Mike's letter jacket was blue and gold. It was an old school jacket- cloth coat with leather sleeves (alternating colours). It wasn't actually his, of course, because he was no athlete. It was a gift from his father, who was second team all-state in football, 20 years previously and before he joined the Army and before he died in combat (one of thousands who died in the Gulf).
I know that Mike loved that jacket, because he was careful about keeping it clean and where he wore it and I'm pretty sure I never saw him put it on the ground. He would laugh when I teased him about what I called "the Antique" but I could tell it was important to him. One night, walking home from a concert, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped several degrees, as it tends to do around here. I hadn't brought a sweater and we when offered to let me wear the jacket I shook my head No, but he put it on me anyway. We both knew that was a Big Deal. He never bought me a ring, so that was as close to a promise as we ever exchanged.
Looking back on it now, years later, it is hard to imagine why we were both so sentimental about it. It was just a jacket. It belonged to a man I never met, from a school I never went to. It smelled like a boy's locker room -a mix of cheap aftershave and sweat. It was also soft as a blanket and made a great pillow. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it. The jacket I mean.