It’s not the contraption itself that I love—this pair of shells of steel and lace—but the woman who measures me and tests my straps as if armoring me for battle. Her name’s Deb. I’ve let her into my fitting room. She says chest tissue instead of breasts, and she deserves twice whatever they're paying her, because chest tissue holds stories like soil holds water. With Deb around, the mirror and I regard each other less harshly. The mirror is not president of this closet-sized space, because Deb is—her power suit a green bra glowing through a sheer crop-top.
The mirror frames Deb and I together. We’re close in age, Deb maybe a few years older, and we both have tattoos. Mine, a bat on my arm, a bird on my back. Hers, a slim stem visible between her breasts. The stem flowers downward, across her ribcage, curling and petaling below the seam of the green bra. Her superior beauty is a comfort, not a challenge. No reflection containing this woman could hurt me.
I tell her I’m bigger than I was. Though I claimed at first to know my size, I don’t. Deb gets out the measuring tape, and while she’s got me in her gentle lasso, so close I can smell her coconut lotion, tells me she knows the feeling. My weight routinely fluctuates by 30 pounds, she says. And I see now that what I took for shimmer powder applied to her upper arms is in fact a gleaming lace of stretch marks, her body perhaps as much of a conundrum to her as mine is to me.
Is it true, a boyfriend once asked me in horror, that if you lose weight, your boobs are the first part to shrink?
I put my shirt back on while Deb leaves to bring me new sizes. I tell her nothing fancy, no padding.
Another ex told me I was getting chubby, just to make me mad. It was a lie, but after, I promptly got fat.
These days, a drunk coworker recites for me the features of his ideal woman. Long legs. Bald pussy. Small to medium breasts. Just a handful, he says, pleased with himself.
Deb returns with the plain bras, but also, the opposite: floral-print, fluorescent, and lacy, some with straps that criss-cross in back, some with cups so round I want to look at them, and look at them, like a child entranced with a bubble.
One by one, I try them on, each its own kind of exoskeleton, bonus bones holding up the soft mollusk of me. I choose two: one plain and one fancy, and carry them out in a bag with thick ribbons for handles. At home, I change into the fancy one—lavender with black lace trim—and wear it around for the rest of the week in homage to Deb and no one else.