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Friday, October 14, 2016

Ladies Who Punch (Part 2)


P. Bradley
One Opulent Alley
New York, New York 10014

September 30, 2014

Dear Sir or Madam:

     Please find attached my submission for your “short fiction” category for She-Volve Magazine. The submission is and semi-autobiographical piece about the time I worked for Patricia Field in New York City. Currently, I contribute a monthly dining column to Hurry Up! Magazine (Condé Nast). I look forward to your reply!


P. Bradley

Prada Shoes for Nowhere: 
Getting In (and Out) at Patricia Field

by P. Bradley

I once had a friend named Paul, who went by the name of “Cyberboy,” then “Cyberboy Paul,” then eventually just Paul again. The year was 1996 and we both were homeless club kids in Manhattan. Believe it or not, it was trés fashionable at the time (or so it had seemed).

“I could never get a job there—they would never hire me!”

Paul and I were both looking for a day gig (or a night gig, or any gig, for that matter). Paul’s Holy Grail would have been to work at Patricia Field, at its original location on West 8th Street.

“With an attitude like that, they won’t,” I had thought. “Why not?”

“How would I do that?

“You’d just walk in and ask if they’re hiring!” I decided I’d show him how it was done.

The very next day I was on the floor at “Hotel Venus,” Pat Field’s SoHo offshoot, for a try-out. I’d recently gone pink and my day one look consisted of all-white Pumas, wool plaid pants and a pale mint and white baseball tee, all offset with my alarmingly pink pixie-styled do. Could I have afforded more, I would have showed up with more of a “look,” but this all started as a way to prove a point to Paul so I wasn’t completely invested. Also, the ensemble perhaps made me look a bit green… more “malleable” to the needs of the House of Field. At the end of the try-out, I was asked by Hotel Venus’ manager, Monica, how I’d liked it. I’d said that I did and just like that, I was an official House of Field employee.

Paul was aghast. Total disbelief. A week or so later, I’d managed to get him a job at the 8th street store. I’d never seen him so on edge. He had dyed his hair a severe blood red and went in for his first day suited up in his raver best which included a thick navy sweater with three thin, colored stripes running across his chest and upper arms. The look was rather New Jersey if you’d asked me. Toward the end of his first day (I’d gotten him in without so much as a try-out), Pat came down from her apartment, which was located directly above the store, and made her way to speaking with Paul. When we’d met after our corresponding shifts later that day: “Disaster!” Paul’s bulging dark eyes, paired with the red, red hair and his pasty complexion had made for a scary sight. I motioned for him to elaborate.

“Pat came down from upstairs—totally stoned—and came up to me and was like, You’re friends with Pat, right?” (I was picturing in my mind what Paul had probably perceived earlier that evening: Pat making a beeline straight from her bed, directly to “Cyberboy Paul.”)  “Then she asked me what I had to offer!” I can barely remember his response, but I’m sure it was something completely trite in the context of things, something along the lines of, “I’m completely into fashion!” But what I do remember is Pat’s response after Paul had finished bemoaning his manifesto to her. “We’ll let you know if we need you.” Paul had been a member of the legendary House of Field for all of seven hours while I had managed to bring things to full term. Nine months later, I was donning my customary “all grey,” no more.

The 8th street store would often remark about Hotel Venus employees: You all wear grey at Venus! It was the cusp of 1997 and things were starting to shift toward a more austere fashion aesthetic (at least on West Broadway, where the store was located). Several months into my employment at Venus, I’d suddenly shown up to work with shorn hair and it was a 360 from the time when I’d donned pink Japanese tabi socks, paired with all-pink pajamas from  Pearl River Mart, to complement my brightly-colored mop. Around the same time, I was surviving on singular 99¢ bags of cookies per day, as I was trying my “shop girl” best to save up for a $500 pair of Prada shoes—remember the ones with the elastic loops, which you’d pull through a pair of little metal cylinders which would hold the loop in place with the release of a button? Yes, I was depriving myself three meals a day, so that I could soon own a bit of SoHo shop girl status.

I don’t know why I’d wanted those shoes so badly. Perhaps they were a symbol of something I’d be in control of, in what was beginning to feel like unsteady waters. Although Monica seemed to be on my side (most of the time), there were other personalities in the store that I just couldn’t seem to click with (oddly enough, I did click with Sophia Lamar—and she doesn’t like anyone!). Once, I had passive-aggressively stuck a note beneath a coworker’s picture on which I’d written: “I need to take a nap, because I’m very tired” (cut me some slack, I was seventeen); another time, I posted a note stating that everyone should help out with the morning duties (which included scrub-mopping a urine-soaked entryway) before having their morning coffee/breakfast/doing their makeup. But the final message I’d received from the unfavoring fraction of coworkers was when they’d “forgotten” to invite me to Monica’s birthday party. The next day at Venus, Pat inquired directly about my absence at the party. My eyes quickly diverted toward Monica’s, from which I’d perceived the signal: “Don’t say a word!” I sheepishly, stupidly responded that it was my mother’s birthday and that I was with her the previous night. Looking back, I wouldn’t have liked myself either. In all of these situations, while I’d thought that Monica was my friend, she was warning me about retaliating against “very strong personalities.”

By week three of living on bags of ginger snaps, something inside me finally snapped. I’d questioned myself for feigning satiety, to save up for a pair of Prada shoes that would “get ruined” (Monica didn’t want me to have those either) while I would be scrubbing the Hotel Venus stairwell. And as much as I’d thought I’d wanted to be a part of the House of Field, I’d realized that I did not. I didn’t want to be the type of person that would spend weeks starving herself in order to buy a pair of fancy leather shoes. When the labor pains had passed and I had walked through Hotel Venus’ doors one last time, I’d eventually found myself in a quiet room at my parents’ house, outfitted with pristine beige carpeting and curtains that matched the bedspread. It was 1998. I was 19. I was in the middle of nowhere... and the only person in town to own Italian shoes.

P. Bradley is a food writer living in New York City. Her favorite shoes to wear are her Vans.

ONE night over martinis, I asked Amanda if she'd look over my cover letter to She-Volve; she'd spent the better part of her doctorate correcting student papers as a TA, so I knew that her eye would be a fine comb for errors.

"Well the second sentence is weird... and I wouldn't italicize."

"Aren't you supposed to italicize magazines?"

"I'm talking about the sign off."

I took another look at the cover letter and realized that in my harriedness, I failed to notice that Best and P. Bradley were both italicized; also that I had typed, "The submission is and semi-autobiographical piece..." where and clearly should have been an A.

I took a long sip of martini, while Amanda noisily flipped through her copy of the Times (oh--now she reads the paper?)....

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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