My old pink shirt
It’s my summer shirt. All through the year, it hangs in my closet, and so accustomed are my eyes to seeing its pale pink collar and shoulders among the rest of my clothes that I don’t really notice it, yet come summer, I trust it will be there.
I only wear it to the beach, and every year when I pull it out for the first time, I’m happy. I bought it at a thrift store about 7 years ago, and who knows how old it was before the original owners let it go. The heavy cotton is so soft from all the years of wear, yet the shirt is tough and practical, like me. Its long sleeves protect me from the sun, and the faded pink fabric darkens to a deep rose when it’s wet.
Back in my acting days, I once threw it on to have my hair and makeup done in preparation for a photo shoot. The photographer thought my old pink shirt said “me” so strongly that he wanted to shoot me in it. He was right, of course, and my headshots turned out amazing.
The collar is badly fraying now, and I guess it won’t be long before the outside of the collar separates completely from the inside. I’m not sure what I’ll do when that happens; maybe I’ll try to repair it, suturing the two halves together where they’ve split apart, tender as flesh. I could just cut the collar off, I suppose, and continue to wear it for the protection of the long sleeves and the feel of the soft cotton, but then what happens when the cuffs unravel and the placket tears? I envision my summer shirt then, like Santiago’s great fish, stripped of all but its bones, an old pink skeleton of a shirt. I could try to replace it, but who sells shirts with sand permanently lining the seams on the inside of the pocket? Where can I find one that is the perfect shade of faded pink?
I wore my old pink shirt, my summer shirt, yesterday for the first time this year. At the end of the day, as I was undressing, I wondered how many more wash cycles, how many more summers I’d pull it out of the closet. Hesitating for a moment before consigning it to the laundry bin; I held it to my face, I inhaled the traces of the day I’d just spent: the ocean, the fresh breezes along the shore, clear, strong, sunlight, me. For another moment, I considered not washing it; I imagined what my summer shirt might be like when September rolled around, a palimpsest of my summer: steeped in sea water, stiff with salt, stained with sweat. But my old pink shirt is tough, and I am practical; I finally toss it on top of the laundry and know that when September does roll around, I’ll hang the shirt back in the closet, and trust that come summer, it will be there.