Julie and I were in her room picking out clothes and shoes and makeup because we were going to hear Mandy's band, Fried X, play at this bar downtown. You could be under 18 and get in, and probably even get away with getting a drink. Julie said this bar didn't really care about carding. In New York City there were lots of bars like that, Mandy told us.
Julie had such great clothes — her stuff was so womanly — and she let me borrow whatever I wanted. She asked me to look in her closet and pick out a pair of jeans for her to wear while she was in the bathroom blow-drying her hair.
"So what time do we have to be home?" I shouted from the closet. I was going to sleep over that night.
"What do you mean?" she shouted back.
"What time's your curfew?"
"Don't you have a curfew?" I asked.
"Nope," she said.
"You're kidding!" I was shocked. "What about on school nights?" I started to sort through her jeans in the closet.
"Not really. My mom doesn't care. She just says to take a cab home from wherever we are whatever time it is."
Oh my God. I could not believe the luck! My overprotective parents wanted me home by ten on school nights and eleven-thirty on weekend nights. Man, I couldn't help thinking, it must be so great to have only one parent who was out a lot, like Mimi, and no curfew.
As I was looking through Julie's closet it suddenly dawned on me she had about 60 pairs of jeans in there! Well, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, but it was like a lot of jeans. And they were all designer brands like Fiorucci, Calvin Klein, Sasson, and Girbaud. Not like my regular old Levi's from Morris Brothers. I felt like I was looking at the wardrobe of some princess of a foreign country, so I said, "How can you afford all these jeans?"
"Oh, most of them I didn't pay for," she shouted from the bathroom.
"You mean they were gifts?" I said.
"No. Not really."
I kept looking through her closet. Green-dyed Fiorucci's with the lavender plastic tag around the belt loop; rust colored Girbauds; stone-washed jeans; three pairs of blue denims in different shades; magenta jeans; baby pink corduroys. I was thinking, What's it like to have all this clothing? How could one girl have so much? Julie appeared at the doorway in a towel. She had a look on her face like the cat who ate the canary, as my mom would say.
"So...how did you...?" Then slowly I started to get it. I gasped and whispered, "Oh shit! Julie, did you steal these?"
She nodded, grinning. "You don't have to whisper. My mom's not home. And Mandy does it, too. Mandy made up a code word for it, in fact. Getting. Like if you got something, it means you didn't pay for it." She smiled even bigger, like, isn't that clever?
"Oh my God." I wasn't sure if I should laugh or gasp again. "How?" I moved to her bed, holding the pair of Fiorucci's I picked, eager for the details. "How do you get away with it?"
"Well," Julie exhaled like it was an old story. "You wouldn't believe how little security some places have. Even department stores." She sat down at her vanity to do her makeup. "What are you doing tomorrow? Saturdays are perfect at Fiorucci."
"I'm free," I said.
"Cool. We'll wear baggy pants. That way you can walk right out of the store wearing the jeans underneath."
"You're kidding!" I said.
"Nope. It's easy. You just walk right out, nobody says anything. Once I even tried walking out wearing just the jeans, no baggies over them, and nobody stopped me."
"Oh my God," I started to crack up and fell back on her bed. "How many times have you done this?" I said to the ceiling.
"Um...I'm not sure, maybe fifteen times?"
"Always at Fiorucci?" I asked.
"There, and certain department stores. Macy's for one, is so easy," she said confidently. I didn't think I could look up to Julie any more than I already did but this made her the coolest person I'd ever met.
"And you've never been caught?" I asked.
"Never," she said. She blotted her lipstick with a tissue.
* * * *
Fiorucci was in the fancy neighborhood of East 59th Street, near Bloomingdale's. They sold lots of different kinds of designer jeans and corduroys there, in tons of colors — all Firoucci brand, of course — and the best clothes, mostly kind of punk stuff and jewelry.
I felt this weird combination of excited and nervous. When I'd been to Fiorucci's before, it was to buy stuff or get the free posters they gave out. I was collecting them. So far I had four: the two angels one that Julie had, the David Bowie-looking punk rocker one (his face was kind of severe), the big red lips one, and the one with the topless blonde woman in red leather Fiorucci pants hugging her knees so they covered her boobs.
