By: McKenna Ritter

The dark metal hooks stretch like ivy from a mahogany base. The lower hook forms a “G” with its counterpart the hidden signature of the carpenter, possibly named George or Genevieve. I ran it through my fingers, and like the sleeves of my fathers t-shirts when I was a young girl; it chilled the webs of my fingers. The sturdy pole extends from a prison-like base; the only inmates a butterscotch candy wrapper and a fresh coat of dust on the mahogany like winter snow on garden soil. The wood was polished yet grainy with exposed knots. It had a total of nine chips and a splatter of beige paint that matched the wall had dried on the dark wood. Luckily, it didn’t splinter into your finger as the neighbor’s playground had wronged me at age seven. An aqua blue Northface sweatshirt dangles fearfully on its hook. It couldn’t be more than a couple months old, according to the lack of matted fuzz on the cuff. Its neighbor, an army green reversible jacket sways with the wind of the air vent, making the crisp rustle of a windbreaker like the crunch of fallen, wrinkled leaves. It smells like a business meeting, coffee forming rings on the table, laptops trembling to boot up, and papers fresh out of the printer. A lipstick red quarter zip sweatshirt made of t-shirt cotton reeks of body odor concealed by the emptying of a perfume bottle. Its inside worn by over-washing. A striped umbrella, still dripping with the drizzle of this November day, leans against the base of the coatrack, tired of constantly protecting its user against the harsh rain from above, small bullets against its bulletproof vest of nylon. The magenta, army green, and blood orange lines fold. This isn’t the long pointed umbrella, but the small ones at Target meant to fit in the glove compartment of your car. The air reeked of November, a crisp yet dreary aroma. A post rain flavor grasp my inactive tongue, soured by Lake Erie and wet dog that penetrated the atmosphere.

I approach this hallowed object clothed in the artifacts of strangers. These coverings aren’t like those upon the shelves and hung on the racks at the Beachwood Mall. They aren’t the empty slates with a hopeful future labeled $25.99 plus tax. They were the jackets that were stretched to cover freshly straightened hair while running through the rain. They were the sweatshirts of warm campers, gathered around the fire for scary stories and s’mores. They were the windbreakers that braved several soccer tournaments in Lodi, yearning to protect more than just a torso. They were the sweaters that spent most of their lives on the hanger in the damp closet among replaced teddy bears and board games with ripped cards of the sore looser. They were the clothes that always found their way to the “Lost ‘n’ Found,” forgotten on cafeteria seats or near the class pet, “Benny Franklin,” a skittish hamster that gnawed on the bars of his cage and a finger if you aren’t quick enough. They were the coverings that your haggler of a Grandma got for 35 cents at a garage sale because she “didn’t have” two quarters.

And for some reason their owner left them behind, literally left to dry on this rack. Their protection, comfort, warm unneeded, the remnants of an experience. The shed skin of the person they were but could no longer be.