The summer you came into my life was a summer that changed my life. Not necessarily because you became a part of it, but all same it was a summer that stands out. I don’t know how I managed before I found you. The world looks so much different since I’ve known you. I never thought something so simple could do so much. I’ve read hundreds of books, and they all warn you of the same fate; that love comes when you least expect it, and somehow, I never knew what that meant until it happened. And now I am forever changed. And I know I said I would never hurt you, but perhaps, I should have known. All great things seem to leave, all great love stories have to end.
This is a story about the greatest love of my life, and how I lost her. But mostly, it is an apology for how I treated her.
I suppose I should start at the beginning, but it is hard to know when the beginning was. Does the beginning start at the start of my own life? Of hers? Or does it start when we met? At the very least I suppose I have to give the setting, everything will make so much more sense if I do. I live in the Pacific Northwest; the famously wet, green, coffee-slinging, politically liberal part of The United States. Slightly more specifically, I live near the part of the area that takes pride in their disapproval of umbrellas. I’ve always found this rather peculiar. Somehow giving up using rain-protection, which artists worked so hard to design, is something to be pretentious about. I’ve never understood, but I have always participated in it. Except on really, really, rainy days and my hair is just too cute to sacrifice for the sake of blending in with the locals.
And I suppose I should give you some background information. You see, I have a history in losing coats. I’m primarily a public transportation user, and I think I’ve lost about 5 (?) jackets? Sometimes I don’t even realize I’ve lost a jacket until months later, when I find a selfie and then look around in dismay because the cute jacket is nowhere to be found. But it’s been happening for years, way prior to my regular usage of buses. One year, on a school field trip to the science museum, I lost my pink Hawaiian flower print raincoat. I had only gotten it, like, a week before. And it was not only pink, but it was reversible. I was heartbroken when I realized I no longer had it in my hand, and I remember running all over the museum in search of it. I think my mother even ended up calling them to see if it was in lost and found. But I was never to see that beautifully tacky raincoat again.
I would go on to live my life raincoatless for 15 years, before I found Her.
When we met, it was fate. At least, it’s the closest to fate I have ever gotten. I’d been working at a summer camp that year, and when I worked at camp, I tended to fall into camp fashion. For those of you who are unaware of what Pacific Northwest Camp fashion looks like, just picture brightly colored socks with bulky sandals, and tie dyed shirts. One of my new friends was looking to buy a new pair of sandals, so three of us hopped into the car and went to REI on our break. I’d never bought anything from REI before, because while it is a PNW staple, its generally expensive. While she was trying on her shoes, I was wandering around, longing looking at the athletic wear, knowing it would be irresponsible to splurge considering I only wore the clothes for a fourth of the year.
In the corner, was a rack for clearance. I’m a frequent window shopper; browsing is second nature to me, and its normally more fun if the prices are at least a little realistic. So, there I was, aimlessly browsing, and then…
I wonder, if I had known what that day would mean in the long run, if I had known beforehand how much of an impact it would make; I wonder if I would have done anything differently. Or perhaps, I needed the day to seem unextraordinary, so that when fate did come to light, it would have a greater impact. I suppose we’ll never know.
But there, on the rack, in all her glory, was Her. Unlike most items of clothing I am drawn to, she was grey and fairly insignificant looking. And at first, I almost kept browsing but something made me stop for a minute. I picked the raincoat up, and without looking at the tags (I was just browsing after all), I slipped the coat on. She fit perfectly. The jacket hit just below my belt line, and reached my wrists like the jacket was sewn just for me. It zipped up easily, and I felt snug, but I could tell that there was still room to wear a sweatshirt underneath for extra warmth. The cuffs had little bits of Velcro, to further limit the heat loss, and it had a hood that lay nicely flat when not in use… It was perfection, in a rain coat. I started to picture our future together, blissfully running about in the rain, unaware of the jealous glances thrown our way by simple people who didn’t matter. I saw us hiking, and busing. Her and her neutral palette, and me with my stylish local Seattlite looking self. But the scenes of us adventuring faded from my imagination and I was back in the REI. For, how could I afford such a jacket? From a place like this? I was meant to be saving my money made this summer, I had school to pay for in the fall. I had gone all this time without a rain jacket; did I really need one at all?
Hesitantly, I put the jacket back on the rack, and walked away. But my friend was not done with her shopping quite yet, and soon enough I was back at the clearance rack and I was back to staring at the raincoat. That beautiful, all-knowing raincoat. I looked for the tag, just to look, I told myself. Just to prove that I can’t take it home.
But I couldn’t find a tag; I COULDN’T FIND THE PRICE TAG.
My heart started pounding. The coat might not even be on clearance! That was almost worse! To fall in love with an expensive coat that is on clearance, means that I can CHOOSE to not bring it home. But to fall in love with just ANY expensive jacket meant that it wasn’t even an option. I would rather say no than be told no. By now my friends had met the coat. They also saw that there was no tag. For a millisecond, much longer than I am proud to admit, I pictured myself taking the coat and walking out the door. There was no security tag, no price tag. I couldn’t even find a coat similar on the whole floor, (and trust me, I looked). So, what was the harm!? Would it be wrong? Yes, technically. But only because of rules that we made up ourselves! And REI makes so much money, they probably wouldn’t even notice.
But I couldn’t do it.
But before you’re proud of me, I couldn’t do it because I was a chicken, not because my moral compass was working.
I couldn’t stand it anymore, I had to know if I could have the jacket or not. I picked her up, in all her grey glory, and walked over near the dressing rooms where I had seen a store associate. “Hi, I found this on the clearance rack over there, but it doesn’t have a tag, could you tell me how much it costs?”
Its been so long now, I don’t remember what the exact price was, but I remember being shocked and immediately turning to my friends for encouragement to take that next step. I was met with nods of approval. I practically ran to the cashier, and grabbed a flower printed carabeener on the way.
That night, it rained for the first time in a month.
That pure joy of honeymoon bliss was to be short lived.
Perhaps bringing you home was the worst thing I could have done for you.
I’m so sorry about the chocolate frosty I spilled on you, literally two days later. I’m so sorry for that time I sat on you because the bench was wet, and then you were all covered in gross gravelly bits. Oh, and the time I carried a cookie in your pocket and got the pocket all crumby. You did your job well, and kept me so dry, even on the wettest of days.
But I am most sorry for losing you in the Denver airport, barely six months after bringing you home. You had been so supportive that week, sheltering me from the temperamental Denver weather. It wasn’t your fault that I got one of my weird false fevers in the airport, it was MY fault for not eating that day. I never meant to leave you on the chair, but you’d slipped down! And I couldn’t see you when I turned back before walking on board. It wasn’t till we landed in rainy Seattle that I realized why I felt like a part of me was missing…. And although it has taken me over a year to finally succumb to my grief and admit that you are gone, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss you and your comforting presence. You would have been such a perfect jacket to take to Australia….
I hope that you were found (along with the grey hoodie I’d been wearing underneath you), and that you are out there somewhere with someone who really and truly deserves you. I love you, my sweet dear grey raincoat. I hope you don’t hate me nearly as much as I hate myself for losing you.
With great remorse and undying devotion,
Also, I’m sorry to the pink raincoat for losing you. OH! And to the faux leather jacket that I lost (I didn’t notice you were gone for while.. oops). Oh, and to the magenta athletic jacket, I really really loved you. Thank you for all the compliments you got me at camp. Oh, and to the funky Vans blazer that I only got to wear like twice before I lost you, sorry about that.
Oh and sorry if you thought this post was about Girlfriend at first, whom I also met that summer. I have not lost her. She is still very much stuck with me.