More than a trench coat
The rainy season came and so I went shopping for a coat, one with a hood that covered my head and deep pockets in which to keep my matches dry.
“Try this on!” well-meaning friends said, handing me a coat. And so I tried it on, but it was too tight, like a straightjacket.
“Looks great on you!” the well-meaning friends exclaimed. I noticed they were wearing the same coat, but it didn’t seem so ill-fitting on them.
I handed it back. “No, thank you,” I replied. “It’s uncomfortable. It’s not for me.”
The well-meaning friends glanced sideways at one another, shifting awkwardly. “But it’s the only real coat,” they insisted. “All other coats have faults and flaws, and you’ll get wet and drown.”
I considered the risk. “I’ll take my chances,” I responded.
The well-meaning friends backed away slowly, trying to smile politely while pulling their children close.
I turned and walked into the storm, my eyes constantly scanning the landscape for stores open in such awful weather. I found a few, but the coats weren’t what I was looking for. They lacked hoods or the sleeves were too short, or they were simply too tight and I couldn’t breath once they were zipped up. I always ended up back in the storm, getting soaked to the bone.
One day while I was trudging up and down a street of shops, I passed a woman standing under an awning outside some of them. “You’re getting wet,” she called.
Of course I’m getting wet, I thought, but I reminded myself to be polite. I stopped. “Yes, ma’am, the weather sure is frightful!”
She eyed me up and down. “You look like a drowned rat,” she said as she surveyed me. Apparently polite only went one way. “Here, give this a try.” She held out a coat.
“I’ve tried on every coat in the area,” I replied. “None of them fit. I guess I’m just supposed to learn to navigate the rain.”
She thrust the coat towards me again. “You haven’t tried this one.”
I sighed and took the coat and held it up. It was a strange coat. It appeared to be very old, and yet, it was completely fashion-forward in style and trim, as if it were too new to fit within the modern trends. Looking it over, however, I knew it wouldn’t do.
I held it out to her. “This coat is far too large. I’m a small person, as I’m sure you can see.” Indeed, the coat was huge.
She didn’t take the coat. “It will fit perfectly,” she insisted. “Put it on. You’ll see.”
“Don’t you have any others?” I asked, looking around. “Maybe something else in your shop?”
She laughed. “I don’t have a shop. And you are not going to find anything in these shops anyway. Stop wasting your time. This is your coat. Put it on.”
That is when I realized that she had no other wares. She wasn’t a shop owner at all. I stared at her for a minute, and then in quiet exasperation, I slipped my arms into the sleeves of the coat and pulled it up around my shoulders.
It was too big. I was swimming in the thing.
“See?” I said, holding my arms out so she could see how ridiculous I looked. There was no way it would keep out the rain. It was too loose.
She stepped forward and began to button it for me. She cinched the belt and adjusted the buckles on the sleeves. Then she grabbed me by the shoulders and spun me around to see my reflection in one of the windows of the shops.
“It’s not too big. You’re just used to suffocating in your clothing. This fits well, and it has room for you to grow. Rainy seasons always precede seasons of intense growth. You know this.”
I stared at my reflection. That coat on me didn’t look anything like that coat off me. It wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen before. Certainly like nothing in any of the shops. I felt a deep longing stir, as if something inside me was awakening for the first time.
“But it doesn’t have a hood. My head is going to get wet.” I couldn’t believe that I was protesting. I wanted this thing, and I wanted it badly, but for some reason it seemed I shouldn’t have it. It was too good for me. I needed an excuse to get it off and hand it back.
She gave a snort as she reached behind my neck and grasped a hidden zipper, giving it a yank. Out fell a neatly folded hood. “Silly girl.”
I shook the folds out of the hood and pulled it up over my head. The coat was heavy, and yet, it felt as if I was made to wear it, or perhaps it was made to be worn by me.
“How much is it?” I asked the woman.
“It’s not for sale,” she replied.
“It’s not for sale,” she repeated. “It’s yours. It’s been waiting for you to claim it.”
I slowly nodded. My heart was beginning to understand something my brain was yet unable to grasp. I reached out and took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Thank you,” I mouthed as I turned to go.
Her hand gripped mine more tightly, turning me back around to face her.
“Remember,” she said, staring deep into my eyes. “It is not for sale.”
I nodded again as she let go of my hand, and I turned and set out into the storm.