Day 87 – Two Sweaters

I remember the same two sweaters-
one plum and the other maroon-
that had to last the whole winter
and how it bothered me
that my old Lion King sneakers didn’t match
and how it bothered me
to think everyone would notice.

I remember being so pleased
at being allowed to invite over a classmate
and taking her to my closet
to show her my outfits
and knowing those two purple sweaters I hated
were the best I had to show.

I remember the girl who came over;
her sneakers didn’t match, either.
I don’t know where she is
but I have so many sweaters now.

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Day 79 – When Winter Comes

Before the glories of success
we die routinely,
give our bones and backs
to unearth what we seek,
and just before the crowning
of new daylight
the strong are separated
from the weak-
their willingness to die
and die completely,
give jaw and teeth
again and yet again.
When winter comes
it asks for one last battle
and proves the foolhardiness
of men.

52 Flashes of Fiction: Week 8 – Winter Coats

A winter coat is a sacred item. Not only is it the modern answer to one of humankind’s most basic necessities, but in most of the world it’s a seasonal item, and seasonal items always have special significance. I’m not, of course, speaking of pumpkin spice lattes and such, though some may certainly argue for that sort of thing. But a Christmas stocking with a child’s name on it, for example, which is hauled out from hidden places with great reverence year after year, holds more value for having been absent and reintroduced. Such is true for winter jackets, whose pockets have the added interest of long-forgotten treasures.

I once heard a story about a lady with short-term memory loss who would leave herself notes in the pockets of all her clothes. She had to choose the next day’s outfit ahead of time so the correct notes would be in the correct pockets. I remember thinking that was so stupid because if it were me I would just put all the notes in a wallet or something and carry the same one every day. But obviously it’s her system and it doesn’t matter what I think because I happen to have all my faculties of remembering things without the trick of notes in pockets.

But the idea of habitually finding something of value that you don’t remember losing is one that has stuck with me. How do you intentionally surprise yourself? The answer, I think, is time and distraction. You have to put your Christmas stocking away where you won’t see it for quite a while and then don’t ever think about it. You have to put your ex’s letters in a box under the bed. You have to put your winter coat way back in the back of the closet.

I once heard a story about a lady who put a $5 bill in every pocket she owned, and if she didn’t use the money hidden in her ensemble that day, she’d put an extra $5 in there with it. I never believed that she was trying to surprise herself because she constantly had to be thinking about it. How could she do laundry if she wasn’t? But obviously that’s just her way of mobile banking I guess and it’s not for me to judge.

If you’re not fortunate enough to be habitually forgetful about leaving things in your coat pocket, you have to be consciously willing to part with something valuable for a long time and never try to go back and find it. That sounds an awful lot like love, doesn’t it? A winter coat is essentially a vehicle to both carry around love and to fight it off. You don’t think that’s true but I told you it was sacred. Just yesterday I found a goodbye note that I had never seen in a coat I hadn’t worn in a year- somebody must’ve put it in my pocket when I wasn’t looking- and the year had both made it more valuable and prevented the tears which certainly would’ve come. That’s love, you know.

Day 67 – Florida Winter

You’d think we all gave our lives to be here-
retired early in a condo on the beach
after decades of shoveling horrible snows,
the way we carry on.

We trump out our fanciest pea coats
for three weeks of December discomfort,
grumbling and wiping the dust off
the red part of the thermostat.

But most of us don’t know it, never got
the heart-thrill of thawing something frozen,
never suffered through the negatives
to earn that blessed warmth.

But I have had my fill of swimming pools,
tans I have no use for, ugly flip-flops,
because I know there is no sweat
like the sweat under fleece-
the maddening contradiction of fear and joy
that accompanies a blizzard, wondering whether
we’ll wake alive or dead
in the morning.