|17 years a coat.
||[Feb. 26th, 2016|02:35 pm]
Fenton Scorn sulla Statale 299
I met my coat in the 20th century. When I first saw my coat, I was twenty five years old. Now I am forty two. When I first saw that coat, it had a maple leaf on the heart, and it was red. Flaming red, so red that all the other colours looked white next to it. It talked to me, of firefighting, of Canada, of long nights working outside in a remote northern airport while dreaming of hot coffee cups and slices of cherry cake. Of all the journeys that were waiting for me and that at the time were as far away from me as a hop to the moon. It was standing on a podium (I know, right?) in a place that doesn't exist anymore, some Hollywood themed restaurant chain that made a quick appearance in Roma but didn't work out. So, on a podium, in a restaurant, behind a glass, was the most attractive piece of coating I had ever met, and it needed to become part of my life. I asked about it, and they gave me the address of the store who put it up there. I called them the next day and arranged a meeting. They didn't have the coat in red anymore, and the one in the restaurant was many sizes too small. I had to settle for black, they said. And that was the first setback. Not to big though. The maple leaf was still red, and so was my blood, still pumping pretty hard about it.|
The second setback was the price. This was pre-euro Italia, which still had a weird currency that was basically worth 1/2000th of a euro or a US dollar. So the coat, they told me, was about 1.000.000 lire, something along the lines of 500 euros/dollars today. I had just been fired from a job as an internet magician in a bookstore, and my finances amounted to zero. My son was five years old, I was surviving thanks to the generosity of my parents and the fact that I was living in a squat for no rent, an abandoned building with tape for windows and stolen electricity. I had no way to get to one million lire, in fact I had no way to get even the smallest fraction of that money. You could not imagine how strange and hard and painful those years were. Yet, I was a privileged kid. And as it often happens to privileged kids, no matter how shitty their lives seem to be, money appeared out of nowhere and the red Canadian coat -now turned black- was simply given to me from my father, famous for being the opposite of generous and definitely not known to be loving. I wondered for a minute why he did that. It couldn't be guilt as he was waterproof to the concept. I guessed it was because he liked the coat and hoped it would have made me stop dressing like a hobo, but also because he wanted me to feel in debt with him. Instead, knowing I would have never felt in debt with him, I just grabbed the coat and ran.
That was the year the war in Kosovo was still going on, the year a lot of people were worried about the Y2K bug, the year Napster was released, the year TLC put out "No Scrubs", the year I saw The Matrix in a theatre, and the year I got a new job.
That coat was with me when my son won his first football tournament at the age of five and when he got sent off by the referee just a week ago, at twenty one, for picking a fight. That's the coat that I had on when I celebrated New Year's Eve 2001 from the lighthouse overlooking Roma sharing a bottle of champagne and holding on to the cork which is still, a relic, in its left pocket. That coat saw me fumble over my shopping addiction back in 2002, it saw me question my gender identity over many years, and "blog" like there was no tomorrow in 2005 when my heart was so broken I thought there was nothing left to patch. It saw me fall in love and breakup a thousand times, and with me it hugged as many people in and out of my life: the first time I said "hi" to them, and the last time I said "goodbye" to them, the coat was there. It was with me in 2006 when a judge was deciding who was my son supposed to live with (me), and it was there at the police station every time they called me, night or day, cause someone else screwed up and I had to figure out a way for us to get through it without shattering. It was with me when I dared Finland to hit me with its best Winter, and was also with me when I was freezing on the side of a football pitch three times a week hating all humans but one. It saw my knee bent sideways for a stupid yoga blunder and saw my foot get a cast after being run over by a car. It saw me go up 15 kilos and down 15 kilos over and over, and it was with me when I crossed the ocean for the first time. It was there in NYC in 2009 when I become one with the movies in my head, and when I drove all night to get to Virginia and make someone else's movie a reality. It was with me at Niagara Falls with one of my best friends, and it was with me in Michigan, where I needed to give it all out in order to learn a hard final lesson about myself.
The coat never made it back to Toronto, its real home, because I was only there in the summer, but it has seen France, Germany, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, countless airports, infinite gas stations, and an unmeasurable number of cafes for milk and pastry. It was with me when Nathalie first came to Roma five years ago, and when we went to the mountains and let ourselves be swallowed by a sea of snow fantasizing about a timeless future, caravans, farms, animals, togetherness.
The coat was always there. You have all seen me with it at some point, and some of you probably have had your hands warmed up by it while hugging me from the back of my scooter during our winter rides. The gigantic hood. The silly oversized pockets holding all the trinkets collected across a millennium and the metal nails and screws that I claim to be part of my "collection".The front pouch harboring receipts and flyers from dead places and events that belonged to a different era. And the round, intensely red maple leaf still pointing as precisely as a bullseye straight to my heart, in case someone needed directions or didn't notice the big glowing one right there on my sleeve.
The coat was a companion, a bank, a diary, a home. But who in the world would write an ode to his coat?
Just this one guy. The one who is too distracted to remember all the things he wants to remember and delegates them to objects, things, videos, scars, tattoos, and even coats. The one who will leave one world soon to try and see what's outside of his solar system. The same guy who met a coat seventeen years ago in a restaurant and made a deal with it, to dream bigger, travel larger, and make it happen.
It is such a shame that the coat is not coming with me to the Americas, I know I will miss it. It was there every time I needed it. It inspired me, comforted me, cuddled me. It prepared me for what was coming. It is dying now, the zips are falling apart, the pockets have all sorts of holes, and the feathers bleed out from too many rotten seams. But we both know I won't throw it away. There will be this one time, thirty or maybe forty years from now, when I'll be back and I'll open that storage compartment that held safe all my treasures from the '80s and the '90s, and the old coat will come up and greet me.
Call me whatever you want, but I'll keep it on my lap, and I'll tell it all the stories and all the adventures it missed.