I hate rain. Not really, I love it. Just not when the most beautiful, perfect, wonderful, perfect, comfortable, waterproof, perfect coat in existence has been savagely butchered by my so-called friend’s Dalmatian. Every slap of rain on my naked arms is a stinging reminder of the irreparable hole in my wardrobe.
Some people might try to fill the void with lesser coats but I can’t bring myself to betray Valentino, even after her death. Instead my slippery arms grapple with each other in wet shock as I stumble to the op shop, clinging to one last thread of hope. I know in my deadened heart that I’ll never have another coat like her. Yet here I am, blundering through the elements in my vain search for the acceptance and warmth I found wrapped in Valentino’s woollen sleeves.
Thud. My body slams into the door, making the ‘open’ sign quiver and the bells tinkle in offense. I fight for entry, the door’s assault doubled by the stale funk of abandoned dreams invading my lungs.
Why am I doing this to myself?
Limbs weak and trembling, I nod at the wrinkly, gender-neutral human behind the counter and lean my weight on the nearest clothes rack. Idly flicking through men’s vests, I let my mind fog over, lost in memories of happier times.
A chilly Autumn breeze stirred crisp fallen leaves into cartwheeling circles that spun around me like kites. Safe inside Valentino, her collar turned up protectively against the wind, I laughed at the thrill of my cold, pink nose, a feeling I’d missed during the balmy summer. A cotton-gloved hand cupped my cheek from behind. Smiling, I turned and melted my icy skin in the heat radiating from Paul’s embrace. The blustery wind renewed its force. Children squealed. Raindrops splattered lazily onto broad dry platters of leaves.
My fingers fumble and wade through ancient tweed and corduroy horrors.
‘Those ones are 40% off, dear,’ the old man-woman says hopefully, tipping forwards over the till. I smile and make a strange noise in my throat.
Like the rain tapping impatiently outside, it’s only a matter of time before the hopelessness of my search floods over me. The one coat that could give me solace lies shredded in a bin. A tear wobbles in the pit of my eye but I can’t let it escape – there’s no sleeve I can blot it with. I wonder how many tears Valentino soaked up during our precious time together. After Paul and I broke up, I spent three days on the couch surrounded by damp tissues before resorting to Valentino’s comforting folds, mumbling apologies between dribbly sobs.
Pushing myself off the rack, I use the resulting momentum to launch over to a thicket of women’s coats and jumpers.
Start at the beginning. Continue logically. This seems like a good mantra.
Now that I’m in the right place, desperation manifests itself in my hawk-like appraisals of every unfortunate garment I lay eyes on. Clack, clack, clack. Yuck, urgh, no. Like I thought – Valentino was irreplaceable.
My hand stops.
Glorious day. Made for this weather, should be out covering, warming, protecting. Instead stuck on hanger, surrounded by unfashionable idiots. ‘Hot Options’ trench coat is more like ‘Cheap Option’. Delusional, thinks he is big shot detective coat. Invents mysteries then shouts ‘Aha! I’ve cracked the code!’ Fool on his other side asks what he means. Trench coat balloons to twice normal size and tells all in hearing range about latest ‘success’. And shady, black, lint-covered Adidas zip-up jacket. Despite op shop’s best efforts, still smells suspicious. Calls all shoppers ‘gangstas’. Horrible accent.
Have been hung in such undesirable company for two weeks now. Know because of out of date flip calendar on counter. Always notice it, right next to space where lucky, undeserving clothes are bought. Shouldn’t grumble, haven’t wanted to be taken home by any shoppers yet. All pungent and unpleasant. No doubt neglectful and unappreciative of their clothes. Don’t need another owner like that, have had more than fair share of disrespect.
Thought it was true love with Cynthia. Smiled softly when she saw us reflected in change room mirror. Said, ‘you’re mine’. Took me home to her nice clean flat, washed me before wearing. Thought I was the luckiest coat on Earth! Was Cynthia’s favourite, envy of all other coats and jackets. Wrapped tightly around her body, accentuated all curves while parading through high-end streets. Back home, she eased me off and washed according to care instructions. Happiest time of my life.
Soon enough, illusion was shattered. Began to suspect Cynthia of wearing other coats. Spent much time inside cupboard. Hopes rose every time the door opened, fell again when it closed, leaving me hanging. Had very low self-esteem. Actually saw Cynthia with her new coat. Was crushed.
One day Cynthia reached into depths of cupboard and brusquely pulled me out. Was thrilled! Then saw new coat on dirty clothes pile. I was second choice. Lay limp on bed while Cynthia got ready. She came over, pulled me up. She was plumper than before. Tighter fit when pulling arms through. Then it happened: sickening, ripping, tearing pain through sleeve. Thought I was dying. Abruptly it stopped. Cynthia took me off and swore at me! Like was my fault! Accused me of shrinking. Have never felt so ashamed and small in whole life. Was thrown into corner of room. Stayed there for countless awful days before being shoved into plastic bag, driven to cold place near busy road and dumped into huge metal bin.
Op shop people repaired seam, but used different-coloured thread. Now bear a scar, permanent reminder of human cruelty. Permanent source of shame. Think this is why I haven’t been bought. People think will tear again, cannot trust re-stitched coat. Understandable.
Shudder is running along rack. Customer going clack, clack, clack. Reaches stupid Adidas zip-up, moves quickly on to me. Actually looks quite decent, possibly even right size. Something is wrong, has paused. On me! Please, please, try me on! YES!
Am lifted from rack into damp, cold arms. One slides into my sleeve. Perfect! Do my best to dispel goosebumps as lovely person fits me snugly over her body. Am like a glove, fit her even better than Cynthia. Never thought to feel this way again, but – am falling in love. We move to a mirror. In the moment I see us, also see her, face lit up like life has been saved, like miracle has happened. Agree entirely. She hugs me to her, smiling from deep inside.
I think, loud as I can, I belong to you.