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by Hannah Fields

Time tells me it’s been eight years since I last saw you, but the loneliness makes those years feel like an eternity. Some days I can’t quite remember what your voice sounds like or how it felt to cover your back on a winter’s day. I’m stuck hanging in place like the memories people fear they will forget. Perhaps that’s why they keep me here among the faded brims of your aging baseball caps — to preserve the man you used to be. We, the small collective of everyday garments you’d wear to and from our home. We, the constant companions accompanying your morning coffee and silent drives along long winding roads. We, used and worn and loved, just like your two weathered hands.

Those days have been over for quite some time now, but I still remember the final moments you shrugged me over your tired shoulders. You hadn’t been yourself, I could tell. You walked slower and coughed louder. Your step lost its spring while December turned colder. Then, one morning, you didn’t come for me. I waited, assuming you needed those rust colored overalls I so envied, but I never saw them either. No, you never came for any of us at all. We glimpsed you now and again, though you were unrecognizable. Frailer and wheelchair bound. I wished to reach my sleeves out for you, but I couldn’t shelter you from this storm. I couldn’t keep you here.

Whispering among ourselves from the safe edges of our brass hooks, we hopefully contemplated when you’d make your return, yet, despite our wishing and longing, it wasn’t meant to be. That much was made clear by the tear stained faces of your family as they passed us by without a second glance. So, they left us alone with our grief as dust gathered along the surface of our frayed stitching, save for the moments we were visited by your granddaughter. Sometimes she would wander in our direction and take me in her hands and lift me to her face, praying that even the slightest trace of your tobacco scent remained.

Eight years and things haven’t ceased changing. Your wife followed you recently into that dark night, taking with her the last remaining signs of life from this, our home. With her absence we, too, feel ourselves fading. We’ve tried to hold on for as long as we can, but that’s a grand task to ask of your memories when there’s no one close to keep them alive. It’s especially hard when we don’t receive visitors anymore. The silence is suffocating and we have no purpose when left alone. However, I hold on for that granddaughter with the big green eyes and the dirty blonde hair. I keep bits of you here for her sake because I know, one day, she’ll come searching for the oversized denim jacket that sometimes makes her cry. And then she’ll take me home, draped over her arms, and into the light.

Hannah Fields is a writer and editor based in Texas, where she works as a senior editor in the Office of the Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University. She has worked on various publications from children’s books to award-winning magazines. You can join her on her blog The Panoramic DynamicTwitter, and Instagram.