A Short Story by Doug Dean
Written using the suggestion "Clothing"
Originally featured on 04-18-2007
As part of our series "Things you can live without, but most people choose not to"

Tomorrow, I’ll be in another country but I don’t know which.

I’m folding tee-shirts. This orange one is awkward, so I roll it. The sleeves hang out of the end like a sloppily rolled cigarette. It was sloppy when I wore it to work. And it always came home even dirtier, covered in other people’s trash. For a while, being that dirty felt good.

On the end of the bed are my passport, a new toothbrush, floss, and mouthwash. I intend to take better care of my teeth in whatever country is next.

My black sweater next, the one that my father gave me. I turn down the arms and try the three way fold. He won’t understand this. He’ll say that I had a good life here and won’t see the reason to leave everything. He’s got a good life where he is. Despite my best efforts, my good life is similar to his. That’s part of why I’m going.

The sweater fits nicely towards the edge of my solitary pack. I press it in and cross my room to my dresser and pull out my pants drawer. I pick out a pair of jeans and fold them before throwing them on the bed. Now for a tough decision. I don’t know what type of pants besides jeans I’ll need. Will I want my grey cords I got for Christmas, virtually unworn and still in pretty good shape? Perhaps my brown cords from the Christmas before that, with the material worn off on patches of the leg. I go with the brown, fold and throw them on the bed too. Alright, two pairs of jeans, a swimsuit, and the cords. Moving on.

Everything that doesn’t come with me is going to go to Goodwill. I’m not leaving anything behind. No nest, no boxes to pick up upon my return, no sentimental goodies to look back on.

The brown cords are comfortable and represent a time when my life was too comfortable. This made everything uncomfortable. I’m too young to be comfortable and far too young to be bored.

I rotate and my eyes pan the bare walls of my room. I accidentally kick a box with old love poems, scrapbooks and a scarf. This box is going in the trash.

I kick a different box and it slides to the corner of the room. A National Geographic falls out of it. It opens to photos of gazelles being chased by lions in the wild. A lion catches a gazelle and brings it down by its neck. You don’t wake up any differently on the last day of your life. You just wake up.

I grab a hat that my brother gave me. A nice wool cap with a brim and pint of Guinness on the front. Maybe I’ll go to Ireland. No, I’ve been there. This isn’t about revisiting.

My brother would understand this trip. He’s young. He’s hungry. He’s one of the lions. He doesn’t wake up fearing death because everyday he’s unconsciously hunting something. When he finds it, he’ll stop hunting and become a gazelle — at least for awhile. Nobody tells you that when you’re a lion and if they do you just laugh. The hunt is all you know.

I’m changing my mind. I’m going to bring one photo. I’m going to bring this picture of my grandparents. It’s black and white and they aren’t smiling. They’re both dead now. It will serve as a reminder.

I wrap the picture in another tee-shirt. This one’s from college. It says “Hanky’s Heroes” in Blade Runner font and centered is an image of feces wearing a Santa Claus hat. It’s falling apart, but I won’t mind losing it and although I never thought it was funny, people always laugh when they see it. People know Mr. Hanky all over the world.

The wall to my left is lined with boxes of clothes I haven’t worn in years as well as clothes I wore yesterday. If they’re not in this pack then I’ll never see them again. The wall to my right is lined with boxes of books, movies, CDs, and all my photographs. I’ll never see them again. I’m going to buy a book at the first city I land in and then give it away or trade it to another backpacker.

I don’t plan to be gone forever. I haven’t even committed to that. My mother would be devastated to know that I threw out all these things. She’s a pack rat. I got it from her. She lives in the town in which she grew up.

Now for the last thing. I put all my dental hygiene tools in my bag on top and pull out my buzzer. I’m not bringing this hair either. All the hair I grow will be born on the run. The mane of a lion.

Read More By Doug Dean

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