WARM, IN YOUR COAT
Copyright © 2004 All Rights Reserved
You shouldn't have been wearing it.
By that, I mean there is a small but assuredly bright chance that had you not been wearing that coat I would not have seen you in her window, and if I had not seen you in her big picture window I would not have stopped in astonishment and if I had not stopped with the rain rolling down my cheeks in fat drops, dangling like oil on the end of my nose until they plummeted to the ground while I blinked, drowning up at her window then things would be different. If I had not.
It was a movie running on a limited screen, just one, with an audience of just me: you and her silhouetted against the warm yellow backdrop of the living room. You paced, growing big, small, bigger in the window as perspective shifted. She was holding something against her small chest, then curling it outward like the opening of a song, revealing a wine glass. You disappeared for a moment, offscreen into the kitchen living room dining room bedroom and then reappeared, a new scene, shuffling off your coat. That coat. That we had.
It flew then, the coat took off and arms akimbo reached for the nearest chair and crumpled against it like an absent thought. A minute later it slid out of view. By then your arms were on her shoulders and you were pulling her against your chest like a coda and the silhouette of the two of you became one large quivering shape and the water ran down my face until I wasn't sure how much was mine and how much was the sky's.
I waited. There must be some misunderstanding. That's what Phil Collins said. He waited in the rain for hours, and you were late. But you weren't late for me. You weren't coming back to me; I knew that even before my unexpected appearance as a spectator in your picture-window movie. It was just the coat. Flying. The coat like a skin, you said the first time you found it. We, that is, the past-tense you and I in a junk shop down on Greene Street, pawing through the old records and holding the enormous wheel-sized black holes up into the sunlight, peering for imperfections. I stayed with the grooves and you kissed the top of my head in a place I would never see. Then moved down to the dark end of the store where they hung jackets, anoraks, blazers, windbreakers and coats by color, like a color-blind rainbow they blended from beige to caramel to amber to copper to chocolate to black. Your caress on the sleeves like the ones on my forearm, my shoulder, my breasts - tentative, seeking. Finding.
And then it was on you, one minute I was lost inside a Romeo Void album and the next you were standing over me in your coat. Feel, you insisted. It's like a skin. Only warm. I never thought about skin being warm or cold, so I put my hands on you, on it, on the coat, this broken and folded three-quarter length leather jacket, black-red like the back of a mouth and speckled with flaking white worn love grooves. It fitted with a perfection I had never achieved. I ran hands over the sleeves, the collar, pulling your newskin toward me and reached inside to the quilted red interior as if autopsying you. And you were right, it was so warm inside it almost pulsed, like a tongue or a heart or a song.
It cost forty dollars and we had thirty-eight seventy-five.
You wore it home and left the old behind. I went back and got that later.
And when I am standing outside her enormous front bay window, exposed for the world to see, unashamed and daring you are wearing our coat and then you shed it as if it is unimportant the way you peeled me from your life that one Thursday evening and off I went, flying, grasping, landing, falling. Your skin, warm, removed. Your arms warm, needy, on her and her wine glass. So I watched until.
A long time. The rain stopped and the light died and it was night and I was wet and the picture window movie was over. You came out alone, skin intact and I thought the last thing I could stand was to see you again and see you see me again but you had on your pulsing coat, our coat and I followed. To the turning on Houston. And there.
The alley was dark and you were a shadow in the mouth of the darkness and I was the tongue, filling up the space. This time when I reached inside you didn't see me. Didn't see the sharpness. Didn't see me autopsying. Felt it. I flayed you after and it came off in one long dark piece, soft and damp and reaching for me with stiff arms. It knew you didn't love it any more. Love me. So in one arm and in the other and zip zip zip up the zipper until the collar covers my mouth and it is like a skin, you were right, fits not tight not loose but exactly right. And though you were taller than I and could once kiss the top of my head in places I will never see the coat fits as if custom built for a person my size. And I know I will never toss it aside, abandoned. It would be like giving up my life. My skin.
And I leave you there.
The mouth closes, the tongue inside.
I walk uptown.
Warm, in your coat.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
is a senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter
; perversely, she is based in Queens, NY. She has written short stories for Eternity
and this magazine right here, once before. She has written long stories for no one. She is currently giving her cairn terrier, Ciara, belly rubs on demand and is heartfeltly bowing to Romeo Void for stealing their line.