Note: I’ve posted this previously on a different blog, but am slowly shifting things over.
A while ago, I had the opportunity to attend a Creative Writing Workshop at the London College of Fashion. The aim was to create stories, poetry or narratives generally inspired by pieces of clothing from the LCF Archive.
I can’t help but feel incredibly privileged to have been able to view and handle things like exquisite lace dresses from the 1930s, or kid leather shoes from the 1800s. It was like being able to step into a museum exhibit and literally get to grips with history.
It was fascinating to get an insight into how other people viewed each piece, and the stories they wanted to tell. I wanted to share the story I wrote because I sometimes forget that I can write.
I was obsessed by a blue, velvet jacket. I’ll describe it in the story so you get a sense of it.
Here Lies My Love
He couldn’t remember the photo being taken, but there he was, framed on the mantlepiece, and looking very handsome even if he did say so himself.
Wearing that beautiful blue jacket; my goodness, hadn’t he been beautiful?
In the photo, his eyes were certainly less bloodshot, his hair more blonde than the strange, tobacco-stained locks he sported now.
The walking frame barely supported his weight, but he pulled himself up from the draining comfort of his armchair. It wasn’t like he had far to travel.
He grimaced as he set off, musing that when they had imprisoned him here, they had made the cramped space sound like a positive feature.
‘Traitorous bastards,’ he thought, his socks scratching the carpet as he shuffled forward.
Back then, when they had made him a pot of musty-smelling tea, when they had sat him down in his own living room to “have a chat”, it hadn’t taken long for the full horror of what they were saying to start peeling away at his mind.
He had looked past them then, his gaze instead flittering around his lounge, his home with its many secrets. He had cried then.
They had told him to cheer up.
Over the next few weeks, they had informed him of the need to “downsize”, allowing him to keep little. However, he’d fought for that jacket and he had won.
Step. Step. Step.
He mentally saluted himself for another strenuous mission completed as he arrived in front of the closet. Carefully, he lifted one finger, then his hand, testing his balance.
It held, and he opened the closet door.
The blue velvet sparkled and shone amongst dull, sensible shirts and drab trousers (which reached impossibly, unnecessarily high).
His ran his hands over the black lace of the lapels, the papery skin of his palms catching upon it, his fingertips juttering at every detail.
Years ago, too many to recall, he had spotted the jacket in a shop window and fallen deeply in love for the first time. He had saved for weeks to afford it because, from the moment it had appeared before him, he had known that he needed it. It was an extravagant piece, true, but it was a statement.
And he had always wanted to make a statement.
He closed his eyes and let his hand fall away from the velvet. He glanced back over at the mantlepiece and smiled at his younger self, as well as the dark-haired vision arranged beside him in the photo.
His smile grew a little wider as he remembered that the jacket had certainly caught Simon’s attention.
He reached once more for the jacket and, holding it lightly between his fingers, he slipped it off the satin hanger.
He had forgotten how soft the velvet felt on his skin. He lifted it up and slid his arms through the sleeves, pursing his lips as he did so; he had also forgotten how much the lace cuffs scratched the shit out of him.
Grabbing hold of the frame once more, he manoeuvred his unreliable bones backwards in order to admire his reflection on the closet door mirror.
He nearly cried when he saw himself. True, he was older, and Simon was no longer there to hold him up, but he could still see the face of the beautiful boy, the boy who had fallen in love and who had been loved.
Tiredness ate at his muscles and he suddenly found the armchair a terribly inviting prospect.
He collapsed back into his meagre throne and felt warmer for the first time in years. His eyelids began to slide shut, but he didn’t try to fight it.
‘Let them find me like this,’ he thought, ‘the beautiful boy in the beautiful jacket.’
As his eyes closed for the final time, he thought about Simon and his stupid, lop-sided grin, and the way that the light from his smile could resolve the darkest disquiet. He thought about what his not-family would do with the jacket. He wondered if they would let him wear it as they poured the soft earth upon him.
He thought that he would like that, to be buried with his love. And though it would decay around him and rot as he rotted, it would always be his.