(originally published in Write Place at the Write Time)
She slipped into the one that she had never worn before. The one she had kept hidden from her husband for a special night. As she looked into the mirror her imagination had come to life. She felt the same as she did when the delivery service man hauled the package up to her doorstep the day it arrived. She had mixed emotions. Of her eight major purchases, this was her first and most prized. Because she bought it just before they became popular possessions of the public, it was a steal. She knew its value, and because of this, she chose to never set her eyes upon it until a special day came. Her husband only had four for a few different occasions. He was completely unaware that his wife had made her first purchase before he had.
The night he received his first package delivery, the two of them celebrated over an old bottle of wine. The house was usually very quiet, but this particular night demanded light music from the old century. Despite the occasional low strike of the grandfather clock and the high purr of the kitten, the two sat in silence and listened. This kind of celebration wasn’t unusual. A celebration required antiquities from the old century. For him, the wine was enough. For her, the music was nice.
“Shall I open it?” he said rhetorically with the wine still dry on his tongue.
“I still can’t believe it’s here,” she said in response. The clock rang.
“This is the first step; we’ll be on our way,” he said as he turned in his chair and pulled the package between his legs.
After staring for a hesitant second, he slowly and carefully removed the tech tape. The package was perfect. Opening it was almost as painful as it was exciting. The anxiety in the expectation was something that he did not want to relinquish. He removed the protective lining from the box and carefully lifted it out of the package. He stood up, and in one motion he let the new executive suit unfold gently down from the hanger to its shiny new executive toes.
The new executive suit would become the first, and wisest, investment he would make. It marked the beginning of his new, and soon to be, illustrious career. Within four years he would become a partner in one of the world’s most successful marketing companies. His company helped other companies convince people that their company was the company of choice. Image was the key to success. In five years, he would buy another suit for himself, and five for his wife. Business continued to soar. In seven years, he secretly bought another suit for himself. He kept it from his wife and left it at his office. To escape his guilt, he bought his wife two more. They both called the seven suits he bought for his wife “gifts”. He gave her the money.
The common term was suit. Early on, the company who developed it determined the term body was too grotesque and would never sell. Eventually his company would buy the company that developed the first suit, body. By the time she bought her first suit, (the hidden one of eight she would come to own), the suits had evolved to perfection. They were ready for public everyday use; or, ready for the everyday use by those who had the money.
The visionary pursuit began at the end of the twentieth century. It began with simple fixes: noses, breasts, lips, calves. The torch continued to burn through the twenty-first century as people began to change entire appearances. If one had enough money, he or she could hire a trained doctor with a knife to provide an entirely new look: new face, new chest, new hands, new lips, new nose, new cheeks, new hair, new eyes, new belly, new buttocks. People felt good. By the twenty-second century, surgical procedures were only designated for illness, disease, and other body malfunctions. Cosmetic surgery became obsolete after the development of the first body, or suit. Going under the knife for cosmetic surgery was considered crude and out of date.
The suits became alternatives to cosmetic surgery because they only required a payment, albeit very large, without any recovery or permanent change to the original body. Suits could be worn with ease. By slipping into a suit, a person could wear an entirely new body. Inside the new body, a person could still maintain his or her own thoughts and mind, while at the same time projecting an entirely new image to suit any occasion or desire. In the 22, short for the twenty-second century, people who had more money typically had an expansive body wardrobe. It was rumored that the richest man and woman in the world had hoarded fifty-two suits. She had thirty-two and he had twenty. They each only typically wore a half dozen regularly. A typical upper-middle class family usually had two, his and hers.
Not only could a person escape the reality of an aging body, but the suit also provided an entirely new identity. Although it was conceivable that a person could wear a suit with a completely unknown identity, friends and family were typically aware of the certain different suits worn by those close to them. Legally, all the suits were registered in a government run data base, and retina identification was the common method used to identify a person and any of his or her registered suits. Crime rates were no different than the rates in the twentieth century. The black market suits made for more crime, but eventually these rates were off set by suits worn by crime fighters. Everything levels out.
While the cosmetic surgery industry bottomed out, many industries soared. Entertainment and marketing industries sought to expand the virtual landscape as their success and power reached unimaginable heights. Social media outlets and many other internet communication companies continued the advance through every common household as the world became smaller and smaller. Online dating services sky rocketed as people began to use their new found personas within their suits to connect with others looking for romantic escape. For many people, the suits provided a disguise and escape. For others, the suits offered a chance to live, truly live.
She had always imagined her special day to be one filled with romantic bliss. Maybe on a sailboat in the Caribbean somewhere, or in a quaint chateau in the South of France. A day that would mark the climax of a surprise her husband would give for a special birthday, or an even numbered anniversary year. Maybe New Year’s 2150. She thought that when the day came that her husband would surprise her, and lavish her in such amorous euphoria, she would finally reveal her very first suit to him. She didn’t plan to tell him when she bought it. Her other suits had made him happy, but this suit was something more; it was special. Like an actress from the twentieth century.
Now she stood before the mirror in the room at the Hollywood, staring through her original eyes at her beautiful look. She thought one last time of her husband and the New Year’s Eve that never came. The romance that never happened. Her emotions were similar to her husband’s when he opened his first suit: the excitement hurt. Her anxiety was something she couldn’t understand. It was out of character. She needed what she was doing, but wanted so badly not to need it.
These feelings hadn’t surfaced when she first logged on to meet her match. She had uploaded an anonymous profile with uninhibited ease, and any nervousness had always been simply smothered by the many romantic exchanges between her and her projected match. They had agreed to remain anonymous because they were both married, and their connection always seemed to distract from the notion of physical attraction. They each assumed a suit could resolve any aesthetic incompatibility. But now the comfort of virtual anonymity had subsided. This was real. She waited nervously for her match who had originally yielded the best results on the online compatibility report to arrive. She hoped he would like the suit she had saved for the special night.
As he sat in his car in the parking lot of the Hollywood, he left the engine running and stared at the doors leading to the lobby. After gathering his courage, he turned his car off and plugged it in. He grabbed the suitcase containing his suit from his office: the one he kept from his wife. Before stepping into an elevator he entered the lobby bathroom to change into the suit he had saved for the occasion. If he had changed at his office, his secretary and other partners would have been alarmed by the unfamiliar face: certainly not one of executive superiority. More like an actor from the twentieth century.
He took the elevator up. Standing in nervous inhibition, he thought of ways he should deliver his knock. He hoped that when the door opened his imagination would be exceeded by the image never present online, and that he would find complete harmony in his match. Holding an empty suitcase and a bottle of wine from the old century he gently knocked and adjusted his posture. The door opened slowly. She had light music from the old century playing quietly in the background. It was nice.
At home, they both lived in inescapable guilt and fear of exposure. They continued their everyday life with one another, and never paid attention to the mysterious absences each would have had if the other were there to notice. Neither would have suspected the other a stray; blinded by the secrecy of their own affairs. They were both always busy at the same time and neither seemed to care. It lasted a lifetime.