He can’t even remember for how long. It seemed like a whole eternity had passed since those gentle hands had put him there. They were very attentive not to pierce him nor to make folds that would make him look like a bum’s coat. He was supposed to be a surprise for someone. But that someone didn’t come home in time for lunch. Her tears, as she was putting him in a cabinet, revealed him that that someone never made it home.
In time cabinet was moved to the attic. Dust covered it soon enough. Other stuff were disposed there too. At some point, cabinet stopped being visible from the entrance of the attic.
He often wondered what happened to his owner. Sometimes he would hear mice rustle about him but he couldn’t make out what they were saying.
He wasn’t alone in this cabinet for too long though. Moths soon became his new beneficiaries. They were his family. He saw so many of them grow up and leave their nest. He was taking care of them, protecting them from hostile environment until they grew strong enough to survive without him. They made him laugh, kept his soul warm and they were eating him. He didn’t mind it. It was a small price to pay to have somebody around him for all these years.
One day door of the cabinet opened. Bright light blinded him. It was a little girl that opened them. She was sneezing irritated by the dust that rose in the air.
“Mum, look what I found here!”
Mum was as surprised as her daughter was happy with the treasure she found. He tried to look fashionable and humble at the same time. Mum was sneezing too, dust got into her nostrils. The biggest part of current generation of moths hid deep in a cabinet. Some of those that remained in his insides, tried to be as quiet as possible.
“Oh, this coat is old, look at those moth bites on it!”
“Look mum, there is a piece of paper in it. What does it say?”
Mum took it in her hand. Letters were barely visible but she knew what it was.
“It is some kind of receipt, a bill for this coat. The date says it was bought 60 years ago.”
On the bottom of the stairs an old lady was waiting for the girls to come down. She has been smiling the whole day. “When she smiles, she looks so young”, thought mum, “no one could guess she is almost 80”.
“Look, granny, this coat is 60 years old. I know it is dusty but we wont throw it in the trash will we? It seems really warm and cozy.”
“60 years old? It can’t be! Let me see a receipt!”
She put her reading glasses on. Her smile disappeared as soon as she read the date. Her eyes became watery and soon tears were running down her cheeks. Her granddaughter put the coat on the floor and hug her granny.
“Why are you crying granny? It is just a silly old coat. Don’t cry granny!”
Her kisses were catching granny’s tears and her hug was trying to absorb granny’s sobbing. When granny had no more tears to cry, granddaughter put granny’s head between her hands and asked her quietly:
“Why were you crying granny?”
“Do you remember all those funny stories I told you about my big brother?”
“This coat was a gift for him. The date on a receipt, child, it is the day my brother ended his own life. Mother bought him a new fancy coat. She has been saving her money for months in order to afford it. She had planned to give it to him after family lunch that Saturday.”
“Granny, your brother is dead for all these years, you shared with me all those happy memories you two had and you never shed a tear. Why are you crying now? It’s been over 60 years since he is gone.”
“See those little holes moths made in the coat? My soul looks just like this coat. For every happy memory of my brother, I have a small hole in my soul. Each ‘what if’ I asked myself after my brother died made those little wounds. What if I talked more to him, what if I didn’t move out, what if I was visiting more, what if I told him more often how much I love him, what if I went to meet him instead of staying home helping my mum to prepare lunch for us….”
“Oh this coat is still here?”, asked mum, “I thought you threw it in the trash already!”
Little girl picked the coat up from the floor and ran outside. She placed it on a fresh snow and hit it with a stick until dust stopped rising. She picked him up. On the place he used to lay snow was gray and full of dead moths. She crossed the street and gave him to a homeless guy that was spending winter nights in a nearby shelter.
To a guy with a broad smile he belonged.