a perfect fit.
I find the coat of my dreams at goodwill. i put it on. it fits. i wear it to the counter. the cashier distrusts me, asks me to remove it. instead, i lift it up all around so she can see there is nothing beneath it concealed. she snips the pricetag off the sleeve, something in her eyes telling me she'd rather slip and sever my pinky, maybe jam the point of the scissor into my wrist. i am unimpressed by her malice. i have a new coat that fits and that is all that matters.
it is not until i am out on the street that i look through the pockets. a brittle bus transfer, lint (where does it come from? how does it get there?), and... a photograph. a photograph! are you intrigued? it is of a man. he has no ear. i mean, that much of the photo has been cut away, along with whoever it was had been standing beside him. it is only half a photo, shorn in anger, by the look of it. he wears a tuxedo. now, this is really starting to get interesting. i mean, i wish i could find it interesting. it appears to be his wedding. who are these people? what of their smiles? do smiles project outward into space infinitely like tv signals? or are they erased forever by a camera flash? i think, some people might wish to find this man, older now by 50 years, judging from subtle clues in the photograph (never mind the date written on back in a new bride's optimistic hand). some people would view this as an opportunity to engage in amateur sleuthery, to find this tragic groom of the broken marriage and sundered wedding photo and make him whole once more. perhaps buy him a coffee. not me. i don't credit that romantic glue. i hate to be hard-boiled, but if my life were an elevator i'd already be way over the maximum load. sorry, old man, you'll have to take the stairs.
i am gonna lose this picture--fast! i walk down the street. there is no wire wastebasket as far as the eye can see and littering is not my wont. at least, i don't wish to be caught. i reach into the coat and slip the picture in at the top of my sleeve. as i walk, swinging arm vigorously, it will work its way down the sleeve and fall out onto the street, without my even knowing it. goodbye, mystery!
i have completely forgotten about the picture. i have even forgotten the fact that i am wearing a new used coat, it is so well-suited for the sudden turn of weather that in my comfort i achieve a blissful unthinking state, what some would call satori.
"excuse me," the old man says, breaking me from my reverie. "you dropped this..."
he reaches the photo out to me and i reflexively, reacting automatically, barely out of my transcendental walking-down-the-street see-nothing haze, hold my hand out ready to receive the mystery i'd tried to leave behind me. our hands move towards each other like steam shovels about to result in a construction site tragedy when he draws the photo back to himself, to his face, slowly, like a spoon brimming with soup.
"my wife! my wife! my life! my coat! everything, everything, gone, gone!"
oh crap. this is just the scene i'd hoped to avoid. the old man is shivering, tears falling on the dessicated picture, dissolving it like acid burning through fingers on the danger/peligro posters i have seen on parked trucks. christ, nothing left to do now but act all noble, so i remove the coat and drape it over his shoulders.
i walk away. cold.
"wait!" he shuffles after me. "you are so kind and i have no money to give but i want you to please take this," and he shoves something into my pocket, puts a shushing finger to his lips and dances away, inasmuch as a torn plastic bag of broken sticks and stinky wet leaves can dance. like that.
i walk away. still cold. it is some time before my fingers start numbing--it is only getting colder--and i jam them in my pockets, finding there the object the old man slipped me. i had already forgotten all about it. forgetting is my forte, a coping mechanism, you might say. i take it out. what the...? is it an albino prune, a bleached dried apricot, an accumulation of chewing gum scraped from beneath seats at bus stops and other oldman haunts? holy van gogh! it's the motherfucker's ear. i lift it to my lips, think better of it, sniff it, then nibble. it's salty and suddenly i'm warm all over. a perfect fit.
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