I need to buy more blazers, more sport coats. I feel comfortable, fashionable if you will, sporting a fedora, blazer/sport coat with vintage tee, worn blue jeans and a tattered pair of Chuck Taylors.
I purchase all my blazers/sport coats and tees at thrift shops. I'm sure many of the coats have been donated by blue haired widows after clearing the closets of their dead husbands. Those tiny rooms reeking of moth balls and leather, packed with clothing wrapped in dry cleaners' plastics. Plaids from the '50s. Fabrics from the '60s. Pristine polyesters from the '70s. A black pair of leather shoes worn once to a mother's funeral. The trench coat of an ambassador. Various ties for special occasions: meetings, holidays and more funerals. Artifacts worn by beings from another time.
I scour racks searching for a good fit. Some of the jackets have retained their jet fresh scent. Others emanate old flesh and dead cologne. A stray hair is occasionally found, usually gray and thin.
The pockets are almost always empty; however, many months ago hidden inside the satin lined breast pocket of a blazer (circa 1974) I discovered a worn and tattered black and white photo of a woman, beehive hairdo, thick wire rimmed glasses. She was oddly beautiful.
The name "Claire" seemed appropriate.
Over the thrift store speakers The Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" softly played. Poor Karen Carpenter. Such a delicate voice. And that emaciated figure of bone and skin. It all made the song so bittersweet.
Trapped in time.
And in my hand was "Claire," black and white.
Trapped in a moment. Captured. Secured.
A high school sweetheart. A young wife perhaps. Now nameless and left to suffocate in the blackness of a satin lined pocket, carelessly packed on a rack of fabrics. Tags. Prices. Memories expired.
I sat the blazer aside and held "Claire" in my hand. I was frozen with her, trapped in the lack of color like some strange time capsule. I traveled and there she was -- mute yet tangible.
"Where are you? Are you still alive? Is your body cracked with age and time and locked away in some nursing home? Are the nurses treating you well?
"Once upon a time you were a beautiful creature molded from beauty's model and some young man, a strapping young soldier preparing for war, kissed your precious lips one final time and bade farewell while flags flashed and tears glistened. 'I'll be back before you know it, baby,' that's what he said, didn't he? And you couldn't let go of him, you just couldn't. Trumpets blared the sounds of America, Freedom, War and Courage, and you knew, you knew, you just knew..."
And as I stared at "Claire" somewhere, not from the shitty thrift store speakers, not from some passing shopper, but somewhere I heard a voice, the voice of a young woman say, "Months later his body would explode, bits were recovered, and days, weeks, I don't know, time passed and a flag draped coffin, a coffin mostly empty returned, he came back home. The newspaper said his body was returned to 'The Red, The White, The Blue and The Indebted.'"
Some brutal advertisement blasted over the thrift store speakers promoting Senior Sundays and her voice disappeared.
"Claire," something tells me you've passed, too.
And some believe you're with him again.
Somewhere high above all of this.
Hand in hand.
Floating in white.
His body whole. Undamaged.
Your wrinkles gone. Your face a blazing brilliance of color.
I gently return your face to the satin lined pocket. I try the blazer on. The fit is perfect. It smells nice. It smells clean. The color is as gray as the sky outside. A beautiful sky.
I approach the cashier and pull some wrinkled bills from my pocket. The cashier punches some buttons, a tiny bell rings, a total is announced and I hand her my money.
"One dollar and thirty-seven cents is your change, sir. Have a nice day."
"Thank you. I think I will. It looks like rain."