Lucky Jacket

by: John Daniel Gore 

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Each person has an outfit that makes them feel as hot as a shot of espresso on a Mercurian# Day. For me it was a violet shirt with a crimson-and-silver, paisley neck-tie. I liked to splash-on my favorite aftershave and don my leather jacket with the brass zippered pockets, crisp slacks riveted to my ass, before embarking on my latest shenanigans in ambitious professionalism. I felt like the flyest unemployed English-Major in the entire Michigan job-market, baby.  My purple shirt and red tie were always there for a quick boost of confidence. Now they hang in a closet, not quite “lucky”.

Our lucky clothes are as seasoned as we are or even more. “Lucky” apparel is a colloid of utility suspended in style, fermented with history and a pinch of sentiment—essentially durable. I have a black, billed cap that falls into this category. After six months in a church cloak-room, no one had claimed it nor could trace its original owner. I adopted it. Made in Bangladesh, 80% of wool and 20% cashmere, it also sports a tag that says the fabric was made in Italy. The powers of the universe placed it upon my head during a long journey over seas. It seems to never age.

My luckiest threads belong to the brown sport-jacket I got second-hand from my (now deceased) grandfather. I decided it was the only jacket that was not “too nice” to come to Palestine with me. The size is perfect except for the sleeves, which are just slightly short and show my bracelets when I reach for a cup of coffee in the morning. On second thought, that is perfect in its own way. The lining is smooth and features a black tag that says “Made in the USA” and “Echo a la medida en E. U. A.”. The buttons are brown with a very faint tortoise-shell effect and the fabric itself is really two shades: something like tree-bark woven with caramel. In other words, it is a classically non-descript brown sport-coat.

Its many nooks are a hive of charms. A Palestinian-Flag pin migrates from the lapel to the change-pocket, and back again, depending on Israeli security-checks. A button with a saying by Black Elk (“The holy land is everywhere”) is pinned near my heart like a badge. The jacket’s many pockets host treasures: prayer beads from a Mosque in Hebron, a plush purple heart from an important friend, a glass prayer stone shaped like a scallop, comb, and the “lucky” rubber bouncy-ball I found when I was ten years old. I keep tissues in the left interior breast pocket. My passport stays tucked on the right; each stamp is an instance of ‘seasoning’. I wonder what experiences it shared with my grandfather, what places it saw with him.

Psychologically, this jacket is a suit of armor. My chances of survival are always better when I wear the jacket. My mobile home, I keep everything I need in its secure chambers. I find receipts or airline ticket stubs crumpled next to my passport, periodically, or perhaps extra packets of sugar from distant restaurants. When I was strip searched, though, it restored my dignity the instant I slipped inside it again. Not everything kept there is tangible but I need every wisp of what it has in store.

It became lucky by making so many returns with me. First we returned to places, then to seasons: to and from Amman, East to Hong Kong, then back again to another Autumn and blustering Winter, here, in Bethlehem. I wear the jacket every day now, whether over a new, teal dress-shirt or an old, over-stretched sweater. It’s my uniform with slacks or with jeans. As I skimmed photographs I noticed how my grandfather’s jacket is fused to my persona at work and on evening adventures. Far from disconcerting me, it gave me a sense of permanence. I belong in my office,, in this field of work, and in this life. The purple shirt makes me feel pretty but the jacket stabilizes me in uncertainty, even under duress; the latter has an established history of “luck”.

I thought I knew its magic quite well, percolating through a crowded street in Hong Kong six months ago. Cut loose from work and waiting for a visa, I was not sure how long I would visit Asia. I was tired and the skies looked gray. In a matter of minutes, a torrential shower engulfed the city and I had nothing to shield me but my “lucky” coat. It was drenched when I reached my friend’s apartment. I peeled off the wet jacket and set it atop my suit-case. I laughed: further from home than ever before. My friend gestured to the damp, brown mass.

“Oh that thing must smell fishy by now,” I quipped. I lifted a sleeve to my face to check.

“Does it smell fishy?” she asked.

“—wow; after the heavy rain, it smells like my grandfather again.”  

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