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Part XI, Clothing

By Remy Benoit

What do clothes say to and about a person, a character?

Go to your closet.

Pick out something you truly do not care for and put it on.

Write down how you feel about what you feel wearing this particular article of clothing.

Take it off, and put it in a bag to give away. Write down your feelings as you know it is leaving your life. What emotions are leaving with it? Try to construct a story about what happens to it once it is picked up from your front door? If you can do this, what is the future of this article of clothing? Does it bring joy; does it enter into, expand someone else's pain? What can you learn about yourself from this story?

Go back the closet and chose something you really like to wear and put that on.

Write down how you feel about yourself when you are wearing this particular article and compare that with the feelings about what you have given away. Be as specific as you can. Do you feel lighter, happier; feel that it brings out your natural coloring, or some particular aspect of your personality?

Now try the same exercise with you fictional family. Let you character wander through his closet and see what emerges.

Perhaps you both will find it is time to do some closet cleaning. To let the new in we simply have to begin to make room for it both with our material possessions and our mental clutter. Letting go of things, of beliefs, of old mental tapes is opening the door to new experiences. And remember, as you are doing this writing, you are healing, changing. It is not time to go on a spending spree to fill up the closet. Fill it judiciously this time, an article at a time, that reflects you, your you. With all due respect to Aunt whoever, perhaps ties with perky bunnies are just not you.

Serena sighed and found the awareness that the air she breathed in through her mouth traveled to her chest, traveled through her neck.

Breathing done continually, involuntarily, unconsciously: breaths she moved into, carrying air to expand and contract the lungs, to feed the brain.

The neck is just there, holding up the head, given little concern until it becomes the primary tale teller of a woman's age.

The hair can be colored, the facial wrinkles buried beneath pancake and powder. But what to do with the truth telling neck?

Hiding it beneath a turtle neck shirt or sweater works only seasonally.

It can be circled with the heaviness of an elaborate Celtic torque, the softness of a mink collar, the glitter of refracted light from a diamond necklace. Yet these too are not usually appropriate for the realities of life.

Yes, diamonds on a surreal evening, dancing with her over candlelight and soft music, splashing her out of herself and her lover's grasp: speaking in sparkles of how much more there is of her that can't be held, that seeks its own place.

Diamonds of white, or green, or yellow that speak of the vast age of the planet, of the life and death waltz or tarantella of the earth, of the treasures of life.

Small, delicate diamonds perhaps, that laugh with simplicity, not diamonds that could feed a community for a year haughtily glaring on a single throat or finger.

A simple gold chain around the throat drawing the eye to the vastness of underground mines and long veins from which it came, on which it lies.

Or a silver chain, holding a cross, a symbol of yin and yang: of anima and animus; the feminine, the masculine tied together in life spin as it always has been between the sexes, within the self.

Or the neck just as it is: the body part that does the work of the dendrochronologist measuring the years and decades in wrinkles and flesh that grows less firm and sags just a little more no matter what alchemist's brew comes from the jars on the dressing table to be soothed, hopefully, hopelessly, into it.

The neck that complains with an ache when you walk it out to the dirt road behind the school, far from the street lights, on a cold night and use it to raise the eyes to the dark sky and trace the passage of Hyakutake as its flight diminishes your worries of a plumber who still hasn't finished the job to a cosmic joke not even worthy of a journal footnote. The neck that holds the head aware with ears pricked to listen for the creep of danger on the remote road: the passageway to carry the flight call all the way to the hands and feet.

The swan's glory, traitorous, giving away embarrassment to public view when it rises a blush to the face when somewhere new, with someone new, and the moment has been desperately, disastrously, flubbed.

The fragile neck. Easily snapped.

Death comes quickly to the neck in a choke, a garrote, in the damson dance of a hanged horse thief.

The barbarian places the neck of the conquered on the stone and brings down his sword taking his land while giving him totally to it. The samurai ritual second to follow the evisceration with a decapitation. The doctor devises a gentler execution and the guillotine is raised on the streets of Paris to drop disembodied heads and necks floppily, bloodily into baskets or the gutter. Hair has been cut off to ease the sharp blade, sharpening the tender vulnerability of the jugular. The very streets of Paris widened afterward the blood cleansing to halt the barricades, the knife blood, of revolution.

Or necks across the land today, being joined by more and more necks, on the chopping stone of corporate downsizing.

Yet pains in the neck can be simpler things: a run in a stocking getting out of the car; a rash from a tie tied too tight, chafing the neck.

And neck ornaments may be amusing: a bow tie with rainbow polka dots on someone trying to make a statement about something known only to him. A loved canine with a kerchief around his throat.

Neck ornaments speak of who wears them.

A string tie is a geographical reckoner: a cravat, a statement of literary, artistic mind set or, wealth.

A simple tie on a young boy speaks of Sabbath.

A black tie blending with a black suit laments loss.

A peace sign on a long cord or chain is a chronological statement, a political one that murmurs in the wind, what have we done; guitar strains and mud at Woodstock.

A high pearl buttoned collar whispers restraint coupled with a cameo there is the redolence of times gone: of one room school houses with little girls in long dresses and braids and boys with straw hats.

Harvest times flicker into view measuring years by Persephone's comings and going and seasons by buggy wheels or horse drawn sleighs with children nestled under blankets or lying by stream with blades of grass in their mouths. Young boys skinny dipping in quarries and tracking home by the allure of apple pies cooling on window sills.

The high necked collars of single women teachers being shuffling from house to house as borders, teachers who ring the bell and feed the fires to warm children.

Stiff collars of unattached male teachers, men somehow outside of the mainstream: men who aren't usually one of the boys.

Children's necks, sweaty with rings of the days play reaching to the ears: children's necks being scrubbed in warm tubs filled with rubber ducks and submarines in an ocean of wave tossed colliding bubbles. Sweet necks, being scrubbed by mom, or dad, or a grandparent in hands that feel safe and loving.

And kisses. Kisses on the nape of the neck freed from hair's soft shimmering by a feathered lover's hand. Kisses that move to throat, travel to the shoulders, seek the path to communion.

&emdash;Pastiche

Does your character, do you, wear a hat?

What kind?

What would happen if you, or he, took off the hat?

What would happen if you changed the style of the hat you wore?

Watch the movie Crossing Delancey.

Why is the hat that is given to Amy Irving so important to the story line?

What sartorial quirks do you and your characters have? Where did they come from and where can they go with growth? Are they enough of the real you to stay, or do they go into the bag with the outfit that doesn't suit you?

Write a farewell letter to what is leaving, or work it out in a scene in your story.

Play with these possibilities: