from Until My Heart Stops
I cannot forget that we traded clothes since I have worn the shorts several times since then. It was our last summer together and we were both gaining weight. I had bought a pair of khaki shorts too big for myself and his shorts were so tight they were making him uncomfortable. One afternoon at his summer house, we traded shorts before going out to the beach. It was one of the last times that things were perfect between us. He looked good in my shorts and I looked better in his.
That was not the first or the last time I would wear his clothes. The first year we dated one another I needed a jacket to wear to a job interview. I was a freelance writer and he was trying to steer me toward a corporate world where a job also had benefits. I did not have much money that year and he had plenty to spare. He also had a closet full of suits he had outgrown since leaving his wife and two kids and moving into his own apartment. I had never worn a suit as expensive as the one he gave me. It was gray flannel and had a designer label inside the jacket. Of course, I needed a beautiful tie to wear with such a handsome suit, and he chose a dark blue silk one with dots from his closet. I’m not sure if the tie was a gift or not, but I never returned it to him and he never asked for it back. When he offered it to me, he said he had not worn it for some time because he had grown tired of wearing it so often. I should have understood then how I fit into his life—as something new and unusual that could lose its luster at any moment. But I didn’t. The tie still hangs in my closet, waiting for another opportunity to be worn with the suit.
He had also outgrown a drawer full of dress shirts. These were beautiful pinpoint oxford cotton. There was a blue and white striped one, a solid blue one, and a blue striped one with a white collar. The shirts were tailored along the back and the sides, which is why they were no longer of comfort to him. They fit me perfectly when I tried them on. I didn’t get these shirts at the same time that I got the suit and the tie, but they came into my possession soon thereafter. For a while I wore the shirts to a temp job and pointed out the monogrammed cuffs to my co-workers. The initials were not mine, of course, but I found them full of extravagant subtext when I explained that the letters belonged to the name of my boyfriend.
There was a period, too, where I gave him clothes. He loved to wear T-shirts from luxury destinations and I bought him many from the places we visited together or separately. I gave him shirts from Hawaii, Palm Springs, San Francisco, Key West, East Hampton, and Disney World. I could not afford to travel to all these places without his help and my gratitude was always bound up in the design I chose for him. These gifts were not without their inherent problems, however—a few faded or shrunk in the wash and were never seen again after their initial wearing. And one of the sturdier ones would haunt me for over two years—I later learned that the weekend we spent apart and the day I had chosen the shirt for him, he had spent celebrating another, younger, boyfriend’s birthday.
Six weeks after I first met him in a bar, he took me to a store and offered to buy me an outfit for my birthday. I had never had anyone take me into a clothing store with this in mind except for my mother, and since he was older and I was younger it felt both paternal and perverted, as if I were a young hustler he had discovered in a bar and wanted to make more presentable. Nonetheless, I found his gesture to be authentic, but much too extravagant for someone I had known for such a little time. I decided to only let him buy me a pair of pants. The ones that I was wearing at the time were faded and shredded at the cuffs and knees and crotch, though only the threads at my ankles were truly discernible to anyone other than the wearer. The pants that I chose were olive green khakis and I wore them about a year before they faded and shredded themselves, too, from overuse. They did not set him back too many bucks and, in retrospect, I think it was a good investment.
He gave me other gifts on other birthdays, too. One birthday he gave me a sporty and moderately expensive watch. He was not a man full of romantic or intimate notions and for a brief moment I felt as if we had exchanged rings. A watch is not an intimate gift, of course, but I took it to be an intimate gesture because there was nothing else even mimicking it in our relationship. When my next birthday rolled around I had lost the watch and he questioned me about its whereabouts when he noticed I was no longer wearing it. I said it was in need of a new battery and I would have it fixed in a few days. The watch had not stopped and it had not really been lost; it had been stolen by a trick I had picked up one night in a bar and taken back to my apartment. It took me four paychecks to save enough money to buy a duplicate of this moderately expensive watch and by the time I had bought it, it was clear to me that our time together was finite and soon to end.
There was a time, however, when I loved him and I tried to use as many connections as I could to arrange invitations to take him to places where I could show him off as a boyfriend. Several of these places and occasions were black tie events, and the first couple of times we went together, I wore a tuxedo I had owned since college and had bought second-hand when I sang in the glee club. There was a time, too, when he outgrew his own tuxedo and I took to wearing that one while he opted to dress in a more comfortable-fitting all-black suit, shirt, and tie. I never returned the tuxedo to him because I always hoped that there would be another place we could go together, but he did return to me, a year after we had broken up, some clothes that I had left behind at the summer house. He had decided to sell the house because he did not wish to go there alone anymore. In the bag he handed me were jeans I had left behind at that house that no longer fit my waist because I had fallen into a depression of eating and drinking too much. A few of the T-shirts still fit and they felt, when I put them on for the first time after an absence of months, like an old friend who had called on the phone and wanted to make sure I was doing all right.
Not long ago I lost the baseball cap he had given to me when he went on a trip to Palm Springs. It was a brown khaki color with pale green lettering and a darker green palm tree between the words. The day I lost the cap I was shopping for winter coats. I had put it on when I left the house because it looked like it would rain and had taken it off to look at myself in the mirror when I tried on a coat in a store. When I got home, I realized I had left the cap behind on a display shelf. It saddened me to think that I had lost it in this way, that I had not tossed it out from anger or grief or relief but that it had simply disappeared because of my careless oversight. Sometimes when I wear my new coat I think about the missing hat. It was a good hat. And, at the time I wore it, it fit me well.
Jameson Currier is the author of eleven works of fiction and the recently released memoir, Until My Heart Stops. He is the editor and publisher of Chelsea Station.
Copyright © 2015 by Jameson Currier. Reprinted by permission of author and publisher.