February 3, 2018

button-down shirt

I could have given it to Goodwill.  That would have at least made it disappear from my closet and sent it out into the world at large, given it another purpose.

I could have sold it on eBay for a few bucks, or even just for the cost of shipping.  It was in good, lightly used condition.  No spots, pilling, flaws, or stains.


Except for one stain.  They don't make a product that could get that kind of stain out.  Even Oxiclean, which works on everything in existence.  Except for this stain.  It's the shirt that I would have been wearing if they had found me many hours or days later.

I selected it and wore it to work that morning.  My shirts hanging in the closet are arranged in rainbow order, pinks and reds across to blues and purples, then browns, blacks and whites.  I felt like red that day, the dichotomy of daily habit operating calmly beside hastily planning the particulars of my own death, and pulled that shirt off its hanger.  Just a shirt, and some pants.  Shoes.  My mind was elsewhere, inaccessibly elsewhere.  The moon.  I got dressed.  I put on earrings.

Everything happened, and didn't happen, and I came home.  The shirt was laundered with the other things, the socks and towels and night shirts, washed clean of flecks of Secret powder-fresh deodorant, and black dog hair from petting Rose good-bye, and dribbles of Jameson whiskey, but not of the stain.  It was hung on its wooden Ikea hanger, filed under "red" back in its place.

P.J. asked that I not wear it for a season.  I didn't.  She gave the go-ahead months ago, but even today, I had yet to wear it.  I felt nothing when I looked at it, but each time I tried it on, I wanted out of it immediately.  My very skin rejected it.  Back on the hanger.  Back on the hanger.

Early this morning, house harboring us from iron-cold outdoor temperatures, I stood in the closet and looked at it, and decided that I wanted the comfort of a fire, and that the shirt needed to burn.  

I got the fire going in the living room fireplace, a luxury usually reserved for late weekend evenings, and lazed about with a book and a 1,000-piece puzzle I started last night.  When P.J. woke and joined me, I brought the shirt in, took the tongs from the tool set, and placed the shirt without hesitation or compunction into the middle of the roaring flames.  P.J. held me and we watched the cotton fabric crumple like paper and yield easily, ash and then gas, and then nothing but a black coating on the white oak logs and a few melted buttons.  It burned.

There was no sense of release, nor the satisfaction of ceremony.  There was only the ticking off of a chore completed.  Of finding a puzzle piece that matches and fitting it into its place.  Of cleaning the house, sometimes with Pine-Sol, sometimes with bleach.  Sometimes with fire.

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