Jemima owned more clothes than was necessary for any living human being to own and most of it was spectacular crap. That, at least, was according to her friends. Jemima had been slowly amassing the world’s most bizarre wardrobe, save for Lady Gaga’s, for several years. Priscilla decided enough was enough and something needed be done. Of course, Priscilla came to this conclusion one Friday night when Bernie had invited her boyfriend Callum over to their shared apartment to dump him. She’d tried to do it once already in a park and it had not gone well, so she was bringing the pain and humiliation indoors. Priscilla didn’t want to be around Callum when he was at his best and she most certainly didn’t want to be anywhere near him while he was being dumped. He seemed like he’d end up snotty, both figuratively and literally.
Tallulah was at work at the record store, leaving Priscilla to fend for herself. She crossed the hall to Jemima’s apartment before Callum arrived at her own apartment, leaving Bernie meditating in the living room. She called it meditating, but really she chugged a glass of wine and then painted her toenails tangerine. When Priscilla walked into Jemima’s bedroom, she found her struggling to shove a shirt into one of her dresser drawers. There was part of a dress sticking out from between her closet doors. Priscilla could see clothes spilling out from underneath Jemima’s bed. She rolled her eyes.
“You have too many clothes,” she announced, startling Jemima, which was fair because she had just walked into her apartment without any kind of forewarning.
“I have just enough clothes,” Jemima countered after a moment of composing herself. “I have something for every occasion.”
Priscilla thought back to the recent times when she had borrowed clothes from her friends, Priscilla included.
“Uh huh,” she returned skeptically. “How much of this would you be embarrassed to be found dead in?”
“What?” Jemima demanded, coughing in shock.
“Like, if you were murdered and dropped in a ditch on the side of the highway, would your mother be proud of your sensible, well-fitting jeans? Or would she be horrified that you were wearing that monkey sweater vest you own and think is charming?” Priscilla clarified cavalierly, picking at a thumbnail.
“That sweater vest is whimsical and fun,” was Jemima’s response.
“False,” Priscilla rejected instantly. “It smells like moth balls and it’s ill-fitting because it was made for children.”
Jemima huffed, but Priscilla ignored her. Instead, she decreed that they were going to spend the evening cleaning out Jemima’s closet and dresser. Jemima wasn’t impressed, but she couldn’t realistically argue because the monkey sweater vest had in fact been intended for children. Priscilla still had so much time to kill. She assumed it would take Bernie a long time to break up with Callum. It had already taken her roughly three weeks to work up the courage to do it in the first place. It would take at least four hours for her to actually get around to it with him sitting in front of her.
Priscilla started with the chest of drawers because Jemima was being particularly cagey about it. Priscilla had seen her wear a lot of questionable things, but she hadn’t really anticipated how bad it would get. It started out alright, just some extremely holy socks and a stray mitten that was made of wool the colour of vomit, but it spiralled quickly out of control from that point. It was a wonder she hadn’t gotten further with Noel; their dress senses were eerily similar in that they both owned a lot of things that might also be found in the wardrobe of a travelling drag show.
“Cargo pants?” Priscilla asked, digging a pair of baggy, faded cargo pants from the bottom of Jemima’s pants’ drawer.
“I haven’t cleaned out my closet and whatever for a while,” Jemima said, managing to sound dismissive and defensive at the same time, which was actually pretty impressive.
“Surely you’ve cleaned it out since 2001 though,” Priscilla countered, tossing the pants into the donation pile. “You only moved here four years ago.”
Jemima clearly couldn’t think of an adequate response, so they moved on to her sock drawer, which was half full of leg warmers as it turned out. Priscilla held up each passing leg warmer with more and more concern. She kept shooting Jemima incredulous looks, but she was pointedly ignoring Priscilla, the questioning looks, and the leg warmers in favour of her closet. Eventually, Priscilla couldn’t contain her shock any longer.
“How many pairs of leg warmers do you own? How is that necessary? This is not the ‘80s and you are not in a chorus line,” she said.
“I run cold in the winter,” Jemima sniffed indignantly in return.
“How cold do your shins get that you need seven pairs of leg warmers? Where did you even buy these?” Priscilla asked, moving on to join Jemima at the closet as well. “You have the wardrobe of a very eclectic, hipster first grader.”
“Some people say I have a very sophisticated sense of style,” Jemima retorted haughtily.
“Who says that?” Priscilla demanded. “Clearly they haven’t seen your unicorn sweatshirt.”
“I have a specific work wardrobe,” Jemima defended herself. “It’s not like I wear my sequin bodysuit to the office.”
“Honestly, I’d prefer if you didn’t wear that anywhere,” Priscilla replied.
“It looks good with skirts!”
“It’s nude-coloured! You look like you’ve stuck sequins onto your naked body!”
Jemima, albeit reluctantly, tossed the bodysuit into the pile to be donated. She kept the unicorn sweatshirt, though.
Things really started to get weird the further into Jemima’s closet they got. There were a whole slew of things pushed to the very back that had collected dust. Jemima clearly didn’t wear them very often, or at all, which was honestly for the best because Priscilla couldn’t think of a single occasion for her to wear most of it. Maybe to some very precise dress-up parties. She could probably supply the costumes for a diverse and nonsensical musical. It would be something Bernie’s boyfriend Callum would be in. He’d be the six-minute, non-speaking role in the velour tracksuit. Jemima owned a velour tracksuit.
