Today I pulled an ancient flannel out of my closet that was handed down to me from my Grandpa when I was twelve. I’ve always cuffed the sleeves on my flannels, and it was he who inspired me to adopt this style. I can’t stand long sleeves; never have, but I have always loved these cowboy inspired flannel work shirts.
When I was sixteen I became hopelessly addicted to heroin, and cuffing my sleeves became an entirely different ritual. Wearing flannel shirts went from style to necessity. I couldn’t wear short sleeves anymore; I had to hide my track ridden arms.
When I received this piece of clothing I was very proud. I was in seventh grade, and I admired my grandfathers hardened demeanor and steadfast cowboy instilled work ethic. He reminded me of my childhood hero, the cowboy, from the old western classic Shane. I loved that movie. I used to watch it twice a day when I was growing up.
From the moment I received it, I wore it every chance that I could, and with it I twisted the cowboy style into a mix of thrift store grunge, and eventually adapted it into my half dead-junky style.
I stood in the mirror buttoning the front and cuffing the sleeves this morning and noticed that it is worn to the point of being see through, and my reddish sunburned skin glows pink through the fabric. There are cigarette burns singed through from my nodding out with lit cigarettes.
This is the only piece of my old life that I have left.
When I got clean I had very little; partly a result of my legal problems, but mainly due to losing everything in my addiction. I had a fiance, yes, but she was trashed from a life of active heroin addiction and the never ending demoralizing hustle that goes with it.
When I got back from vacation I had two pairs of pants, a few pairs of socks, a few pairs of underwear, two T-shirts, and this flannel. I didn’t even have a jacket or sweater. I had some trashed DC skate shoes, and a guilt ridden conscience tormented by bad memories and regret.
Eight years later, Cassandra dead, and all my other belongings consumed by time and it’s passage, except for this this flannel: a piece of cloth that is twice my age and, still standing proud like the cowboy it was made for, too stubborn to die.
I don’t think there is a single thing that I have ever owned that is more representative of me. Within me is the same resilience and steadfast hardened nature, a trait shared among me, the shirt, and my grandfather. We have embarked on our passage, and have been morphed into completely different versions of ourselves through it, but we still retain that old school grit that we were born of.
This shirt and I have been through more shit together than any single person I know. It has been present for the best and worst. It was locked up with me, and was waiting in a plastic bag-travelling to the same facilities that I traveled to. When I was released, I put on this shirt and my cardboard state issued temporary pants (I was arrested in boxers and a flannel…) and walked out into downtown San Diego lost, confused, and afraid.
This shirt has been present for enough heroin injections to kill a village, but there is not a single blood stain. It has been used as a rolling table for joints, and as a cloth to clean the bottoms of burned meth pipes. I was jumped and stabbed in this shirt.
This shirt protected me and kept me alive in the mountains when I was caught in a blizzard on a hike. It has attended college lectures and guarded me from the sun on many long walks. It has been there for first loves, kisses, and heartbreaks, and been my armor of choice on some fantastic climbs. I wrote Cassandras eulogy in this shirt.
It is such a strange concept to me, someone who is such a pessimist when it comes to convention and materialism, that I have an intimate relationship with a piece of clothing. However, more than a piece of clothing, it has served me as a trusty companion who has accompanied me on many adventures and never shied away. It has never judged me, and it has always fulfilled its end of the bargain.
I don’t have tattoos; I have scars. I don’t have pictures; I have memories. I don’t have a lot of things, so the things that I do have matter. I’ve been a prisoner, physically and metaphysically, and it has influenced me to be highly deliberate with my use of time and space.
I spend my time doing things that are true to me, and I fill my space with things that are more than just objects; they are extensions of me. The flannel isn’t the only object I have high affection for. I have pieces of gear, water bottles, and chalk bags that I have turned back around at parking lots and back tracked seven miles to retrieve. Seriously… I did that for my nalgene bottle…