To Be Loved
Songs From Dawson's Creek
In almost all of my father’s pictures from when he was my age, he wears a thick leather jacket. It didn’t matter if it was eighty degrees out. He would always have a crisp white shirt, tight dark jeans and that bulky jacket on. I always assumed he needed that whole macho image to enter manhood, something that my grandfather and seven uncles failed to teach him. No one ever teaches you to become a man. It’s just something you should know from the get go.
He refused to throw it away even as he outgrew the style. It stayed at the back of his closet for decades. I remember one time, he caught me and my sister playing with it. I think I was about seven or something which made my sister about ten. Anyway, she and I had no idea about the jacket’s history. We just saw it and thought it would be cool to play dress up with it. When he saw me wearing it, he saw red. I had no right to wear his precious jacket and I got the beating of my life to make sure I always remembered.
I think that’s why it felt a little weird when he called me into his room and said he had something to give me. His room always smelled like naphthalene balls, a scent I have since associated with old people. He reached into his closet, pulled out the jacket and told me that it was time for me to start wearing it.
“I was about your age when I bought that,” he said. Part of me cringed and I was hoping it wasn’t very visible in the afternoon sunlight. I’m not exactly the leather jacket wearing type. But this wasn’t just any jacket, I would soon learn. It had a very special meaning to my father.
When he was in his early twenties, most of my father’s clothes were hand-me-downs from his brothers. He knew his wardrobe lacked a few key pieces. With his first paycheck, he bought that jacket. At first sight, it was a simple accessory, just scraps of leather, cotton and polyester sewn together. But underneath those layers, it symbolized everything he deemed important- freedom, growing up and making it in the real world. Whenever my father put on that jacket, he was becoming less like the boy who grew up in a farm and more like the man from the city he was becoming.
“Now I know times have changed but classics like this will never go out of style,” he beamed as he removed the jacket from the wooden hanger. I was torn at that point. I knew there was no chance in hell I would wear that thing but at the same time, I knew how much it meant to him, how this moment must’ve been in his mind for years. He was passing the symbol of his manhood to his only son. Now why did it feel like such a burden?
He put the jacket over my shoulders. I popped my hand out of each sleeve to find that it was at least three sizes too big for me. The shoulders drooped and the sleeves swallowed my hands. All in all, it just looked like a real big mess. I walked over to the dresser to see my reflection. I looked like a large black cow swallowed me whole.
“It’s too big,” I reasoned out as I took the jacket off. “I could have it tailored but that might ruin it.” My father stood behind me, his lips pursed and tense. I stared at our reflections in the mirror. How could we be related when we look nothing like each other? He stared at my reflection, his eyes lingering on my frail shoulders. Was he thinking the same thing? Was he asking the same questions?
“Perhaps you’ll grow into it,” he said, his voice filled with an alien hope. He took the jacket from my hands, folded it up and gave it to me. “Who knows? One day, you might decide to bulk up and it’ll fit then.” I smiled at him, that polite smile I only use when he makes me feel uncomfortable and thanked him for his gift. Deep down, I too wished the jacket would fit me one day.
Photo Credit: TSY