“This is a baby blue, velour sweatsuit,” Priscilla announced when she came across it, holding it up on the hanger for Jemima to see, as if she was perhaps unaware that she had at one point in her life purchased a baby blue, velour sweatsuit. Priscilla was kind of hoping she was unaware, like maybe she had bought it during a fugue state or a really bizarre sleepwalking incident or while she was on acid.
“It’s really comfortable,” Jemima explained. By this point, they had been at it for a solid three hours and she had lost all shame.
“You’re not a Real Housewife, you’re not a senior citizen mall-walker, and you’re not a gay Italian man,” Priscilla continued. “There is no need for you to own this. And while we’re on the subject of not needing things, you do not need four pairs of black flip flops. You only need one. And you don’t need any pairs of platform flip flops, Baby Spice.”
Priscilla punctuated her point by tossing each flip flop pointedly and aggressively into the pile of things Jemima was giving away. It had grown so large that it had begun to eclipse the chair shoved into the corner of her room next to her dresser. The cargo pants were buried at the very bottom near the embroidered sweater Priscilla had found at the bottom of Jemima’s underwear drawer.
“I will admit that your collection of patterns is both admirable and enviable,” Priscilla said a few minutes later, browsing through Jemima’s closet. “Chevron blouse, houndstooth skirt, tartan pants. All awesome. Your gingham turtleneck tank top is horrible, though. That needs to be pitched.”
“I love that shirt!” Jemima protested.
“I know,” was Priscilla’s mostly heartless response. “You wore it every day for an entire week last summer. You wore it so often that Bernie’s ginger boyfriend at the time asked if you owned any other shirts.”
“Who was her ginger boyfriend?” Jemima asked, frowning.
“I don’t know, the one with the beard and the fake tan,” Priscilla waved a hand dismissively.
“The one with the back tattoo of a coiled snake?” Jemima replied. “Or the one with the thigh tattoo of the cheetah?”
Both of them paused to think it over.
“Why does she date so many ginger dudes with animal tattoos?” Jemima asked, but Priscilla didn’t answer. She had returned to the closet only to discover the most horrific item of clothing they’d thus far encountered.
“Oh my God, this is a cowhide blazer,” she said, stunned. She turned to face Jemima so that she could see it too.
“I was going to turn it into a vest,” Jemima explained, having the decency to look at least a little sheepish.
“It has four-inch lapels.”
“I think it would look cool with a belt.”
“It feels like an actual cow. This was literally just taken straight from a cow. Someone sewed giant lapels on this and you bought it so you could make a cow vest with enormous cow lapels,” Priscilla said, still stunned.
“I bought it a few years ago,” Jemima muttered.
“Throw this out right now,” Priscilla ordered, holding it out. “Or burn it. Purge it from the earth.”
“So dramatic,” Jemima grumbled, but chucked it in the separate pile of things that Priscilla had declared no one would ever wear, even if it had been free, even if it had been lined with cash.
Finally, they reached the shoes. Jemima had been keeping her many black flip flops in a pile at the back of her closet, but there was another pile on the opposite side of her closet for all of her other shoes. She owned what Priscilla estimated to be one hundred pairs of sneakers. In reality, there were only about twelve pairs, but that still seemed awfully high for someone who only had two feet. Beyond that, she had eight pairs of sandals, three pairs of running shoes, one of which she’d held onto since the eighth grade, and sixteen pairs of heels. That wasn’t even counting the gross number of boots she had in her front hall closet.
“How long have you had these?” Priscilla asked, holding up one pair of running shoes. “Because it smells like you’ve had them since Y2K.”
There was a pair of jelly sandals that Jemima had legitimately owned since Y2K so it wasn’t as crazy a statement as Jemima was likely hoping it was.
After the shoes, the pair of them stopped to survey the progress. Priscilla felt cleansed, like she’d rid the earth of a plague. Jemima looked like she’d been tortured for four months straight. It was possible it hadn’t been nearly as cathartic for her as it had been for Priscilla, who maintained that Jemima would feel much better soon. She had enough closet space to properly close the doors for one. She also no longer owned a cow hide blazer, which Priscilla was counting as an enormous positive.
Priscilla was standing in the middle of the bedroom with her hands on her hips, admiring her work, when she noticed the clothes trying to escape from underneath Jemima’s bed.
“Oh good Lord,” she groaned, getting down on her hands and knees to start pulling things out from beyond the bedskirt. “You have clothes under your bed!”
She tossed a red blouse in the direction of Jemima’s face. Sadly, Jemima caught it before it could make contact.
“Oh! I was looking for that shirt!” She said delightedly. Priscilla sighed and continued to pull things out.
“Were you also looking for these jeans? Or this sock? These four, sorry five, sweaters, and this bedazzled leopard print bra?” She chucked the bra toward Jemima as well. Jemima grabbed it and held it up to the light, like it was a diamond she was trying to inspect for flaws.
“Uh, this is not my bra…,” she said after a moment. They stared at each other.
“You should probably be concerned about that,” Priscilla said eventually. Jemima immediately dropped it.
By the time Priscilla returned to her own apartment, she and Jemima had shoved all of her clothes into several blue garbage bags and Priscilla was extremely proud of herself. Jemima looked like she’d been victimized.
“You’ll feel better in the morning,” Priscilla assured her as she walked out the front door.
“I’m going to keep that cowhide blazer and give it to you for Christmas,” was Jemima’s scathing response.