Verb. To take unfair advantage of or treat someone unfairly; to exploit or manipulate for one’s own advantage.
There are so many goods we eventually discard. Every year, a person lets go of 81 pounds of unwanted items. That’s half the weight of the average American woman. Physical, that is.
The Habitat for Humanity thrift store in Sisters, Oregon relies on our inclination to donate versus dispose. Contributions for resale are sorted first based on category - apparel, housewares, linens, toys, and holiday items. Garments are then organized by gender, type and size. Sometimes by color. There are lots of different ways to arrange what one has to offer, and also less to choose from that one might expect, but on the men’s rack, you find something hanging that speaks to you. A Rag & Bone, extra large, gray cotton button-down that once retailed for $225, and now carries a $3.50 price tag.
Take hold of these threads.
This was the shirt of a broad, tall man; the type of man who, as one discovers through trial and error, tended to carry more secrets. Perhaps it’s because he also carried more cubic feet of volume. Additional space to hide and store such things.
This was the shirt of a man of means. Or a woman of means who purchased it with the intention of buying her way into something more meaningful. Given as a gift to the man who refused to use GPS or even printed maps, but often talked about paths. The one he needed to walk, or was it follow. The one whose destination was deemed as unknown. The one that may or may not ultimately lead back to the woman, who ended up wrapped in the shirt more often than the man, perched next to him on a pillow like a pigeon on a ledge of a skyscraper, searching for crumbs in these monologues about outcomes. These reminders of no promises, always delivered during the witching hour, moments after the man had finished exploring her most personal path, when five of the seven buttons were still left undone.
This was the shirt of a man who could whip up a stack of pumpkin pancakes with the ideal ratio of Tillamook salted butter and maple syrup added to the top. A man who wore his maternal grandfather’s mechanical watch with a distressed brown leather band on his left wrist, but didn't bother to change the hands during daylight savings. A man who only knew how to play one song on the guitar, “Catch the Wind” by Donovan, but sang it in perfect pitch every time. A man who stopped to pet every dog he passed on the street, yet crushed house spiders in tissues and never once considered simply ushering them back outside to safety.
This was the shirt of a man who didn’t show up at the finish line, where the woman stood and waited long after any reasonable minutes per mile pace should have been completed. A woman who thought she came prepared, with a camera to capture the moment of triumph, bottled spring water, a gold-plated medal on a navy blue ribbon, a shiny silver foil blanket. Any and all of the things that would have made one realize it was all worth it. That it had always been worth it.
This was the shirt that was left behind with a woman who was left behind. Left alone. Left in the dark. Left for dead. Left to her own devices. Left.
Carry the torch received to the volunteer at the front counter, then scan the store for all that still remains. Wonder what would happen if every one of these secondhand goods could talk. Tell us how they got here. Who they used to belong to. What made them part ways.
When asked if you found everything you were looking for, say, “This will do.” Hand over four crumpled dollar bills, and tell them to keep the change. Take ownership, and realize the amount originally paid is not always what it costs us in the end.