Thursday, August 17, 2017

black like mine

This is a story about a man named Steve Cotton. And his shirt. His black shirt.

Steve Cotton was a man of limited colors. His sheets and towels were gray. His house was painted gray. But his clothes were black. Including his shirt.

Now and then, he would join friends on cruises. One of those cruises was in the Caribbean. He packed for the tropics. Especially, his black silk shirt for nights out.

He and his friends spent their pre-cruise Saturday evening in a Miami Beach art deco hotel. For dinner, they ate mediocre Cuban food at one of Gloria Estefan's restaurants -- proving once again that celebrities sell fame, not quality.

When everyone headed back to the hotel, Steve Cotton (and his black silk shirt with the black buttons) decided he was going to spend the evening amongst the sybaritic pleasures of Miami Beach's nightlife.

He did not remember what he had done, but he remembered he had a smacking good time. For someone who did not drink or take drugs, forgetting good times was one of his psychological flaws.

He usually counted on friends to remind him of events. But that night all of his friends had gone to bed dreaming about how good ropa vieja would taste cooked by an accomplished chef. He was on his own.

Well, that is not exactly true. He did have one friend with him. His short-sleeved black silk shirt with the black buttons.

When he woke up in his hotel room, his shirt spoke of things he did not recall. The left sleeve was almost torn off, and there was a tear that ran from almost the collar to the shirt's tail.

How it happened, he had no idea. And the shirt was not talking. But it had to be replaced.

At a port call in St. Thomas, Steve Cotton bought a new shirt. Short-sleeve. Black. Cotton. With brown buttons -- as if it had been cross-bred with a cheap rayon Hawaiian shirt.

And, so, his new black shirt joined him on trips to six continents over the next two decades. Participating in a life that Steve Cotton could barely recall.

Until one fateful day. Yesterday. When Steve Cotton picked up his post-travel laundry, he noticed something amiss in the stack of clothes. It appeared as if he had acquired something new with black fringe.

It was his black shirt. The left sleeve was frayed. And there were two large tears where the sleeve once joined the well-tailored black shirt.

Once again, Steve Cotton's shirt had an experience that was not its own. And he would never know what it was.

But not knowing everything that happens in your life is part of the condition human. In the knowledge that everything ends, we can find reassurance in cruise days spent with friends or from a familiar hand on our skin or an offer of comfort or a surprise telephone call from a family member or sharing a secret that only one of you may recall.

Even when it is just a story about a black shirt.

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