He lifted the dress from the drawer. It was a long black polyester garment decorated with laser cut-outs across the shoulders and all around the skirt. The skirt lining glistened underneath and drew out the curly patterns of the matted cut-out fabric.
Lyla looked on as her father pressed the dress to his body, smoothing the soft fabric with the palm of his right hand. It gathered at the waist and reached to his knees. It felt nice. He laid the dress on the chair behind him. He stood silently, naked, gazing at the dress and then at the bra that lay in the drawer.
It was a pretty bra, a soft tone of flesh that matched his lightly tanned skin. The contour cups were trimmed with a lighter band of lace that flowed along the sides and back. Lyla’s mouth gaped as her father took the bra and put it on. He slid his arms through the straps, and expertly latched the hook-and-eye closure in the back. He pressed the cups with his hands to make sure that the bra was in place.
“I like the way it hugs my body,” he said, “and the sides are wide so they give good support. I like how it feels.”
“It’s a size smaller,” Lyla told him, “It looks really tight.”
“I like it that way,” he snapped one of the straps.
He went back to the drawer and brought out a pair of thigh high stockings. They looked worn out. He put them on with relative ease, starting with the right foot, pulling up and stretching over the leg. His big toe stuck out through a hole in the seamed sandalfoot toe. But the nylon looked nearly invisible on his pale white legs. He had rather slender legs for a large built body. He had not shaved his legs, he never does, anyway the hair was sparse and light. A bit of lace decorated the wide leg bands and he snapped them.
He likes the way those stockings clasp his legs, Lyla thought.
Next were the suspender belts. It was a four-strap suspender belt with metal clips, hung on a delicate eyelash lace panel of pink and grey. These were new and these looked expensive. He put them on and pressed the clips over the band of the stockings, front and back. He straightened up and felt the stockings pull at his feet and tighten around his legs.
Lyla looked away. He looked terrible. Between the black garters, his penis and testicles dangled like those of an old billy goat. The flesh protruded around the sides of his bra. But it didn’t matter how he looked, he never dressed in front of a mirror. What was important was how he felt.
He walked towards the chair and took the dress. He stepped into it to put it on. There was a brief struggle with zipping the back – Lyla stepped forward to help, but he managed. He always managed on his own.
He sat on the chair and looked at Lyla. She smiled. She took one of the small bottles of nail polish on the table nearby and started working on his nails. She picked a silvery pink colour. She thought that she would do this just because the bottles were there. They were not her mother’s.
Finished, she combed her father’s hair. She saw a tube of lipstick on the table and did not hesitate to use it. She stepped back to look at her creation. Her father’s face looked tired, the wrinkles carved down his face like the bark of an old tree. But he was comfortably and confidently happy, like a crooked old tree that withstands the onslaught of every storm.
Lyla cried herself to sleep that evening. It started when she cooked dinner and remembered her mother.
Fatima Lasay, San Roque
December 6, 2013