I got a new coat. The old one wasn’t worn out but had been wearing on my nerves for some time. A vintage job bought at a vintage shop on Milwaukee, it was grey with prominent fur collar. Or faux-fur, as I found out from my itchy, burning neck the first time I wore it.
The coat fit well in the store mirror. I liked how it looked. It made me look like an Edward Gorey character. I attached a bunch of old Soviet buttons to the furry collar to decorate it. It was from the 50s or 60s. A substantial piece of clothing. It had heft. For a week or two the novelty of the thing made up for its deficiencies. The most glaring problem was lack of pocket space.
I carry a lot around with me. A sketchbook in one pocket, a notebook in the other. An mp3 player (was an iPod, upgraded recently to an Activo CT10) in a third. A Parker Jotter always in the inner pocket. Wayfarers and prescription glasses wherever they’ll fit. Gloves, a scarf, and a winter hat stuffed into all remaining spaces.
I took the coat in to a Chinese seamstress around the corner from my place. Her store had no signage in any language; just a bunch of mismatched furniture in the window. She emerged from some inner sanctum after I’d stood inside the door a minute. I asked her to extend the pockets to reach the bottom of the coat, mid-thigh. She said it wouldn’t look pretty. I said it was practical not cosmetic. Besides, who looks inside of someone else’s pockets to inspect workmanship?
Her alterations made it possible for me to carry all I needed to carry, but soon the coat’s other drawbacks came to the fore. I couldn’t wear the thing without a scarf to protect the back of my neck from the synthetic fur collar. I lost the bottom of its three buttons while riding my bike. The other two buttons strained as I pedaled so eventually I just kept the coat unbuttoned while riding. The weight of the thing was a drag too. I felt oppressed by it to the point that I dreaded putting it on. When I took it off inside, it took up room, almost like an extra person. It was cumbersome. On a recent plane trip to visit my parents, I chose to where a sport coat and a sweater just to avoid having to stow the thing on the plane. It wouldn’t have been unreasonable for Southwest to’ve charged me for an extra seat.
Buying a new coat less than two years after this one felt ridiculous. I like wearing my clothes till they’re nearly rags. But something had to be done. I didn’t want an article of clothing in my life that caused stress. I like clothes I don’t have to think about. So I took a trip downtown.
Macy’s was having a winter coat sale and I found a nondescript blue number within 15 minutes. It had snaps and a zipper rather than the dreaded buttons and appeared to have the requisite amount of pocket space. I paid and went into the men’s room to change. The first stall I tried didn’t have a hanger, so I moved down to one with the entire door missing. For a fancy downtown department store, this bathroom was run down and seedy-looking. Forgotten.
I took the old coat off and removed the Soviet buttons and the recently-acquired Yellow Cab badge. I was about to fasten them to the new one when a disheveled man appeared by the first of the stalls. I went back to what I was doing, but could still see him in my peripheral vision, seemingly hesitating before checking the first stall. Then he moved closer and I turned to look at him. He had his dick out and was stroking it, a question mark in his gaze. I gathered my coats and walked out past him.
Out in the brisk winter air I felt ten pounds lighter. The new coat felt like a weight off my shoulders. I went for a coffee in the Monadnock, to finish what I’d been doing, away from prying eyes and stroked members. A few minutes later I was back outside, lugging the old coat like a corpse, dead weight. I thought of finding clothing-drop-off spot but couldn’t think of any downtown. I wanted to be rid of the thing. Waiting for the bus, I noticed the deep window sills on the first floor of the Monandnock, laid the thing there, and walked away relieved.
Perhaps my masturbating friend from Macy’s will find it. It’s perfect for his purposes.