ll tell you anyway. I dread these days with her like gynecological appointments.

Armed with the usual artillery of useless information, she prattles on about news stories, large and small. I’m getting zipped into a $5,000 red carpet gown while she’s blathering on about some psychopath chopping off Amish people’s beards and braids. I’m convinced the reason she studies her clipboard is solely in preparation for these hours, trapped in a closet with a handful of undereducated peers. Every exchange is meant to suffocate, not educate. There is no dialogue, just a silent war of “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” from Annie, Get Your Newspaper.

Rachel flips through photos from her sister’s wedding, praising her like she was pitching a celebrity. “She’s amazing. Amazing. Like the most wonderful woman.” Her gushing is so profuse you’d think it’s meant to make your relationship with your own family feel inferior, subpar by comparison. You wish you had a sister this amazing, she says, and her sister’s amazingness makes her amazing by proxy. Her family is God’s gift to this changing closet.

Look at this picture. Look at this. Here’s my brother. He’s also amazing. Aren’t they wonderful?

Wonderful? Like I’m supposed to judge that just from a wedding picture? If you’re any indication… Polite dressers crane their necks and coo at a row of people standing together in the foreground of a lake that we will never – not in a hundred years – meet. They are beyond not mattering.

When she accidentally manages to have an exchange with another person – namely, me – she tries desperately to redirect it from dialogue to monologue. If no one else speaks, then she is always correct.

Someone mentions Jessica Chastain.

“She’s in that movie,” Rachel muses, waiting for it to come to her.

Zero Dark Thirty,” I interject.

“What’s the name…” Rachel can read but she cannot hear.

Zero Dark Thirty,” I repeat.

“Oh, yeah.”

“What’s that about?” asks one of the dressers.

“Post 9/11,” I start.

“No, it’s about Osama Bin Laden,” Rachel corrects, trying to scramble back to her place at the top of the heap.

“That’s post 9/11,” I insist, wishing for nothing more than to punch her in the face or throw her down a small set of stairs.

“Oh, well,” she says, defeated, trying a different angle so she can rein supreme over the conversation once again. “I wish they named it something more awesome. Like a better fucking name. Like the actual time they caught him.”

“That’s what it is,” I say. “Zero Dark Thirty. 12:30. That’s when they caught him.”

She walks out of the closet and into the showroom, leaving me to gloat alone in my victory, aware that such gloating makes me shades similar to Rachel herself, two people shouting “Anything you can do I can do better” like obnoxious children clutching copies of The New Yorker.