By Matthew C W Murdach
There was no doubt that I had wardrobe to spare. Descriptions of it would take hours so I’d stick to the numbers.
I owned 296 hats, both festive and functional; 175 tees of every theme, and 124 dress shirts for work. On a chilly day you might see me in one of sixty-one sweaters, thirty-eight jackets, or sixteen parkas—with or without scarf—and with gloves. I had forty-nine pairs of jeans, fifty-seven khakis, and sixty-six shorts in every length imaginable. A lost sock was to me as a lost droplet to a river. Don’t even get me started on shoes.
Few friends have laid eyes on my armoires, clothes racks, or cavernous closet. But there are those who have come away with the strangest ideas. One even suggested I’d fit in with the squirrels.
But never mind them. Friends were a mere trifle in this story.
On the day before February’s Ide, my significant other thought to make an addition to my collection. I normally refused such kindnesses, as neither the fit on my person or cost to the buyer left me in good conscience. But two things stood against my better judgement: Valentine’s Day and the fact that I had nothing like it.
The gift was a form-fitting pullover sweat hoodie—all black—save for the large white lettering on its front, back, and sleeves. I laughed upon seeing it for the first time because the letters in each spot spelled HOARDER.
My better half thought it was humorous and fun and demanded I wear it wherever we went as a couple, be it a birthday party, funeral, or my sister’s wedding. We were like a celebrity comic whose reputation preceded them and ensured that the world always showed its jovial side.
I was living in a dream, though not one I’d had before. Perhaps some sleeping beauty, bidden to action but restrained by her state, only imagined the unendurable hoodie as a means to shock herself awake. I cast the fantasy aside at first. But the more I thought about it, the message delivered by my subconscious became clearer. I didn’t have to accept my fate.
By April, the weather had warmed, and I often refused my hooded honor under the pretense of discomfort. These small victories instilled confidence and drove me to plan what many would have done already. I confronted my other half at a moment of my choosing and cast aside the mark of HOARDER that felt sewn to my being.
The planned confrontation happened over coffee, in a diner, and with an audience. It began when my former love looked into my eyes and said, “You’ve only worn your gift twice this month. Can’t you find it in that mess of a house?”
“It’s too warm today.” I normally would have ended it there, but the way he said mess bothered me. “If the day weren’t so pleasant, I’d have found the hoodie in a heartbeat, as I’m quite organized.”
My lost love took the opportunity to snicker under his breath. “Whatever you say.”
“I didn’t get you that hoodie for laughs,” he said with a click of his tongue. “You have a serious problem.”
So there it was, naked coercion stripped of all pretense. I grew hot and reached into my bag. Out came the infernal hoodie. “Take it back!”
“Calm down. People are starting to stare.”
I threw the hoodie in my antagonizer’s face. It landed HOARDER side up.
Before he could pull it off, I stormed out with my bag swinging in an arc at my side.
The week after saw only two attempts at contact, and neither was an apology. I didn’t respond, and he never tried again.
But like wounds, people healed when properly wrapped, and my wardrobe was more than up to that task.
Friends came more often, some even stayed for a meal. They pointed to the clothes racks now filling my kitchen and joked that the house could use an expansion. On that, I wholeheartedly agreed.
And when organizing my eighty-four sweaters, fifty-three jackets, and twenty-two parkas, I sometimes thought of that ridiculous hoodie. It was the only article of clothing I have ever intentionally thrown away. I told myself that I had no choice, that its very presence brought disharmony and danger to my wardrobe. But I allowed myself to picture the good times, reminisce for a while, and end with a thought of the parting gift I gave my severed half.
I ordered it ten days after our little spat in the diner and had it shipped directly to him. I doubted he even kept it, much less wore it. But then, I didn’t get it for laughs.
Once, I had been gullible enough, trusting enough, to believe that a gift was nothing more than harmless fun. I was no longer so naïve.
My parting gift was a pullover sweat hoodie—all black—save for the white lettering on its front, back, and sleeves. The letters spelled DUMPED.