“How long do you hold that position?” the woman says.
This happens every hour. Kids wave in front of our eyes. Middle-aged women tug the clothes away from our bodies to read the tags.
“I can’t believe they use clones for this,” she mutters. “Good Lord, it can’t be economical. Can’t they just walk out?” She pillows her chin on her folded fingers, compressing her stoplight-red lips.
A muted chime sounds. One, Two, and I shift our positions from casually leaning against a bar table to a walking pose. One holds a fake tablet, as if he’s showing us something. Two and I pretend we are—what are we supposed to be looking at? I gaze out the window at the snow on the sidewalk, fascinated by the yellow shine of sun off it. A cold tendril of air wafts by. I smell outside air—wild and fresh. I imagine this is the smell of snow. Just once I want to touch the snow. I’d see if it feels like it looks in the morning before too many boots have messed it up. Like the softest wool sweater, but cool and refreshing.
Another woman’s voice: “You know, Mom, the sweater on the mannequin might be a medium.” Suddenly one of the clerks is there on a ladder in front of me. She reaches around my neck like an embrace. Her floral perfume nearly chokes me, but I just stare over her shoulder.
“Yes, it’s a medium,” the clerk says to the shopper. “Shall I get it for you, ma’am?” She taps my side. “Arms up.”
I raise my arms. The sweater peels over my head. Goose pimples spring up on my bare skin. Another clerk runs over carrying a new shirt. The chime sounds, and One and Two cycle.
When I’m clothed, I join them. Outside, a woman in a black coat approaches the entrance. Before she gets there, the door swings open. I’ve seen it before.
Would it do that for me?
Can’t they just walk out? That’s what the lady said.
A crowd of teenagers laugh and jostle past. I turn my head an inch toward the door. Twelve steps to snow.
Beep, beep. Clothing scans. The bell chimes. I cycle to lean against the bar table. I see the cash desk–two clerks, heads together.
Try. Just out the door, touch the snow, then back.
My hands tremble. I straighten away from the table. One jerks, eyes wide. I take a baby step. One more, and I jump off the display. Three steps—eight, nine, ten. The door pulls away from the wall.
Cold air scorches through me. I reach a trembling hand toward the crumpled white blanket on the pavement.
I jerk up, blinded by the sun beyond the door. Someone is coming. I turn and sprint back for my display. Snow was just beyond reach.