An unusual love story.
“Oh, Maizie! Sometimes I just don’t know what I’m going to do with you.” David – pronounced Dah-VEED – fussed with her Echo saffron-colored silk scarf, his sharp eye and nimble fingers making slight alterations. “The left side should hang a little longer than the other. Tsk, tsk, tsk. My goodness sakes alive! Who dresses you anyway?” He chuckled at his clever remark.
Maizie paid no heed – not that it would make any difference. Dah-VEED, indeed. Her slight smile affirmed the silliness of the floor manager’s affectation. But, she really didn’t care how David pronounced his name, and she never bristled at his daily adjustments of her attire. His little quirks bothered her not in the slightest. Garnering great joy from trying to make his surroundings perfect, his flawlessly coiffed, dark hair and Alfani dark suits proved he lived his job. After all, the Macy’s name was an ideal, and the company expected its representatives to project its persona of affordable elegance.
Stationed in the fourth floor women’s apparel section for years, Maizie also strived to radiate the Macy’s image. “You are what you wear.” David took pleasure in saying those words. When a customer entered “Women’s Apparel”, her gaze usually drifted toward Maizie first. If her attire was less than perfectly coordinated or her collar crooked, she wasn’t doing her job. On the other hand, when customers “oohed” and “ahhed” or complimented her appearance, she knew a sense of pride. Of course, Maizie realized that her perfect figure and cream-colored complexion showed off her wardrobe impeccably.
Unfortunately, job satisfaction didn’t seem to be in great supply nowadays. Sara had worked at the store for nearly two months. Laid off from a local high tech firm, she had struggled to make ends meet before landing a sale’s associate job at Macy’s. Instead of being happy, she groused about the customers, bungling bosses, and the lack of creativity and challenge. Maizie knew Sara would leave for another position more befitting her background, but she could not understand her attitude. It was an honor to work at Macy’s. This store, above all others, exuded a charm and elegance second to none. Macy’s could make even an average person beautiful. If that wasn’t a challenge to one’s creativity . . . .
Her thoughts hung unfinished as she noticed a mousy-looking teenage girl browsing through the teen jacket section. Showing little genuine excitement, with languid movements, she pawed through several displays of teen apparel. Abruptly, she stopped at a newly tagged Ralph Lauren leather jacket and caressed the sleeve. Glancing from right to left, she took it off the rack and carried it into the changing room. Moments later the girl emerged wearing her old, but newly bulked out ski jacket.
Maizie always felt sad when young people made poor choices. Lem, the plainclothes security officer, would spot her before she left the floor. By tomorrow the leather jacket would return to the display. The young lady would learn a lesson; at least she would discover that cameras followed customers’ every move and in-house police protected Macy’s interests.
Maizie suddenly brightened. She watched Ted, a middle-aged, balding man in a gray suit, stroll in her direction. With wistful eyes in a soft-featured, round face, his appearance was average by any definition. He worked as an actuary for an insurance company in a nearby building.
During his lunch hour, Ted had visited her at least once a week for the past year. At first he gazed at her from a distance. She suspected he was shy. After a few weeks he approached her. She remembered his first words. “Hi, Maizie. My name is Ted. My wife wore clothes just like yours.” He already knew her name because she was practically a fixture at Macy’s. At that moment, Maizie understood he had a crush on her.
During the following weeks Ted talked more about himself. About his failed marriage. He loved his wife and gave her everything. Her Macy's credit card could bear witness to that. One day she just left – no explanation. He suspected another man, but he couldn’t prove it. He mentioned that he liked his job – manipulating numbers was interesting, and he certainly couldn’t complain about his salary – but he did get lonely sometimes. Returning to an empty apartment day after day depressed him, and working with mathematical figures didn’t promote an active social life.
But today he was all smiles. “I love your outfit, Maizie. That yellow scarf accents your dark gray blazer perfectly.” Actually, the scarf’s color was saffron, and the charcoal blazer was an MM Couture brand. Maizie gave him her usual, understated thank you smile. Ted always noticed her clothes and complimented her appearance. Last week he commented on her forest green Calvin Klein dress with the carnelian sash. The week before he noted her Levis jeans, her Lauren white top, and faux leather Steve Madden jacket. Ted was so observant.
“Well, I’ve got to cut our visit short today. Work has been piling up recently. Oh, by the way, a tech guy that fixed my work computer says he's got a job here today. He told me there's going to be changes." As he flashed Maizie a beaming smile and walked away, he said, "Don't worry. I'll see you tomorrow." Ted was such a sweet guy.
