On The Clothes of Mourning

Drawing by Rachel Lapides

This summer, I was seized with the need to un-stick myself. I had looked about myself and seen that I was sticking. That my lips were sticking. My ears. My fingers were becoming webbed. I looked down and saw my toes taped down to the floor. In the morning, my eyes adhered themselves. Of course, of course, they said. We are glue

The first thing to do was scrub. I researched the best soap to use. I cleaned the walls. The bathtub. Under the sink. On my knees. The next thing was to empty out. I took apart the bed-frame a neighbor had given me some years ago that had always left a too-medium-sized gap between me and the wall, and left the pieces downstairs by the trash. I went through the papers of my childhood, photos, old school things, recycled, filed, labeled, sealed. Bags and bags I collected, of old toys to give away, books, colored pencils, clothes. 

Clothes were one of the stickiest things. The pinks, yellows, blues, lavenders. That I hadn’t worn since, — how wrong they felt, how irreverent. Over the past six months, I had gone through what I perceived to be an aesthetic change, a calm artistic distaste for color, a new appreciation for an earthen palette, a growing-up. After all, this personal metamorphosis came at the same time as a national one; the season of neutrals was upon us. I even wrote an article on brown clothing, delighted in my own maturation. But then, if that was all it was, neutralizing myself into soft-spoken fabrics, what was that hysteric filling-up feeling upon seeing that innocent red sweater I used to wear — that had led me to set aside these unhallowed articles with the secondhand violence of nausea? 

The funeral home had been next to a bakery. On the exit: the long line red-cheeked-shivering outside the bakery looking at the three of us. The three of us looking at them. What a picture we made, us in our uneven blacks, as if to say, how dare you eat bread at a time like this. Them as if to say, how dare you not.

We walked home silently in the cold. How over-full the Village seemed, twenty-somethings in their big bright jackets striding through, laughing, vibrant and artless. In that red puffer sea, what an unhappy Moses I made. In my room, I turned supine.

I was unable to touch any colorful clothing for several weeks. Over the months, I found myself hanging and folding away the offenders like pieces of chewed gum into the crannies between myself and the fire escape. Until finally this summer out they went with desperate un-ceremony.

An understanding crept up on me in a gasp of Dorothea Brooke — who two years wore her mourning (and why shouldn’t she! whose beauty is that which is thrown into relief by poor dress!) — that perhaps this muting was not aesthetic at all, but a secret sacred deadening. 

Rachel Lapides

Rachel Lapides is a sophomore from New York City studying English and Psychology. She loves plants and is slowly turning her dorm room into a garden.

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