Back in November I was in the Camden Roundhouse watching The Low Anthem play a gig. My leather jacket was on the floor, between my feet, its pockets stretched with various books and accessories. The Low Anthem played their succulent music, like something which drifted out of the still heart of the tornado in the dust bowl, and beer dripped off my fingers onto my jacket below. I didn’t care. It could take it. The band encouraged us to take out our mobile phones and ring the person next to us, connect the lines and then let the static fill the air like drowning butterflies. It was surprisingly heartbreaking: the packed room flooded with the light of a thousand screens and a disjointed warbling which rebounded in from outer space.
By January I am sitting in the kitchen writing at the desk in the corner using a borrowed laptop. The security light, newly installed after the burglary, in the couch of the L between the kitchen and the bedroom isn’t working properly. The sensor reacts to a falling leaf or a farting ant and the patio is engulfed in an explosion of flood lighting. Whoompf, just like a stadium being used for a Reebok advert.
I glance, again, to the window and the neon roars across the bushes making them look super-real, like something back-dropped in a film. In the foreground my leather jacket is folded haphazardly across the back of one of the chairs.
It needs to be buried.
It needs the last rites.
I don’t know about you but I have an avatar in my head; a representation of myself which is my own mental shorthand for, well, for me. My thought patterns super-impose this version of myself into the situations covered by my internal monologue, whether the narrative reflects what is actually happening outside my head or is just a random collection of fantasised thoughts, the maybe and the what ifs, it’s never actually me, just a representation. Do you do this, or am I just crazy?
When I was younger, it was a cartoon drawing: Black doc martin boots, black jeans, black t-shirt, that old grey trenchcoat I used to wear pretending I was a goth John Constantine, long hair, darker than it really is, draped forward across my face, big dark glasses. Pillock. But for a fourteen year old moment it felt cool and that was kind of how I stayed in my head for too long.
At some point, I don’t know when, I, the artificial me, changed. I became less cartoon, less animate, more like a photo dropped in for the moment, briefly filling a space where David should exist. Because this is a photo, it is not a full body image. Instead, I am sitting, turning my neck to look to the camera. I think there is a pint, or maybe a whisky in my hand. Occasionally this disappears. It is sunny in the background. My mouth is open in a half-laugh-smile. I wear, I think, a grey shirt with the top couple of buttons undone and an old black leather jacket.
It is part of me, but now it is dead.
It has, depending on who you ask, been dead for some time, but recently I finally conceded that it was better to put it out its misery. Ratted with holes and faded scuffs, refusing to dry properly when rained heavily upon it is in a similar state to the sheep from which it borrow its skin. And yet it still smells of my life. It still feels alive as I conduct an autopsy and empty the pockets of ticket stubs and pens and scraps of paper with notes and bar names scrawled across, an old book mark, a lighter: all the things of life.
But that’s okay. In December I found a new leather jacket, by which I mean not that I found one in the street, but that I bought one. From a market stall. It’s brown and a different cut, longer and it’s more shiny and stiffer, although that will fade with time. I like it, but I still need the old one. It is hard to say goodbye.
Girls have, in equal measure, either loved or hated that jacket, and even those who ended up hating it, mostly, saw its charm for a little while. For the coat is me. It is infused with my character and growth from the long decade of just twenty to thirty-two and a half. So many drinks, late night buses to who knows where, dropped down the back of pub chairs, the floors of gigs, used as a pillow in someone’s bathtub. At least once I woke up in my old flat, went to buy my paper and in the Saturday drizzle wondered why I wasn’t wearing my coat, became convinced I’d left it in a pub round the back of Wardour Street and eventually found it hanging off the showerhead. It’s a mischievous little beast which likes to get around and into scrapes with little regard for sleep or responsibility. Wearing that coat I am rarely tired; it’s like a jolt of amphetamines direct into my spine. It makes me me.
But as I’ve previously discussed, it is perhaps time to grow up and move into a new decade, a shorter one no doubt, post youth and pre middle age; young manhood, perhaps, or actually as I type this on a Friday night having cried off post-work drinks or a birthday party for a friend of my girlfriend’s because I am crankily tired and have instead gone home to rewrites parts of lost novels, hit the security light with a broom until it fucks off and dies and do my shitting ironing, any pretence at youth is a fallacy that should be shunned.
Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe, he says admiring himself in the mirror, there is one more leather jacket in me before I look like too old to be trying so hard.
Still, the old faithful, shep, my drinking buddy, my saviour, deserves something more, a retirement home of sorts. I could put in on ebay, I think, or gumtree but closer inspection of the holes shows the stuffing rapidly escaping and I just can’t imagine anyone paying money for it. I could give it away on freecycle. I look again at its strange shapeness, the warped form from stuffing an 800 page paperback novel in the inside pocket, two cans of ale and an a-z in the hip pockets. It looks like a tiger has played with it for too long. Ah, I could just abandon it at a bus stop, somewhere random, near the sort of quality pub from which people catch the bus at times when a coat might come in useful. One last glorious run, a lap of honour around the London ale-lines and after that, who knows, a happy life frolicking on a farm somewhere.
Poompf, the security light illuminates the back of the house again, shrouding me in a golden glow and bringing me back into the present, out of my cipher filled monologue imagination.
‘Isn’t that just kind of littering?’ asks my girlfriend, getting, as usual, the best lines.
She’s got a point. Into the rubbish it goes.
But not just yet. Soon. Soon. Just another couple of weeks, who knows when it might be needed again?