Many years ago I was just a poor broke student at a UK University. At least back then, research students got grants that allowed them to subsist and which could be supplemented with a bit of teaching or other part-time work. I was quite lucky in that I was teaching a geological mapping class to non-geology students for the amazing sum of ten pounds per hour in addition to a subsistence grant from the NERC (if such a thing exists anymore). However, I can tell you life wasn’t easy financially!
Like most students then, I also kept an eye on the second hand clothes outlets for any bargains and one day, I spotted a beautiful tweed jacket that looked like it may fit me. I forget how much it was but perhaps it was on sale for 1 pound or thereabouts. It was a sports jacket – something that would always go with a pair of jeans and T-shirt and that would serve as an autumn coat at a push too. It looked good on me and was almost a perfect fit. This was also surprising as I was very gangling – thin and tall with long arms and legs. Usually, if something was wide enough, it wasn’t long enough and vice versa. Jeans were a particular problem – try looking for a 28 waist and 36 inside leg! Of course, these days the waistline has progressively expanded and I may just have shrunk a bit too! Anyway, I digress. The jacket was a perfect fit and it looked very good. I bought it.
I wore my new jacket that night. I had a date. As the evening wore on however my mood began to change. Initially happy and excited with the new jacket and a that date, I began to become more and more morose as the evening wore on. I decided that it must be a combination of the weather (drizzle and dull) and perhaps one too many beers on an empty stomach. However, by the time I got home, I was feeling very agitated and depressed. It was as if a little cloud had formed over my head and was following me around.
The next day I was fine. The day went quite well and when I got home, I decided to do some grocery shopping and then for a beer at the Student’s Union. Of course, I wanted to look dapper and so I put on my new jacket. The shopping proved to be very frustrating as little problems emerged one by one and by the time I got to the Student’s Union, I was in a foul mood that got progressively worse as the evening wore on. My date from the previous evening joined me later and was very unimpressed by my mood – again! That little cloud was back and following me around again. She walked with me to my flat and accepted the offer of a coffee. I recall putting on the kettle but not much after that.
The slap was hard and meant to be. It stung my cheek. I had no idea where I was or what I was doing. It was as if I hadn’t been there at all. In fact, as it turned out, I wasn’t. Someone else was however, and my date was not particularly thrilled with this morose, verbally belligerent and semi-violent persona. As I tried to take in my surroundings and the anger of my date I decided I was very confused. I guess at some stage I took off that jacket and sat and discussed the incident with her. I told her I had blanked out and she told me I had essentially become someone else. My accent and voice had changed along with the look in my eye. I had started swearing using words I would never use and I had become threatening and not at all nice. It was as if I was a drunk she told me. I was puzzled. I had no memory of behaving that way – none at all.
“That jacket,” she said pointing to my beautiful new jacket.
“What about it?” I asked somewhat puzzled.
“Every time you put that on you change and the longer you wear it, the worse you get.”
I had to admit, it did seem that way.
I picked up the jacket and set it on my knee meditating on it and I knew abruptly that she was right. Whoever had owned that jacket was still wearing it. The jacket was in a sense haunted by the persona of its past occupant. I could in fact see him and I did realize that this alcoholic man had died recently and his clothes had been sold in the second hand store. I could sense him and his unpleasant odor too. Why had I not seen or sensed that before?
The jacket went into a trash can as far away from my flat as possible.
I never bought second hand clothes again.
If you enjoyed this story, please share it. also – you might just like my novella – The Last Observer.