Arguileless, or, A sweater named Mittens

Triumph turned to tragedy today like ice cream in a sauna.

All my life I've had argyle envy. I see people in argyle, and I think, I like that argyle. I wish I had some argyle. Sometimes things like this strike me, and I don't realize that this is the easiest problem in the world to solve. You just, you know, buy some argyle. Poof. Done. No more argyle envy.

Well, I made this discovery, but only in the form of hypothesis. That is, I never actually did buy any argyle. Until today.

Yes, that's right. I was cajoled mercilessly by Josh into leaving the apartment. I was carped into going to Target at 5:05 this evening. So there I am, braving rush hour traffic to buy an argyle sweater. I'm the Wicked Witch of the West on the bike, riding past the window, single-minded of focus, cackling maniacally. I'll get you, my sweater.

When I moved here -- I mean, when I physically arrived at my new apartment -- I had three quarters of a tank of gas. That was in early August. I don't drive much in the city. I don't know where I would drive to. So in those months, I've gone from three quarters of a tank of gas to... slightly under three quarters of a tank of gas. And I've driven so little that I'm totally afraid of driving. You never really forget, it's true, it's riding a bike carried over, but in this case the bike weighs two thousand pounds and hurtles like a rocket, held up, my god, by a half-inch of rubber that's full of air. Air! Air holds your car in the air! As you shotgun forward at forty five in a thirty zone while giant SUVs pass you on the right because that's not fast enough this close to the Beltway, you're trusting yourself to a thin piece of rubber.

Condoms fail 5% of the time.


So I banish these thoughts, and I hop in the car, and I put on a mix cd and I can't find anything I like so I'm tumbling along with a hand on the dials and I made it to Target having only had two or three narrowly dodged collisions.

Where's the sweater section? AHA! Argyle!

I'm going to buy a sweater. Then two sweaters. Then two sweaters and a hoodie. Then I give myself a ceiling of $150. When the cash register beeps its last beep, it deducts $204 from my checking account.

But I've got these two fucking awesome argyle sweaters. I've got a cashmere hat. I've got De La Soul bullhorning out the speakers, and yes I turn it down every time I'm stopped at a red light next to somebody who looks like a thug, but I'm loving the ride, you know? I'm enjoying the ride.

And I've got a bit of my confidence back. I'm ducking and dodging through traffic, bobbing and weaving, shucking and jiving. I'm passing the movie theater that's showing a 70 mm print of Lawrence of Arabia, and I'm thinking, I have to find somebody to ask out on a date so I have an excuse to go see Lawrence of Arabia in 70 mm, because I've heard seeing Peter O'Toole appear as a heat distorted dot on the desert horizon is one of the most amazing things, a life-affirming, self-defining moment... but you have to see it in 70 mm. I need a date for this.

I'm thinking, I'm going to put on my new fucking argyle sweater and cold step to somebody with a fresh pack of gum and ask if she wants to go to Lawrence of Arabia on the north side of town. But, of course, I won't. Instead, I go to McDonalds. Second time I've had it since I've been here, and, if possible, worse than the first.

I've done something. I don't do very much these days, other than live in bars and live in books, and I'm feeling good about it, you know? I've broken my sphere, even for something as mundane as a trip to a chain store. I feel good about it. I haven't bought clothes in a year and a half. I've got new clothes. I've never been a sweater guy. Now, with a swipe of the debit card, I'm a 100% non-blended dyed in the wool sweater guy. You want proof? Check the bags, sucker.

It's sad but it's true, I'm excited to try everything on and see how I look in it. To stand at the mirror wearing new clothes and make those exaggerated faces that seem like the faces you make in real life but aren't, because they're your mirror faces. I want to see how my clothes look with my mirror faces.

Hey handsome, I've waiting all night for you to ask me to see Lawrence of Arabia in a 70 mm print with you.

I throw the bags on the couch. I rifle through them. Huzzah! An argyle sweater. Another sweater. But it's not the argyle. It's a cheap striped guy I bought as a backup. Three long-sleeved t-shirts. A hoodie. A value pack of ankle socks.

One argyle sweater... all bags empty. No cashmere hat.

They're on the receipt. That's for sure. Together they cost almost 60 bucks. And they're right there in smeary ink on a slippery piece of ticker tape.

They're just not in the bags.

And, I know, I know. Because I already did it. I already had this conversation with a friend. See, he was an expert, as people always are when somebody else has lost something.

It must be in your car. It's probably not on the receipt. Did you check in your car? You probably left it at the store. Are you sure you bought it at all? Are you sure you even WENT to the store? Maybe it's under the seats. Are you wearing it now? Did you, in a moment of zen, give it to a bum who looked cold? You're wearing it right now, aren't you.

Because I hadn't thought of any of that before I talked to him.

And I've retraced my steps as far as I am able to retrace them, without once again putting the rubber to the road like the wizard meets the toad (with a twinkle in his eye for the magic that's to come).

And you know what? Now I hate the other sweater.

I liked the other sweater better. It was the better sweater. This one I only bought because of the three-and-two-halves purple triangles in the center. I like purple.

But I loved that other sweater.

When I was a kid, maybe seven years old, I got two dogs. They were brother and sister. I named them Sharky and Mittens. Mittens was a doll. The nicest dog in the world. Sharky, he growled and nipped and he was ill-tempered but it's not his fault. Sharky, he's just like that. He didn't have that magic that made Mittens what she was.

Then, poor thing, Mittens runs away and you find her the next day, and she's been hit by a car. And she's dead on the side of the road, and you're standing there, and you don't know what's going on, it's terrible.

I didn't like Sharky much after that. Eventually he bit me and got sent to live on a farm.

And I've never named an article of clothing before. But sometimes, a pet will die, and you'll get another one that looks the same and call it Rex 2. Rover 2. Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad 2.

This sweater is now Sharky 2.

I'll miss you, Mittens, wherever you are. I hope the tables have turned, and you're running free on a farm in upstate Vermont with a whole herd of other cashmere castaways, and your friend the cashmere hat, the cat to your dog. Run free, my love. Yes, I still love you even, though you ruined my day, and all I've got left is your idiot brother. Run free.

1 comment: