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Kristen's Closet
by Patrick McClure
08/21/05
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Seasons dictate wardrobes.

Kristen rarely wore a sweatshirt before November and she felt that here in Hartford sheíd probably never wear a bikini again, unless she stayed at a hotel with a heated pool, or visited her friends back in Florida. The weather determined this. She had no choice. The tiny closet in her one-bedroom apartment overflowed with clothing, spilled outfits best suited for a college girl in the sun, not a career woman up north. She knew this was her predicament, knew she had to adjust to this new life, especially to her first New England winter.

Kristenís microwave beeped three times, signaling her chamomile tea was ready. She walked the seven steps from her bedroom to the kitchenette, furnished with two stove burners, a one-sided sink, toaster, microwave, and her single dish towel. This wasnít exactly a step up from the house she lived in with her best friends in Gainesville. There she had a full kitchen, three bathrooms, if ever needed, a backyard, big screen television, and friends. Her old house came fully furnished with friends. Here she felt cramped, almost claustrophobic, though she had never been before, and lonely, much more lonely than she had expected. Here, along with her career move, she got a faded, slightly ripping sofa couch, twin bed, stand-up shower, and chamomile tea to keep her company in the evenings. She removed the teabag from her University of Florida coffee mug and tossed it in the trashcan under the counter. The mug was warm to her palms, felt warm going down her throat, but she still felt cold, and more alone.

The city was eerily quiet at 10:32, save for busline 47 sounding its airbrakes, and the occasional conversation, heard indistinctly out her bedroom window, down three stories to Bridgedale Avenue. Kristen felt anxiety creeping into her, naturally felt uneasy about starting a new job in the morning, with new coworkers, a new boss, in this still unfamiliar town. The people spoke differently than she was used to, lived differently than her taste, and knew how to stay warm when the cold came. She still needed to learn.

Several boxes remained stacked in the living room, behind the couch, still needing to be unpacked. Kristen figured when everything settled down she could spend some time really sprucing up the place. For now, just three days since her moving truck arrived, they would have to wait. She took a few picture frames, a large photo album, and some random college mementos from one box and tossed them into another. She took the empty box and carried it into the bedroom, placing it next to the closet. In order to arrange her work clothes, and pick a professional, good first-impression-outfit for tomorrow, she knew she needed to organize her wardrobe, and store much of her clothing in boxes for the long winter. She had no idea where to start. Hangers covered every inch of space near the top of the closet. Shoes, luggage, sweatshirts, a misplaced bra, small boxes, bedding, towels, two totes, and a hamper covered the rest. She couldnít see the floor or the back wall of the closet, and couldnít find her black, pinstriped suit for the morning.

Kristen transported all of her clothing off the closet rod, tossing the heaps onto her navy blue comforter on the twin bed in the corner. She unpacked two boxes and a duffel bag full of clothes, and threw them on the bed, looking more like a dirty clothes pile than clean. Then she sorted each article of clothing, placing them one by one onto piles arranged categorically: skirts in one, pants in another, jeans another, shirts another, jackets another, and dresses another. Her piles covered the bed, and carried over to her desk, and an office chair. This was too much clothing for a twenty-three year old woman she thought, too much for anyone really. Her closet could only hold so much. Her life, now, could only hold so much. She only had room for professional outfits, long-sleeved everything, and she even contemplated refilling the hole in her closet with a parka and stack of long-john underwear. Kristen glanced from pile to pile, reached over to the desk, took a sip of tea, and felt a chill sweep through her room, out the bedroom window, and down onto Bridgedale Avenue.

Walking back to the bed, 10:58, Kristen grabbed the first sweatshirt she found, bright blue with the Gator insignia proudly wrapping around its back. She bent down and turned the heater knob, for the first time. A few seconds later it kicked on, sputtered, spitting out an unpleasant rush until it settled in. She looked around the room, aghast at all of the clothing, and started with her tops. Most were tight-fitting t-shirts, tank tops, and halters, not much need for those in Hartford she figured. The empty box was propped open near the closet and she began tossing unneeded shirts into it one at a time. A red American Eagle t-shirt, green tank top, baby blue tank top, purple t-shirt, yellow halter, two pink tank tops. This continued, pulling a shirt from the pile, holding it up to observe, flipping it around, smelling a few, and then tossing it into the box near the closet. She grabbed a faded black shirt with a slight hole in its right armpit. Everyone received this shirt at Freshman Initiation, four years ago, out on Edmonds Plaza. She had worn it religiously throughout her career, it was like a club jacket, signifying her belonging to that group, Class of í97. Despite its simplicity, the t-shirt brought pride to all who wore it, each class with its own color. She tossed it aside, tossed a part of her school pride into the box with the rest.

