Clothes. So very ordinary and so very human.
While sitting on the subway, I always used to stare at everyone’s shoes. Shoes on bankers and actors, on waitresses and hipsters, shoes on black people, white people, Mexicans, Chinese. People on subways always have an air of self-preservation about them. New Yorkers are nomads really- traveling around all day- so they usually have a lot of “stuff” with them: bags filled with their iphones, planners, books, snacks. Older women take out their hand lotion and put it on. Young girls are checking things off their to-do lists. Everyone always seems slightly overdressed too- even in the heat of summer. It’s part of the protective layer.
But when I looked at the shoes, I always imagined that person going to a store to pick out those shoes. Sitting down and trying them on, maybe walking around just a bit and then deciding- I’ll take them. Instantly they seemed vulnerable and human again.
Your clothes, Daniel, are you. You have worn them for the entire 11 years I’ve known you. Now that some of them have come home- I feel as though you’re also on your way. I feel hopeful.
As I looked around the apartment immediately after the news of your death, I found myself searching for things of which I could say: “There- that’s his…fill in the blank.” “Oh my God, that’s his…fill in the blank.” But you know what? I couldn’t find anything. There is a desk in the corner of our bedroom with your computer. There is your cello sitting in the corner.
Everything else is mine. In my constant state of decluttering the past few years, I’d decluttered just about all of you, haven’t I? But you weren’t really a man of “stuff” at all. You were a man of goals and experiences. The things I decluttered of yours were mostly free things you got from your job or on tour. A tote bag, a t-shirt, a water bottle. You took just about anything if it was free. And I promptly said when I saw those items- get rid of it. So you said you’d take them to the office- give them away.
But what is most you- is your clothes. Because you’d worn them so much. There is that red St. John’s t-shirt that you wore the day I picked you up in Staten Island to drive to Maryland and play a concert…our third time meeting. There is the navy jacket with the mustard and red stripes down the sleeves that you wore inside like a sweater when you were chilly. There is the other blue jacket on which you ironed on a Tottenham Hotspur patch.
Somehow it seemed you never had to shop for clothes. First, because you wore them for at least ten years. You purchased most of your soccer jerseys on Ebay for $10.
But you also seemed to get a lot of clothes for free. When I first met you, you were temping at Polo. One of the managers liked you and said you could choose any item from a rack of clothing. Of course you chose a $1000 black leather jacket that was tapered and quilted and I thought looked very silly.
Later, you played a gig at a Polo store and they dressed you for it and let you keep the outfit. Jeans, a white shirt that looked splattered with some grey paint, and a bow tie of silver and navy stripes.
At your web advertising job, you also seemed to get a lot of free clothes. Two times you got custom made designer jeans. Right after I gave birth to Audrey, I fit in one pair of them, but they had rips and when I bent down, my knee found the rip and made it much too big. You were actually really upset. Later, I noticed you wearing them and the rip wasn’t there. You told me you’d taken them to a tailor. When did you find the time? Those were the things that always surprised me.
You also got to custom design your own sneakers. You chose red and blue and had them write
mungmung on the tongue. I hated them when I saw them and said they looked like clown shoes. But once you broke them in- well, you wore them well.
Just before you left for this very last tour, you were given another chance at those custom sneakers. You actually called me, so excited, because you wanted to get them for me. You knew that I never bought anything for myself, and you were so eager to do this for me. But I told you, no- I’d have to choose my own sneakers and try them on, and to please use the opportunity for yourself, because you never bought anything either. You were disappointed, but you did. They came in the mail in a white box with little color squares and you showed them to me: again with the mungmung; this time in black and red.
Actually- as you were walking out the door for your last trip, you asked me where I’d put the box. You said the other ones, which you wore, were getting old, and you’d throw them away at some point while on the tour and start wearing these.
I opened up the suitcase that came today and there they were- new soles still. So I guess you never got to wear them.
This afternoon, I washed all of your clothes that came back to me. They are sitting in a pile in our laundry basket. I took out your Jerseys after the wash and air dried them as you have requested in the past so the letters on the front don’t peel off. One of them is hanging over your kitchen chair right now.