Rebecca Cook

You—Dress Me Up

You can love me. Or not. You can hate me if you’d rather. It will make no difference to anything. I am a made up girl in a made up world, leaning against a brick wall, smoking. Black and white smoking. Lauren Bacall smoking. That kind of smoking. Either way, you’ll end up knee-deep in my things, my gloves, my boots, red panties, silk scarves. Isa Dora Duncan scarves. That kind of scarves. And those red and black striped garters that hookers wear in old westerns, their netted stockings, their hearts of gold. I’ve got that heart. I’ve got that and some feathery things my Great Aunt Marnie sent me in the mail, boas, purple boas, green boas, Zsa Zsa. I've got my steamer trunk, my chocolate trench, my sleek skin suit. Not for diving, dummy. It’s my cat suit. I hope you don’t mind me calling you dummy. Based on my experience everyone but me is dumb. I am a superior girl with boas and curls, my Mary Janes my yellow bedspread my black cigarettes. I watch the pale night’s arm poke through my window but I am always ready, always the tricked-out girl you can see her now lying back on the brocade, full of pearly skin and just enough hairs, just enough to make it strange enough to kiss me. There’s a word for that and you are it for that. Your face is kicked. Maybe.

I was finished in school, like they used to say, very clean, that table set, that off-white suit after all the boats after Labor Day. Yes, there are rules. The napkin is red, a fan. Yes, I can do that. Let me remind you again that you are dumb. I doubt you’re able to follow this. I was finished like all girls are finished the fine fuzz of my belly, little trees trailing behind me. Nothing is real. We are inside the TV, the vacuum kind, its cross-eyed screen. I’ll circuit you and you circuit me and we will, we will, we will tell ourselves it’s okay. But you know, you know what I mean about the beige thing that comes and flattens us down. You know about your thumbs pushing up, pushing through, the large balloon, we're floating. Maybe.

It’s obvious you don’t approve of my dress, silk tight, the plunge. I wasn’t expecting a prude. No matter. I’ve cured many a prude, I taught myself how to do it. A cat-suit girl can scale brick walls, it’s easy to do. I learned early so early the fake world, its underpants with holes, its rapid swirl of crayons. They come knocking, they all come knocking, come in, come in, my boudoir is filling up, filling up. Not with prudes, dummy. Filling up with corsets, petticoats, French letters. Did you think I would be unprotected? Did you think it would be bareback? I am not a horse! Best that four-legged pose though. Look—everybody is looking at you, you lucky man, you lucky.

She loves the boys my mother said my father said me always boo! not every night just the hallowed eves of course they loved me well, the world will love me well baskets of lilies boxes of whitest chocolates, you should bring those too, you who I now this moment declare not quite dumb, not completely you who must love me better but I digress because I forget I forgot, where were we? Oh, yes this lovely lamb stewed righteously in its mother’s milk, like us all, like everyone, it tastes the perfectly perfection of a boney plate, they slaughter them at night, you know, they wrap them in scarves and truss them upside upside upside down the way I want you to take me tonight, my neck a noose of muscle you will swing me up, up, up to the roof we’ll tipple our toes will dance we’ll balance the ridge the pole the beam and in this way the nuns the superiors the fathers will join us but, well, you’re right I always go too far too much too fast but really when you fuck me you must take me you must veil me you must slip the garter from my lifted leg it will fly fast, fast into Nancy’s hands. You remember Nancy. That girl, your first girl. I am never fooled by men like you, not quite dumb but certainly you should look at yourself now and realize just how much your neck is craning up, up, back, you’ll get a crick—ha ha you can barely see me now.

I suppose I should have told you before, my thing, my super power the girl is invisible when the mood is fierce when the situation warrants the girl turns turtle her rubber neck disappears a hard nut to crack you see I don’t fall so easily but I lie so well my mother my father their flock of snow only the window only the crawl space only the up underneath but I’m sure you are expecting a different thing, perhaps? This is when the john asks the whore what’s your name and the whore says what do you want it to be the girl is sitting on your knee just a babe she imagines she’s grown that’s what cat girls do but I can tell oh so well I can tell you so well that you do not like this ending, that you wonder how in hell what? what? me? How did you ever get in here, the girl’s bed the toddler’s bunk the baby’s crib. Yes. Baby, baby. You can love me. Or not.

Rebecca Cook

Rebecca Cook’s poetry and prose have appeared in print journals such as The Georgia Review and New England Review, and in online journals including The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, and Atticus Review. She was a Bread Loaf Fiction Scholar (2009), and her piece, “Flame,” was a notable essay in the 2013 Best American Essays. New prose is forthcoming in Luna Luna and Seneca Review, and new poetry is forthcoming in Jubilat and Plume. She blogs at, where you can find more information about other publications, including her books—ClickI Will Not Give Over, and The Terrible Baby.