In the dressing room I tried on a bunch of jeans, and then left the pair I wanted on the hook. Acting perfectly calm, I went back out to the guy in my red baggy overalls and my socks. I gave him the two pairs I didn't want and asked for three more. Julie was right; there was almost no security there, what a laugh. Nobody was counting what we took into the dressing room, and the clothes didn't even have those plastic sensor things on them. What was the catch? I tried on three more pairs of pants — a magenta, a green, and a dark brown — returned them, and asked for two more. This is what Julie had told me to do -- by that point the guy didn't remember how many I had. On my way back to the dressing room, I heard Julie whispering to me.
"Jule! Juuu-lieee? Can you come here a sec please?" I stepped into her dressing room and she was red in the face and kind of sweating — her jeans' zipper was stuck.
"I can't get these off!" she whispered.
"Oh my God," I said, trying not to laugh.
"It's not funny," she said, trying not to laugh, too. "I can barely breathe in these things."
We tugged and tugged at the zipper, but it was totally stuck. I was wishing I had some of that EZ-Zipper wax crayon that Mom kept in her jewelry box on her bureau. "Are these the ones you want?" I whispered, feeling Julie's breath on my face as we pulled on the zipper and tried to hold back from laughing. It was like when you're supposed to be quiet �cause you're in a church or library or something and you feel a huge attack of the giggles coming on. It was just a miracle no one knocked on the door to see what the fuss was about.
"Well, are these the ones you want?" I said.
"I hadn't decided yet," she said. "Don't you think they're too tight?"
"Yeah, kinda," I giggled, "But I don't think it really matters. Looks like these are the ones you're going home in!" Then we both started laughing so hard — silently — that tears welled up in Julie's eyes.
When we finally calmed down, Julie let out a big sigh and looked totally exasperated. The zipper still hadn't budged.
"I can't believe this," she said. "Okay, go back to your dressing room and put yours on before somebody notices us." I went back to my room, stifling my giggles, and I put on my jeans and overalls over them.
We left any remaining pants on the counter and the guy didn't even look at us. He was talking to this mother and daughter. The place was crawling with shoppers.
Back upstairs at accessories, and dressed in her pants over pants, Julie was walking like a robot and trying to hide her worried look that her new Fiorucci jeans may never come off. My hands were cold and sweaty at the same time. I didn't know how we were gonna get away with this. But I also kept thinking, we just might. Nobody seemed to be paying too much attention. The plan now was to actually buy something from accessories so we seemed less suspicious. We looked at the earrings. There was this really cool pair that had a little stack of fake pearls wrapped in shiny iridescent pink Saran-wrap-type stuff.
"Oh, I love these," I said.
"Me, too," Julie said and I noticed she was glancing at the salesgirl behind the counter to see if she could just drop them in her pocket. They were $5.50. This made me nervous, so I took out my wallet and gave Julie a look. We each bought a pair. Okay, we were ready to go, but the salesgirl was taking her time finding little plastic bags to put the earrings into, and I was getting antsy. I could feel my heart starting to thump in my chest. C'mon lady, hurry it up, it's time to go; I was willing her to hurry up by staring at her. "Hey, Carla!" someone shouted to the salesgirl and I turned around. It was the guy with the spiky green hair from downstairs. Julie and I glanced at each other, then looked at him. He didn't look at us. He stood there silently for a second waiting for Carla to notice him. Carla was crouched down still looking for plastic bags. I felt the sweat starting to form around my waist where the jeans under my overalls were hugging me. Finally, Carla looked up at the guy and said, kind of annoyed, "What?" He threw a package of credit card slips on her counter and said with a smirk, "Don't say I never gave you nothing!"
Ignoring the guy, Carla said, "Here they are!" she pulled out two bags and dropped our earrings in them. "Thanks," she mumbled, blowing some hair off her forehead.
As we got to the exit, Julie suddenly remembered the free Fiorucci posters and stopped at the poster counter.
"C'mon, Jule," I said, under my breath. That day's Fiorucci poster was of two topless women with their backs to the camera and their hands on their hips. One was white, the other black, and both were wearing black leather Fiorucci pants.
"I don't have this one," Julie said as she grabbed two and hurried out the door with me. "Have a nice day, ladies!" the poster guy called after us.
"You too!" we yelled and then, trying not to sprint, we walked fast down the street, not really looking at each other, sort of holding our breath. Julie did like a robot walk-run and once we were a few blocks away, she said, "Oh my God, we are so good!" "I can't believe how easy that was," I said and we headed for the nearest coffee shop. We went straight to the ladies' room where miraculously we got Julie unzipped by rubbing some of my cantaloupe lip gloss on her zipper. Why didn't I think of that in the dressing room?