by Lydia Ship
Ora’s figurine of Alice from Alice in Wonderland has been decapitated. Now Alice’s head rolls across Ora’s fabric swatches. Ora brushes the head aside, gathers her swatches, and drives an hour to a double-warehouse with twenty-foot ceilings. The warehouse is filled with giant roll upon roll of fabric, hundreds of dollars a yard. Ora flips her color swatches to and fro in front of the stacked four-yard spools of fabric while small Spanish men ask her in broken English if she wants help. This is the only time she has spoken directly to any man in a year; she says, “No.” Flitting between the layers and towers of opulent fabric, immaculate women step as if on stilts, flipping color swatches, standing back, glasses perched. Here, Interior Designers gather, waif-thin, cloaked in swathing clothes, and bejeweled, like quivering photographs of butterflies. Ora does not make a fabric selection today. She becomes fabric-blind after looking for an hour. Ora’s deadline for choosing the fabric is only a suggestion—she has been paid to take as long as she needs. She needs, on average, sixty hours a week of sketching and shopping and tossing and turning in her enormous empty bed just to choose a client’s window treatment, treatment often for women also too busy to speak to men, even their husbands. But perfection comes at a price, and Ora is the best in the city, and so are her clients, depending on your definition. Now, all Ora can think of is blue, the blue gingham and red-striped socks Alice the figurine wears, or at least, the body half of Alice.