He touched the sleeve of my jacket and asked if it was real denim.
Yes, I said. I got it when I was living in the UK years ago. My friend and I both bought jean jackets from Camden market. Hers was too big and mine was too small so we swapped and this one fit me perfectly.
I remembered that day. We had gone down to London from Newcastle where we were doing our year abroad and had gone out the night we arrived. We were hungover and perusing the market stalls, stopping to buy these jackets we’d both wanted. I also bought a pair of black vintage boots that day, from an underground shop full of secondhand clothing. My friend had said they were my “take on the world” boots, and at the time, it had felt like that was exactly what I was doing.
If my clothes could tell stories they would talk of the cities I’ve traveled. Of the places I’ve lived and called home at one time or another. They would tell tales of heartbreak, of fights with friends, of youthful mistakes and oh so many learnings.
If my clothes could tell stories, they would tell of my first kiss. In my basement. How the boy had his hands all over the brown T-shirt I was wearing and how he tried to feel my skin under it.
They would tell of the Roots sweater I used to wear every day in high school when I was depressed. They would talk about how the sleeves were ripped because I’d chew and pick at them whenever I felt anxious.
They would talk about the battered green converse I would wear. The ones that same boy wrote about in the letter he gave me on our final day together. To me, you will always be the girl with the battered green converse, it said. And how I never wore them again after that day. Because I didn’t want to be that girl anymore. Because maybe, he didn’t realize, I had grown out of them.
If my clothes could tell stories they would bring up my University Frosh shirt. The one that started off white and ended up with a hundred different signatures. The shirt that got cut up by other girls to be more scandalous, to show a little bit of tummy.
My Frosh shirt wouldn’t want to talk, because there is darkness in those stains, stories they don’t want to remember.
If my clothes could tell stories, of course they would transport us back to Newcastle. To the black leather jacket I wore the night I fell in love at the bar after too much tequila. They would talk about the sweater I can no longer wear, because it brings me back to a time and a part of myself and a life I can never go back to. They would talk about the cardigan I wrapped myself in the night I found out it was all going to be over. The cardigan that was soaked in tears and snot, and I didn’t end up washing for weeks after.
My clothes would tell stories of triumph. Of sports bras and yoga pants. Of pulling me out of the darkness and into a strength I didn’t know I had.
My clothes would tell stories of soccer jerseys and shorts on legs that he told me later were the first thing about me he noticed. They would talk about summer nights on the field, beers after the game, and looks across the table.
They would talk about falling in love, again. With warm sweaters under the streetlights on a cool summer night.
And they’d talk about heartbreak, again and again and again.
My wardrobe is mostly new now. These clothes have some stories, but some that are still unwritten. These clothes represent independence. A grey shirt worn on a plane ride alone over to Ireland. A pair of shoes that walked me to different hostels and Airbnbs and tourist sites and Meetups and bars that all would soon become familiar places. Sweatpants and an oversized T-shirt that comforted me when I found myself in a new country, completely alone.
If my clothes could tell stories they would talk about how the body beneath them has changed and grown and shrunk and been scarred in places hidden beneath the fabric. And they would also talk about how this body hasn’t changed much at all.
I have a bag of clothes to donate whenever this pandemic is all done, and I think about the stories these clothes will pass on, and the new stories that they will go on to tell.