The remainder of the day passed unremarkably until closing time. David appeared, assisting another man lug a bulky box. “This is probably the best place in this department,” huffed David, resting the box on the floor for a moment. He spoke with an authoritative tone. “Anyone entering women’s apparel has to walk by here.” He made an abbreviated gesture with his right hand toward a sturdy granite-topped showcase, containing earrings, necklaces, and bracelets.
David helped the technician, wearing a white shirt and glasses, lift a fifty-six inch flat screen TV from the box and position it on top of the counter. Next, the technician placed a laptop computer on the surface behind the screen, connected their two USB ports, and plugged them into a power strip.
“Hey, mister,” the man with the glasses asked David, “do you want to see how this thing works?”
“Sure, if it doesn’t take too long.” David glanced at his watch.
The technician pressed the power switch and completed a few strokes on the keyboard. A model on a runway appeared on the screen in High Definition. She wore a peach-colored Evan Piccone sleeveless, chiffon dress with a black sash and black Bandolino pumps. When he pressed “enter”, the model strolled the length of the runway, posed right, posed left, made a full revolution, and returned to where she began.
“Pretty cool, huh!” remarked the technician.
“Well, it’s certainly . . . er, modern.” David struggled to find the diplomatic word.
“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Watch this. As long as a clothing ensemble appears in the data base, all you gotta do is punch in the ID number.” He looked at a little book, made six keystrokes, and pressed “enter” again. This time the same model in a Calvin Klein gray, striped pants suit bounced down the runway, following the same routine as before. “You can even add accessories using special codes. The nicest thing about this gadget is you can get rid of those old-fashioned dummies.” With a smirk, he flicked his index finger toward Maizie.
“We prefer to call them floor models,” corrected David stiffly. “But I see what you mean.”
“Here's my card. If you got any questions or run into problems, just give me a ring. Well, gotta go.”
David took his card, watched him disappear down the escalator, and turned to Maizie. “Well, old girl,” shaking his head in disapproval, “I guess we can’t stop progress.”
* * * * *
The custodians received their orders. They picked up a nude floor model in the women’s apparel department on the fourth floor of Macy’s. They carried her out the first floor, Broadway exit and hoisted her into the dumpster. With one arm akimbo and a hyper extended left leg, she lay there alone all night. And the next morning.
A little after noon, a pair of strong but gentle hands lifted her from her temporary coffin and carefully reclined her in the back seat of a waiting car. He tenderly straightened her arm and leg, turned her head to the side, and placed a pillow beneath it. He covered her with a blanket, so no one could see her nakedness. Then, he dropped into the driver’s seat and drove off.
* * * * *
Maizie sat at the breakfast table of Ted’s Chelsea apartment. Today she was dressed in magenta – a sleeveless Calvin Klein dress cut just above the knees. A simple, braided hemp belt encircled her waist. A clustered string of freshwater pearls accented her slim, elegant neck while a steaming cup of fresh-brewed coffee rested on the woven, green placemat in front of her.
All that she could ask for surrounded her. Ted’s two bedroom apartment on the twenty-first floor offered a spectacular view of the top half of the Empire State Building and a sweeping vista of part of the Manhattan skyline. Ted had stuffed her bedroom closet with gorgeous outfits – all purchased at Macy’s. He delighted in helping select her daily wardrobe.
Sometimes she missed the crowds at the department store. But the memory of the word “dummy” uttered by the technician brought her back to reality. The customers never really cared about her, just what she wore. Here she experienced things that more than compensated for not being in the public eye. Every night Ted tucked her into her bed and kissed her good night. Each morning the light greeted her, streaming through her window facing the East River. She didn’t mind the hours spent alone while Ted worked. She sat on the sofa watching the panorama while listening to Mozart, Bach, Puccini, and other beautiful music on the classical radio station. And when Ted arrived home from work at 5:00P.M., he entertained her with stories about his day. She felt a closeness with Ted she never felt at Macy’s.
This morning Ted chatted with animation unusual for him. Throwing Maizie a loving, proud look, he said, “You know, Maizie – I probably shouldn’t have – but yesterday I visited Macy’s during my lunch hour. Just to check things out.” He chortled and shook his head. “I heard the sales people talking about the infernal machine that took your place. It’s been breaking down so often that David's ready to throw it out the window. I overheard him mumbling, ‘Oh, for the good old days. Oh, for the simple days.’
“But folks need to live with their choices, don’t you think? Oh, you’re just a simple, old-fashioned girl, Maizie. I thank my lucky stars they made a choice to go electronic. Each day when I wake up, and each time I come home from work, I know you’ll be here. I can always count on you.”
Grabbing his overcoat, Ted gave her a peck on the cheek. “I’ll see you after work, my love,” he said, closing the door behind him.
As Maizie heard the door click shut, she realized deep inside that he would reenter the same door at 5:00 – just as he promised. Then he would make her the center of his world. She could always count on Ted.