by Pat LaPointe
See this coat. When is it worn? Is it the only coat? It can be worn for Sunday services? Is it good enough? It can be worn in the rain. How does it look when it’s wet? It takes too long to dry. See the buttons. They get loose when they catch on the car door. It’s too hot to wear it in the car. Why not wear a different coat? Why wear a coat at all?
See the homeless woman. Her coat; the stains, the tears and no buttons. Was she always homeless? Does she sleep on that box? Does she have food? Did she ever have a job? What kind of job did she have? Did she ever have a house? Where did she live? Why isn’t she there any longer? Did she have children? Are her children looking for her? Does she sleep in that coat? Is it warm enough for her? Why doesn’t someone give her a coat? Should you give her yours? Then what would you wear? You have more coats.
See the coat. It rained the day of the wake. It didn’t get very wet. It was cold. It had to be kept on. She didn’t like this coat. Should you apologize for wearing it? She won’t hear you. You should say it. Now you can have one of her coats, maybe the dark one. So much darker than this tan coat. Would she be mad that you took it? She hardly wore it. It was for special occasions. Can you wear it now, just anytime you want? It’s very clean. Your coat has tears and makeup stains where they all hugged you and cried for her. She can’t hear them. Shouldn’t they be crying for you?
A girl had coats but wanted a new one. The one she wore most was not good enough any longer. She took it off at Burlington Factory and laid in over a rack. There were so many racks she perused. Would she remember where it was left? Five racks, ten racks until: “Yes, this is it! This is the best.” Where was the coat she came in with? There it was! A woman was nearing the exit with it in her arms. Her hair was ratted, her clothes soiled and meant for a warmer season. She wasn’t wearing a coat. Did she have a coat? Did she need that coat? The girl looked the other way. She didn’t want the woman to see her. The woman rushed out the door. The girl wore her new coat home.
Is it ever just a coat? Isn’t there always a story of where it’s been? Would you tell it to the one who now has it? Do you think she would care? Would she think you wanted it back? Could you blame her? Everything she’s ever owned has been lost or taken away. You have many coats. There are others that are cold. You can give more. They are only coats you have. You can only choose to wear one at a time. They have no choice. Not for which coat to wear or anything else in their lives.
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Pat LaPointe is the editor of the Changes In Life monthly newsletter for women. She facilitates women’s writing groups online and on site. Her anthology of women’s stories, The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journey from Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment, was published in 2012.