An Ode to Secondhand Clothes


I touch this new garment new in my hands but not really new, new some time ago in someone else's hands, someone I never knew, someone I'll never know.

I touch this new, old garment and the fabric smiles at me. It wants to be worn. It's meant to dress someone instead of being dumped in a landfill or turned into ashes as the smoke rises to the sky.

Yes, you're with me now. I carefully step into it, covering my skin, adjusting it in the right places. Its scent welcomes me. It's not the impersonal smell that new clothes are branded with at each store. It's the kind of smell that makes me think of soap and perfume and the person who wore this before me, the person who decided to give it up for someone else to wear. It looks brand new but it still has her essence.

I feel the history of it: the body it dressed before me, the emotions it sustained as it held that body, the places it went to, the things it saw. I start to wonder. Did it travel? Was it surrounded by friends? Did dogs jump on it? Did cats purr on it? Was it cherished or did it end up forgotten at the back of the closet? Why did she give it away?

She was careful. Not a single stain, no loose threads, not one button missing. It is all there, just the way she found it. I feel a connection to this unknown person, as if we had just gotten acquainted and the fabric that links us was the beginning of a friendship. I shall think of that faceless person whenever I wear this, even after her essence is replaced by mine.

I'll be careful too. I'll take you to new places. We'll see things together. When someone comments on you, I will smile and say, "yes, it has history, it dressed someone before me". Landfills and fires will be horror stories that will have no place in our home. I know someday we both will go back to the earth but for now, we are still here, embracing human friends and dog friends and cat friends. Embracing each other.

I'll make sure you're always cherished, never forgotten.

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