Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Eulogy for Some Khaki Shorts

I read once that newspapers have ongoing obituaries for celebrities and other famous people. They're called "advances", and by compiling them first and adding onto them as years go by, the writers can build and fact-check ahead of time so that when a celebrity dies, the newspaper can add in a few last facts and release it within hours or even moments of the announcement.

As a person who rarely plans in advance for anything -- dinner, stopping for gas, laundry -- I find this fascinating and smart.

As a person who struggles with goodbyes in any form, I find it freakish and morbid. It makes me glad to not be famous. It's enough to have cameras lurking around your bushes or following you to Starbucks; think of some lonely writer in the basement of your hometown gazette adding your latest Oscar nomination or car crash to your file, waiting for the day you croak and his touching tribute will land on everyone's doorstep.

But there are times where it's important to be prepared. Times where you must steel yourself against a loss that changes something in your very soul. Times where you ease into your goodbye slowly, like dipping a toe into the frigid ocean as opposed to waiting for a typhoon to swallow you up.

And so I begin to say goodbye to my favorite pair of khaki shorts.

Yes, I'm fully aware that may be the whitest white person sentence I've ever written. I own it, and I hate myself for it. The idea of khaki shorts is so suburban America, and the idea of having a beloved pair is downright embarrassing on levels I'm still learning to navigate. At least they weren't pleated.

But I'm sad, y'all.

I've seen it coming for a while now, and with each wear and wash, I have felt the slow creep of the trash can drawing near.

Oh, Death, thou art so beige.

I don't know how old these shorts are; I can't even measure time in BK or AK. I bought them at a discount store called Ellis Half Off which was remarkable because it was a dingy store front in a questionable part of our neighborhood, and all it contained was the irregulars and cast-offs from Target.

Can you imagine? Target. Cast-offs. Discounts. It's been gone for years, but that's grief I've already processed.

I found several pairs of khaki shorts there (one can never have too many khaki shorts and white t-shirts for your summer), but as it was a store of irregulars, this pair was the only one to fit. They had to be under $3.00 because nothing in there cost more than a bag of Taco Bell. This was its magic.

The tag read the wrong size, but over the years, the shorts have adapted to whatever size I had become. Lose a few pounds and the drawstring serves its purpose. Gain a few pounds and the cotton stretches fearlessly.

They're like the jeans from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, except they're shorts, and I'm not about to let someone else borrow them. Get your own khakis, sister.

I once spilled bright orange paint on them in the Health House at El Tesoro. It's been nearly a decade since I sat at that table, painting rocks and guzzling homemade salsa. I relegated them to camp shorts and lounge shorts after that, but within a few washes, the paint vanished.

They magically healed themselves to stay in my life, y'all. Khaki miracles are real.

With me, they've traveled a lot, and it shows.
My thighs rub like three wishes are gonna get granted.
The wear and tear is so real. Girls, I know you hear me.
They've traversed hundreds of miles over two different summer camps. They've soaked up the saltwater from the Atlantic and the chlorine from pools across Texas. They've helped me set up nearly every classroom I've been in at my school, and they comforted me through long, hot Saturday mornings, grading papers without A/C. They've taken hundreds of truck rides at the ranch and sat on the world's filthiest curb on Bourbon Street.

Even after a lifetime soaking in Tide and OxiClean, they smell like campfire smoke and homesick tears, cedar trees and freshly cut grass, spilled vodka and soft cotton. And they feel like going home.

I don't wear them out much anymore. They're the kind of shorts that you have to pre-plan your undergaments around because not only are they threadbare in places, but the seams threaten suicide on any given deep squat. And we've established I'm not much of a pre-planner.

In truth, the last couple of times I wore them on an errand, I scoped out my escape routes in case such a moment (and my underwears) came to light. This is not an anxiety that should accompany you to the public library.

Overdue books, yes. Your khaki shorts rotting off of your body, thread-by-thread, in the biography section, no.

So with much regret, I have decided their end is near.

I toyed with several methods of farewell: sewing shears, the Salvation Army donation box, a little Boyz II Men karaoke tribute, a Viking funeral.

None seemed appropriate.

So, I came home, placed them in the wash one more time and will place them in a box of other beloved but retired things.

And maybe next time I'm feeling sentimental or headed to the beach, I'll take them out to find them healed once more.
The orange paint glob was right there on the left leg, I swear it.
Farewell, old friend. It is, in fact, so hard to say goodbye.

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