Updated: Dec 31, 2020
I bought a skirt online yesterday. It’s a winter skirt, with scratchy beige and purple plaid wool draping to the ankles. I daydreamed about wearing it to college; I pictured myself in the skirt, carrying a stack of books as the Ohio snow fell like dainty lace. In this dream, I would gaze ahead, blissfully unaware of the magical qualities I possessed. Maybe I would get a compliment from a friend, and I would smile and thank her; it's not often someone goes out of their way to say something nice.
The seller, named Poppy, messaged me and said she was devastated to let the poor skirt go. She told me she tried it on three times to see if it still fit before posting the offer online. She wanted it to go to a gentle, loving home. I felt guilty for taking the skirt she so clearly loved like a kitten. I saw on the website that Poppy lived in Moonpark, California. I had heard of Moonpark once from a brochure for their local college. I never ended up applying to the school — it was too far south in California for me — but the name’s whimsy stuck with me, and I sometimes wonder about the town. I asked Poppy to tell me about it. She said it's always summer there, so she would have no use for that winter beige skirt anyways; I probably get more snow in Ohio.
Poppy told me her mother gave her the skirt many Novembers ago when she was sixteen. They lived in a demure yellow house in Whitefish, where the winter weather crept into May. It was a hand-me-down, something Poppy had seen a few times in her mother’s closet and once in one of her high school photos. One day, the skirt appeared in Poppy’s closet. When she asked about it over dinner, her mother said she didn’t want it anymore; she never wore it anyways. Poppy shrugged and wore it to school the next day, feeling like a goddess in the sweeping deep wind and scattered burnt leaves. When she moved out two years later she folded the wool skirt neatly and lugged it around to college where it followed her from town to town.
I imagined Poppy in her beige wool skirt down to her ankles, walking the streets of Moonpark. I could almost see her sweating proudly in her beige skirt, sitting at the little cafe she told me she loves. People would comment on how warm she must be in that wool blanket of a skirt in their sunbeam town. I told her she should move up north if she wants to wear the skirt comfortably, and she said silly, you just bought it. She said she didn’t want the skirt. It didn’t fit her anymore. Poppy told me a great green windmill sits at the head of Moonpark and guards the town. It powers every little electrical entity in Moonpark. She claims she saw a cloud pass through its spokes one time, that the puffs of white got devoured and her heart panged for them.
Poppy told me that Moonpark is a funny place for her; no one can look you in the eye and honestly say they're paying attention. She noticed the affliction when checking out in the grocery store the day she moved to Moonpark; the cashier's voice was somewhere years past, and she could tell he was thinking of another time. She noticed it at the neighborhood barbeque and later at her favorite cafe. Poppy told me she often felt like the only person in town with a functioning brain, that she sometimes wanted to scream at the next person who spoke to her in that drifty, dreamy voice so integral to Moonpark. She said she sometimes felt like the only living human in the town; that a seeping sinking sea of blue dread weighed her down like a thick wool blanket. That she occasionally dreams of the chilly misted days of Whitefish and wakes up weeping because even if she returned, she would never feel the delicate contentment of her childhood. Poppy told me that wherever she goes, her rain-soaked disdain does too. I told her I felt the same way.
I found it odd that a town named after the moon was so hot, and Poppy told me that it can get cold if you wait for the right night in December. She said one night it frosted and everyone left their houses to spin around in the flakes, even the adults. Poppy told me she lives alone so no one could see her in the dark quiet wind, standing in the open crook of her doorway, watching the thin veil of snow fall gently from the sky. I told her I would think of her that night every year so she wouldn't be alone in the icy frost. That I would wear the skirt to college and gather compliments in the benevolent Ohio sun; that I couldn't wait to feel like a prairie girl. I told Poppy I was sorry she was lonely and sorry that she had to give away her favorite skirt. Poppy thanked me for buying the skirt and talking to her, and told me I was lucky.