I stand in the closet with my face pressed into hands which hold a tank top. One that has managed to remain the last standing memento, of a time long passed. For any time I am anxious, or feeling stuck in life, I purge my belongings. In the last couple years I have made two big moves and nine smaller moves between family and AirBnB's. However, I have had this closet in my own apartment going on eight months.
As I continue drawing in a breathe, I realize that just a little more than two years stand between the last time this tank was worn and the last wash it’s seen. I swear, with my face this close to the threads, I still smell home woven into it. The smell of sun dried fruit that have hit the ground prematurely with a hint of salt from the ocean's breathe. Smells that remind me of a place full of warmth and sunshine. Each sniff brings a different memory to mind.
The first just took me to that night when the crew went skinny dipping just after sunset. As the four of us stripped frantically to see who could hit the water first, I took my time folding this so as not to lose it to the night. I had purchased my first 'Magas' branded item, not long before this excursion and I was not ready to part with it. Not a care in the world or worry for those trying to catch glimpses of our silhouettes from shore. The water felt great, and the instant gratification of the dip was priceless. Ironically, that night a bathing suit was lost to the current, my slippers never made it home and another of us misplaced her phone for the next 24 hours, yet my tank top never disappeared. I smile, then wonder if I look crazy to the fly on the wall, standing here in the dimly lit closet.
I could care less, and I hold it up to my face again. Sniffing a little deeper. Suddenly, I am wandering the jungle on that hot, early pandemic day, exploring and enjoying. The way it should be, like a child, no longer bound to any of the roles that COVID stripped instantly away from me. Furloughed from work and soccer coaching, since the schools were shut down, and unable to continue training for the upcoming body building show, I was able to live free. I smile, thankful that the pandemic hit when it did, allowing me to go from one end of the island to the next, discovering both old and new spots, before I made my departure. A neighbor passing outside my bedroom window reminds me that I am supposed to be cleaning out this closet, not standing dumbfounded in it, inhaling an imaginary scent from an old tank.
I begin folding it, slowly, still appreciating this lasting memento. As I make the last fold, something in me just cannot withhold, and I pull the folded shirt toward my nose. I breathe in slow, deep, and for a little longer than the last time. I smile as memories begin to bounce from one to the next and the next, and so on. Like a comic book being flipped at rapid speed, scenes from a movie flood my mind. I am blind with nostalgia; and flooded with pure serotonin. I laugh at how giddy and ridiculous I feel.
Now I know why this tank top has lasted through the last four moves of mine, over the last two years; despite the fact I have never worn it in between. It is a physical symbol of the happiest times of my life. It does not represent a single person, but rather a collective of all that saw me in it, whether at home, the beach or 'Safehouse.' Neither does it represent a specific time, but rather it stands for all current events of those three, wildly wonderful years. I wouldn’t change a thing, and would return in a heartbeat to the island that showed me home is anywhere I am.
I turn my body to the right and place it in the ‘keep’ pile. I laugh at the deja vu. This is not the first time this particular tank has stayed on the right side and postponed the ‘give-away.’