The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Beauty by Christina Chiu

This selection, chosen by guest curator Heather Leigh, is from Beauty by Christina Chiu, released by SFWP in 2020. 

Content note: Beauty contains graphic depictions of consensual sexual encounters.

          It’s the big day. It’s a three-hour trip to Cambridge. I’m driving solo—not a great combination when you’re feeling exhausted. Alex is going with Jeff via limo. Toby’s supposed to come with me, but he wakes feeling sick. I touch his forehead, again, and find it cool to the touch. “I’m just tired,” he says, rolling away from me.

            “You want to stay home?”  

            He doesn’t respond.

            “Um, okay.” Way things have been going, I half expect him to come chasing after me as soon I hit the bottom landing of the steps. When he doesn’t, I gather sketches I’ve started in anticipation of school. Technically, they seem fine, yet, something doesn’t feel “right.” At least I’ll have time to think about them during the ride. Upstairs, it’s quiet. I don’t want to baby Toby, and yet, I don’t feel right about leaving him home alone. Just as I’m headed into the garage, I get an idea. “Toby?”

            He moans.

            “Why don’t you stop by Amanda’s later? I’ll call Connie. Maybe you can have lunch there?”

            “No, don’t,” he says. “I’m fine, okay? I just want to sleep. I’ll text Amanda later.”

            “Call me, then, okay?” The University’s parent lounge and resources fair—whatever that is—starts at 1 PM, and the official “Welcome” is set for three. If I get back on the road right away, I can be home by dinner. I get into the car and spread my sketches on the passenger seat beside me. The idea I want to develop in school is a high-end line of clothes specifically geared toward older women. The target audience would be between the ages of 50 and 70. Modern. Classy. Clean, elegant lines. With special emphasis on material—sweat-wicking “silk” for the Spring/summer Collection; thermal itch-free “wool” for the Fall/winter—and spectacularly sexy fit, with firm, Spanx-like support built into each particular garment, and tailored to each specific individual. Flat abs. A shapely waistline. A generous lift at both the bosom and buttocks.

            No more sucking in. No more turkey waddle nor hiding behind layers.

            Finally 50. The New Modern Woman.

Christina Chiu is the author of Troublemaker and Other Saints. Her stories have appeared in Tin House, The New Guard Literary Review, Washington Square, The MacGuffin, and elsewhere. Troublemaker won the Asian American Literary Award and was chosen for the Alternate Section of the Book-of-the-Month Club. Chiu received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia. She is a founder of the Asian American Writers Workshop, and has worked in the fashion industry as a shoe designer.

Heather Leigh is a queer, disabled writer and editor who has been working within Chicago’s publishing world for more than twenty years, editing poetry for the likes of Curbside Splendor and reading prose and poetry for Uncanny Magazine. She has recently began to focus on her own publication goals between semesters teaching English, writing, reading, and journalism at various midwestern community colleges. She is a three-time SAFTA fellowship recipient, a multiple resident of Firefly Farms, and most recently had a speculative horror story published in Bloodlet, an anthology by CultureCult Press. She lives in Chicago with a retired cage-fighting poet, two rescue cats names after Buffy watchers, enjoying life with the family that caught her by surprise.

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