Kristen tried to rifle through a few, memories flooding her mind, and heart as each held significance. She grabbed a pastel yellow tank top and simply flung it in the box, trying to forget the Sophomore Luau where she met David. Another tank top, this one Gator blue, with painted numbers on the front was left unexamined. She missed the football games, knew she could catch a few on television, but didnít want to see a new crop of frenzied girls wearing blue tank tops in the student section. Each successive shirt received less attention than the previous. She rummaged through the pile almost frenetically, wanting to be through, needing sleep, for the morning, for burying these memories.

The alarm clock on the end table near the head of her bed read 11:17. Her eyes were heavy, and moist, growing pink from her rubbing back the sentiments. She grabbed the remaining seven shirts, all in one pile, and with a last gasp lobbed them into the half-full moving box. She had placed a few aside, figuring it couldnít be below zero everyday for the next seven months. She turned back to the bed, saw her pile of skirts, and didnít have the energy to do it all again. The top four were kept, a short denim skirt, a long, flowy black one, a more elegant, cream colored one, and her yellow and blue floral skirt she wore their last night in Hawaii during Spring Break. She missed her skirts already, and the Florida weather, but pitched the remaining mound on top of the shirts in her box. Her chamomile was less than warm now, tepid on her tongue as she tilted her head back and gulped the remaining tea. She blew her nose in the bathroom, glimpsed her pallid face in the mirror, and threw the tissue away. She walked back into the bedroom almost finished, almost free of this burden, though it felt heavier than before.

Kristen was tired. She had hoped to go to bed by eleven oíclock or so, that was the plan, and by now it was nearing midnight. She didnít have the energy or desire to continue, and with the box virtually full, the closet would likely hold the rest. She folded all of her pants back on hangers and hooked them on the closet rod. The jackets, sweatshirts, and jeans followed suit, showing some semblance of organization in the closet, each category of clothing in its designated area. The dresses were folded and stacked on the top shelf, next to a small tote of pictures and a GAP bag with her scrapbook. Her few remaining shirts and skirts were placed on hangers, compiled together, hooked onto the rod and slid to the far left side of the closet. The luggage, totes, shoes, bedding, towels, and hamper were packed onto the closet floor and shelf again. They would need their own evening to sort. With the closet full, she found her pinstriped suit hanging between a white, long-sleeved button-up blouse, and a pair of navy slacks. She stripped it off the hanger, noticing two creases along the inseam which needing ironing in the morning, and draped it over her office chair. Her shoulders ached, her skin clammy from the labor and the heater. She slid the doors apart, and shut the closet a final time, catching another glimpse of herself, hunched with the sweatshirt encasing her upper body, gray sweatpants hanging under her heels, ears lightly red, matching her eyes and nose.

Kristen walked to the entryway, flipped off the light switch, and set her alarm for 6:30, merely six hours from now. She didnít want to wash her face, or brush her teeth, she would deal with that in the morning, only having energy left enough to peel back her covers and plunge beneath the sheets. She jostled around and curled the feet of the comforter around hers. A breezy waft drifted through her room, overcoming the heater, forcing Kristen under her covers further. She inhaled deeply, inadvertently yawned, and released a warm breath, instantly overtaken by the bitter chill in her apartment. She tossed again, reached over for another pillow, and landed on an object lost in her bed. Holding it up to the dim streetlight seeping through her bedroom blinds, she saw it was her yellow and pink bikini. She began to sit up, planned to throw it across the room as close to the box as she could get right now, but paused, looked back at her bathing suit, and collapsed onto her pillows. She tucked herself in again, wrapping the comforter around her legs and feet, pulled it up over her nose and rolled onto her left side. She kept the bikini in hand, smelled it twice, closed her eyes, and pulled its warmth to her chest. Four years flashed swiftly, contentedly, across her subconscious. Freshman year became sophomore, became junior, became oblivion. Underneath her sweatshirt Kristenís heartbeat fell into rhythm with the icy sleet outside, steadily drumming against her bedroom window, three stories above Bridgedale Avenue.


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