We don’t always get to keep people in our lives, but sometimes they leave little artifacts, traces that they really walked along the same path as us. We can either keep them safely in a museum, preserved to tell the story of what was or we can let them live with us, accepting that they will change. Here is Sheily’s story of a sweatshirt:
It was a winter day of cool mist, and every shade of purple in the sky, when you asked me if I was cold,and even though I denied, with my nerves counting every rain drop frozen in the air, trembling like a bird flying through her first December night, you still wrapped your sweatshirt around me anyway.
It was oversized on me, but I immediately felt like home. “Keep It. It never looked this good on me.”
I felt warm and beautiful every time I donned it, and dig deep into the pockets, to find more stories of yours, hidden, kept safely inside for me to find. I love the way fabric bears history, which doesn’t come out, even after millions of washing.
There were holes on its edges singing of branches and twigs, and a car crash, where no one got hurt.
A beer-stain near its round neck, proclaiming friendship, and late night football games, I reckon you danced with your best friend when you spilled it, for it still smells like love.
There were wrinkles on the arms, loose ends, which speaks of hard work and long walks, fist fights and your days at mountain climbing, I find myself to be quite envious of the adventures of your story.
So it became my favorite piece of clothing, and I started growing into it, oversized sweatshirt.
Its grayish tone of color never bothered me, it even helped me remember the exact shade of dawn that I see from my rooftop, and the ocean I dreamt for weeks when I first kissed you.
I once hiked ten miles and picked all the lilacs I could find my way home, and put them into its pockets, because I missed the way you hugged me last spring.
And when the spring really dawned, I used the sweatshirt to collect apples, hide them safely in the warmness to save the rosy flesh of the most beautiful fruit of heaven, which reminds me of your laughter, from our childhood days, when we used to tumble-down the streets, skinning our knees while bicycling in the brownish neighborhood, and your mother would wave her apron to us and give us pie to eat, while we sit near the window showing each other our scraped elbows and stories, I think I was in love with you even then.
When the summer came, I folded it like an old love letter and enveloped it into my closet. There were days when it peeped through my sundresses, like you would, while playing hide-and-seek, in hot summer breaks from school, it made me smile. There were nights when I took it out to drape it over my eyes, in search of something old, which smelled of your hugs and kisses and apples and lilacs and whatnot, to remind me that I was loved.
When I kissed that other boy, It only broke me with all its might. I felt like the gods were vexed with me, and so was I. The other boy, though equally tall, with equally strong shoulders and soft lips, wasn’t the same as I remember you to be. Where was the cinnamon? The taste of fresh, cool mint and the hint of stubble? Where was the ocean, the salt in the corners of the lips, I could not breathe through his tongue wrestling with mine, it was a nightmare I wish I could forget.
You came into my dreams that night and said that it was okay, the feeling would pass like the days used to, during every fall I spent with you.
And the fall had come, early this time, to whisper new songs to me, through the same sweatshirt.
There were new holes on its edges, girl-made this time, and new stains, of milkshake, that I smuggled inside the cinema, with my best friend who keeps me on my toes, when I sing or dance, or even when I write poetry. And in the same pockets, I once kept lilacs in, I hid my pencils, which I hold, like an amulet, and write our stories on every leaf I could find. Let the nature be my witness, I wrote our vows that matched every love song I ever danced to in the winter nights, while feeling every snowflake falling in the deserted streets, with my eyes closed.
And the same sweatshirt wraps around me, like a warrior’s armor, which you gave me a few moons ago. And it whispers softly of the days we spent together. Yes, the days were long, but oh my fragile heart, were the years ever so short.
Story submission by Sheily Gupta