Thrift Store Whore
by Alison Tyler
For want of a better word. I mean, I suppose I could say “thrift store slut,” but where’s the fun in that? I have been one—a fan, a convert, a member of the cult—for more decades than I care to share. Ever since I first tucked a rumpled one-dollar bill in my pocket, I’ve gone in search of a second-hand haven in which to find treasure.
Because that’s what thrift store aficionados (find a rhyme for that, I dare ya) do. We search, we dig, we paw through the racks. We press up against the glass cases and yearn for the sparkly, twinkly, dime-store gems displayed within.
I learned to drive so I could get to the clothes-for-a-pound stores in the Mission. (There, I would buy old bowling shirts embroidered with different names in that gorgeous curling handwriting.) I figured out how to read a map (not my forte on the best of days) in order to find the Haight/Ashbury’s mecca of thrift.
I was ridiculed in school for my response to any praise of my wardrobe. Someone liked my blazer? I’d inadvertently, unconsciously, share, “Oh, I got it for a quarter.” I wore chrome ID bracelets jangling on my wrist, each one emblazoned with someone else’s boyfriend’s name. (Or someone else’s ex.)
For years, I sported a watch fob as a choker, with a big man’s ring hanging from the center. I thrust my fingers into the hole absentmindedly, stroking my talisman from long ago.
In L.A. I continued to shop almost exclusively at thrift stores. How else to stand out? How else to be different?
In Dark Secret Love, I described a packing scene. Sam’s going on a trip to New York, without Jack.
“You’re only bringing black.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“It’s sort of morbid.”
“It’s New York.”
I’d been to Manhattan often enough to appreciate the different dress styles of the coasts. Where you could wear flirty sundresses all year round in L.A., New York's a much more dramatic environment.
“I like you in color.”
“You’re not even going to be there,” I grinned at him. “How will it bother you if I’m all in black?"
“I’ll know,” he said, teasing me. “I’ll feel it.”
The hotel is gone now, to my supreme distress. But it was my favorite spot in New York. So hip, with the most beautiful staff, and an ultra chic lounge. The elevators were lit in different colors: red, orange, purple, and green. The bar was insane. So dark. So sexy. And the tiny little guest rooms charmed me with their black-and-white checked floors, boasting only enough space for a bed and a miniscule dresser. A huge painting took up the wall behind the bed, adding the only color to the room.
I fit in perfectly in my black attire, as I’d known I would. I felt a rush of freedom as I walked through the city. I had three appointments over the next few days: with my new publisher and two magazines. But I had nowhere to be that first afternoon, and I walked through the neighborhood, trying to decide what to do. Where to go.
It’s not surprising that I ended up in the hotel bar at the counter, trying to read in the dim light and failing. I had my manuscript with me, the revised one that I was going to turn in to my publisher in person. I drank tequila, slowly, savoring the sensation. Several boys flirted with me, but I brushed them off. I wasn’t interested in a New York fling. Not with Jack waiting at home.
Thank fucking god.
When I went back up to the room, I was sweetly tipsy, but not drunk. I got my key in the lock, and opened the door, to find Jack—on the bed, fully dressed, reading the paper. He smiled at me as I stood there in shock.
“I couldn’t,” he said. “After you left this morning, I booked the next flight.” He stood up and pulled me into his arms. “I couldn’t—“
The room was so small, and with Jack, his height, his power, it seemed smaller still. I thought about the boys in the bar, and I wondered if Jack had come because he didn’t trust me. But I didn’t ask. The answer wouldn’t have done me any good.
“Where were you?” he murmured as he kissed my neck. “I’ve been up here an hour.”
“I was downstairs.” I pulled away from him, so that I could set down my purse and the folder holding my manuscript and take off my sweater. “In the bar.”
He kissed my lips, tasting the tequila.
“You’ve been a good girl?”
And there it was.
“Not chatting up any local bucks.” This wasn’t a question.
He’d seen me. That was obvious. He might even have been in the bar with me. The room was so dark and I’d gotten myself a corner spot. I hadn’t been looking around at all, because I hadn’t been expecting Jack.
“A few guys tried to buy me drinks, but I didn’t let them.”
“No,” Jack said, pulling now on my dress, tugging at the tie on the side and then flipping open the two buttons, so that the fabric came off in a wave. “You wouldn’t have let another man buy you a drink.” I was in my stockings—black, sheer—and these beautiful glossy high-heeled Mary Janes. My bra and panties were matching black satin, and I had on a thin beaded choker, my only jewelry. Jack slid one finger under the necklace, testing it, and then spun me around and undid the clasp. He must have been carrying the collar in his pocket, because I felt him buckle the thick leather into place. Had he carried the collar on the plane, stroking the buckle absentmindedly as he drank his first-class champagne?
“Now,” Jack said, spinning me around and then standing back, admiring me. “What should I do to you first?”
I still shop at the thrifts. I’ll never overcome my desire for treasure.
Alison Tyler’s twenty-five erotic novels include Dark Secret Love and the upcoming Delicious Torment (both from Cleis Press). Her novellas include Tied Up & Twisted (Harlequin), Those Girls (Go Deeper), and Banging Rebecca (Pretty Things Press). Visit her at alisontyler.blogspot.com 24/7 because sleep is something she least likes to do.