I am a plain grey shirt, and this is my story

My name is Will. I am plain, and a slightly darker shade of grey, just like my 2032 brothers. We may all look the same, but our stories can differ vastly, sometimes even when belonging to the same person. But we all start the same – for sale somewhere.

The story of every shirt begins with a separation from its family in the warehouse. Though it was explained it to me, it was still hard when the day came. Not that I could scream or shout or protest it in any way. I guess that makes it easier for our kind to accept our fate, because there really is no other choice. So one fine day, five years ago, I went on sale in a Chandigarh mall.

Being on sale is like dogs at the pound waiting to be picked by a new master, and I do sympathise with them, their fate usually depends on the cuteness they inherited. “Looks don’t matter”, people often like to say. Ask a wrinkled shirt, who can’t even make puppy eyes to make its case.

Of course, being on sale means we are always ironed, if we ever hope to have an owner. Humans find creases quite off-putting. But who am I to complain, there’s nothing like a good steam ironing. There is always the fear that someone someday will leave the iron and forget about it, but what’s life without a little thrill?

On an average day, I was tried on by eleven men. I even hit fifteen once. Being picked for that little journey to the trial room is always exciting. I mean, nobody knows the future but it is better than not being picked. You see your competition on the hangers inside, and get a better sense of your chances. And the mirrors help me see how I look on my prospective owner. But no number of mirrors are enough for most people to decide, and the opinion of the person accompanying them matters a great deal more.

Some of these trips to the trial room are harder than others. Some people stink, and while people seem to have no problem hollering obscenities and killing each other, almost none of them would even dare to tell another person that they need deodorant. I feel violated when I have the misfortune to be worn by the smelly man. I must however quietly oblige nevertheless, pretend like nothing happened, and move on to the next man. During sale, the difference between a prostitute and me is that I am only paid for once no matter how many men try me.

Other than that it’s mostly alright. I don’t mind big bellies either, unlike most other shirts nowadays, who want fitter and richer men so that they can see nicer places. The kind of shirts who boast about “100+ thread count”. The plain and grey Wills family isn’t like that though.

I must say I was quite surprised the day I was finally sold. The guy looked quite average, he was 25 at the time, and had earphones plugged in. The unusual bit was that he was alone. I did catch him taking a picture of himself in the trial room, but he didn’t send that to anyone before buying. You could tell, this was a man used to doing things on his own. He was in Chandigarh only for a month, so I journeyed with him to Mumbai soon after.

He mostly wore me for work with a black pair of trousers, but I also remember the odd night he’d pair it with a jeans for a crisp evening. He never ironed me himself, but he likes me because of my dark shade, which is immune to most spills. He loves tea, and has sent at least 4 shirts of lighter shade to the grave with his spills. God rest their threads.

I remember he wore me on his last day to work in Mumbai. I have seen him suffer for two years there, I have felt the stress in his body and the shivers on his skin. It was way too much for anyone his age. There are pictures from that day, and he’s all smiles, thinking that leaving would fix everything. But quitting is like bad ironing; things look better for an instant but the wrinkles reveal themselves shortly later.

Drying on a hanger, I’m looking at him right now from the closet. He looks worn out, defeated and lonely. I wish he looked back at me and remembered the pictures from that last day. There’s no way for me to talk to him, but I wish I could remind him of that day once. I want him to remember how weak he was, and the long climb he accomplished despite a steep fall. I want him to remember his strength and resolve to get better, be better. Most of all, I want to tell him he’s doing good, because he is, and is being too hard on himself.

I think he got it. As for me, I’m old, wrinkled, and looking forward to the next ironing, and the next story.

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