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Flannel

April 10th, 2023


I finally got my clothes back after asking for nearly a month. For some reason, it takes that long to move two articles of clothing from one end of Manhattan to the other. Kind of dreaded the day. Not having my clothes back was an excuse to keep thinking about her without admitting I was still hung up.

She gave me five pieces of clothing, including my flannel. It’s a green and dark-green plaid that’s comfy and loose enough. Grace used to say I always looked better in green; it matched my eyes. I know what it means to me. It was one of the first pieces of clothing I ever bought for myself after Dad sold everything.

When I took it out of the bag, I had to unbutton the wrist -- fastened in such a way that I smiled remembering how short her arms are. Halfway down my forearm, likely past her hands. Putting it on felt weird. It wasn’t as if it didn’t fit properly, it’s just that looking in the mirror didn’t give me that sense of satisfaction I thought it would. It didn’t smell right. Not much more than a hint of her perfume mixed with other odors that have nothing to do with me. All of the sudden it hit me that I can’t remember buying it.

I know that I did; a registered fact associated with other memories from that era. That era -- of 2020 and the climaxes of familial tension and neglect. The few memories I often think about are the painful ones and the ones of putting myself back together. Going to Taco Bell with Matty B for the first time. Annoying Cameron over FaceTime in between four-hour sessions of planting fence around the farm, cranking “Here Today” as loud as I could through my Gen 5 iPod. Breaking down over the phone with Mom before chugging a can of Hawaiian Punch. In all those recollections best left for the therapist I’ll never get, I knew for a fact that I went into Target and I bought that goddamn green and dark-green plaid flannel for myself for something around $20.

But I don’t remember it. I don’t remember which Target I went to, who I was with, what else I did that day. The earliest photo in my camera roll I have with it was from October 12th, 2020. Other pictures from that day depict a family trip to the National Museum of American History (I know this from the fact that there was a Batmobile exhibit), me making glares at the camera when Mom would try to take a photo of me, and going to get Japanese food for linner (dunch? It was 4 pm). I don’t remember that day at all.

Other photos from that era -- Dad’s birthday party, me running through sprinklers -- I don’t remember any of it. Hell, when I think of the trauma itself I don’t remember the specifics. I know I whistled a song before it all went down. I don’t remember which one.

On paper, it sounds like repression. But repression seems like it’s a coping mechanism for those unable to handle the weight of it all. I was able to handle it and hold it against the world (specifically my parents) for years. No, this seems to be more of a universe of adolescence that I have let go. I feel the same way about reconnecting with that world that I do with something as far off as Middle School.

It was while exploring a closed movie theater that I gave it to her. I don’t remember how the conversation went as much as I do thinking about how great she looked in my clothes. I remember wondering if she could smell me on it, or if she did when I wasn’t around. When we parted that evening, I weirdly missed the flannel. Like it was a part of me I wasn’t ready to give away. I tried to convince her to trade it in for a different one, but she liked the green and dark-green plaid. Made her think of my eyes.

I decided to spend today on Netflix, following Zach’s advice to treat myself. Didn’t wanna watch much more than the brain-numbing sitcom shlock I typically subject myself to. Sometimes you need that sort’ve thing. Nothing helps a breakup more than not thinking about it. Maybe not writing about it, either.

Occasionally, but rarely by accident, I’d turn and be able to catch a whiff of her old perfume. A small fragrance of ache that keeps the heart down and lets me pity myself for being free. It started to make me sneeze. When I realized, I actually laughed.

I’m allergic to cats. She has two; they must’ve crawled all over it. The sneezing and the eye-rubbing were inevitable. One of those things that remind you that life has a sense of humor. I know I have to wash it, along with the other articles scattered about the studio that are making my eyes puff up. But washing them would get rid of her smell, wouldn’t it?

I know that’s the point. And like the memories from its origin, this association between her and the flannel will go away as newer, better experiences take hold. Part of me wishes they wouldn’t; that I could exist in this pocket of frozen time clinging on to the last emotion I’ll ever have for her.

Again, that’s the point -- being forced to let go in such a way is better for me in the long term. I guess I’m just sad that I’m gonna forget everything. What was once the centerpiece of my human joy is gonna be reduced to the photographs I’ll probably end up deleting anyway. Sucks because that means other things I love now -- things that I let absorb me completely -- may be fickle in the long term. Maybe that’s what I signed up for. The point, anyway.

It’s a good thing, even if it doesn’t feel like it. To remind myself that the world is much bigger than I always think. To be forced to imagine new vistas to explore, new goals to pursue. New love to find, and to lose all the same. It’s a loop, but it’s not meaningless. Not to me. Because I know that even in my deepest darkest pit of teenage despair, I managed to go out and buy this green and dark-green flannel for myself for 20-ish goddamn US buckaroos and that no article of clothing since has let me carry that weight with me. I may forget all the days I spend with it as I move forward into the scary world of discipline and adulthood, but I won’t forget that having it in my wardrobe means something to me. I know I'll let go of the memories, but I won’t let go of that weight. That’s enough.

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