Occasionally, I Act Like a Serial Killer [Half a Man]
It's hidden in the back of my closet. It's been there for years. It gets mail delivered; it's that established. For four years it has maintained residence, because it managed to make it through the move from the old house. It was the first shirt hung in the new closet, because it was the first shirt out of the box, because it was the last shirt in the box after an hour of deliberation that concluded with "you never know when I'll need this shirt."
I've never needed the shirt.
It's nothing special -- button down, fitted and still the original abyss black; not muted from years of wear and Martinizing like some others. I've only worn it out in public once. One time was all it took to notice it didn't fit quite right across the chest, the sleeves cut my armpits like Edward Scissorhands was giving me a boost and the points of the shoulders where the stitching meets in a T point up at the ceiling. Untucked, it falls above my waistline; tucked is an impossibility. Even hidden under a sweater it's an uncomfortable mess and prone to bunching. Every month I try it on again, hoping it magically fits, as if the shirt learned from it's mistakes during the stint in solitary, or maybe my shoulders suddenly grew spikes.
It should've been taken back to the store, but my asinine habit of ripping off manufacturer and retail tags makes returning clothes impossible unless I get a store clerks who just doesn't give a funk about store policy. Of course I tried it on in the store. What kind of animal do you think I am? I'm the kind that just rips tags, not the kind that doesn't try clothes on. It looked fine in the changing room, from what I remember, but I was probably too busy staring at all my imperfections under the fluorescent lights. Those lights can make people buy ANYTHING, just to cover up their horrific appearance. "Christ, is my stomach that paunch? I'm going to buy this shirt, and a sweater and scarf to wrap around my mouth to stop myself from eating three more of those deliciously warm mall Snickerdoodles on my way out of here."
The day has come for this noir number. It's about to meet it's temporary end -- the bottom of a garbage bag just as dark in color. The bag will bounce around the trunk of my car until I finally find a clothing donation box. You know, the ones you see all the damn time, but can't remember where the moment you've got clothes to donate.
The shirt will not be lonely. Some old friends are going along on the road trip including a pair of pants that grab me in the crotch tighter than a happy ending masseuse on her first day, a sweater that still smells like the beer-soaked floor of my fraternity house and shoes that went out of style the day I bought them.
The clothing herd is thinning and I get a little manic about the process. A little Dahmer. Slightly Unabomber. I imagine what the closets of some of the world's most notoriously unstable looked like (minus the dead bodies and stacks of notebook manifestos) because I imagine those men to be meticulous about their clothing. Also, I'm scaring myself and want to know that I'm not nuts.
A Google search for the closets of these lunatics brought strange but somewhat expected results -- Dahmer's grandmother once found a fully dressed male mannequin in his closet and Kaczynski had fourteen of the same grey hoodie. One of those statements is true (Dahmer) but the second probably isn't far from fact. A picture of one of Dahmer's victims brings the image search to a grounding halt. Back to the safety of my 5-foot deep closet.
All the clothing that survived the cutting down process lays on the bed. The pants are divided into materials (denim, khaki, corduroy and miscellaneous) and then sub-divided into "work", "fancy", "weekend" and "slightly better than the slacks of a homeless man" and hung closest to the door because in an emergency I'm going to need to grab them quick. I always imagine emergencies where I'm pantless, which is odd, because besides sleeping and showering I'm always wearing pants.
Sweaters folded. Shoes in pairs. Sport jackets at the far end of the hanging bar. Ties on the door. The shirts all face South, hung next to similar colors like a shirt gang -- the blues with the blues, reds with reds, and the black shirts huddled together and pouring one out for their lost friend at the bottom of the donation trash bag. The lone white shirt, worn only to funerals and weddings, tries to fit in by mentioning "how many blue friends he has."
The hour-long process allows for all my OCD tendencies to stretch their legs. I stand back to admire my work. For a short time, one part of my life is in complete order. I drag the bag of old clothes down the steps, and pat the trunk hood for some reason. Destination -- burial deep in the Jersey pine barrens.
Unless anyone knows a donation box near my house.
Chris Illuminati is the editor-in-chief of GuySpeed. He’s written three humor books, ruined many personal relationships and still cries during thunderstorms. His “Half a Man” column appears every Tuesday. You can read more of his work here or follow him on Twitter.