There are things that we surround ourselves with. Favorite, important or sentimental are the reasons we give for these things. Sometimes, though, they’re just useful things that serve purposes which do not change, no matter the other changes in our lives.
A comfy chair, a favorite set of slippers. That cut-glass statuary in recognition of service or duty.
For me, it’s a heavy denim jacket. Its history has made it a thing of sentimental value. Its comfort and protection have always been a thing of real value. It’s the sum total of all of its separate values that makes it a favorite of mine.
Odd then, that it was not my jacket to begin with.
It was Allen’s. He bought it for himself, brought it to San Francisco with him, like so many things that used to populate the house. Those things are fewer and fewer, of course, but the jacket remains. It has become mine, became mine a long time ago.
Plenty of history surrounds this jacket.
I was already wearing the jacket for myself while he was still alive. He had others, and I liked the vague smell of the unsmoked cigarettes he kept in the inside breast pocket and the scent of him on the worn ribbon around the jacket’s leather collar.
The jacket is there in my memory for so many things:
- Once, in 1994, Allen was flying back to Holyoke, Colorado to visit his family. It was in January and I took him to SFO and walked to the gate with him—remember when you could go all the way to an airport gate without a ticket for yourself? We were about to walk into the smoking lounge when he remembered what he forgot: the jacket. And he was off to Colorado in January. He was already so thin, and I knew that even the walk to the rental car would devastate his already devastated body. So it was up to me: I made a mad dash back to the car, sped up Highway 101, in the door, grab the coat, out the door, back down 101, back to the parking lot, back down the concourse to hand him his coat. Total round trip: 28 minutes. And it felt awfully good to do that for him.
- only the edge of the left sleeve is worn, tattered, from often pulling on the second strap of my backpack before I’d climb on the Vespa.
- I’d wear the jacket often when I rode the Vespa. One Friday in the wintertime I went over to The Edge, a bar in the Castro, for a happy hour with friends. I wore the jacket into the bar and stuffed it into a corner where other jackets were. At the end of the evening when I was ready to leave, the jacket was gone. I had to ride home in a cold, misting rain wearing only a wife-beater all the way home. Resigned to having lost the jacket forever, two weeks past that I was at the Metro bar with many of the same friends; I was telling FTP that I’d lost the jacket forever, when Dominic pipes up from the next table down, saying that he took a jacket that wasn’t his because he was too cold. He had returned it to the Edge the next day. That little bastard. Anyhow, I got it back.
- As I sit here in the Gay and Lesbian Center with a few tranny youth and tranny not-so-youth around the $3 bill cafe (as in, ‘queer as a’, get it?), I’m wearing the jacket as I wait for the man I love to join me here.
I’m not sure who’s worse for the wear, it or me, or who’s better for the wear. But the jacket’s still here. I’m still here. And now Sam is here.