Traditionally, when a guy gets a letter for a varsity sport, he puts it on something. A jacket, usually known as a letterman’s jacket. So I got my letter for a varsity sport, basketball, in the spring of my junior year, and along with the letter they give me a little pamphlet with a form to order a letterman’s jacket or sweater. I guess I must have showed this to my mother, but anyhow, I remember her indicating that she thought the letterman’s jacket was awful expensive though maybe they could afford a letterman’s sweater.
I didn’t want any damn sweater. That’s what guys who lettered on the JV (junior varsity) team got if they were stupid enough to wear their JV letter on anything. And fuck the jacket was like 25 dollars, a good bit of money back in 1963. I knew that much, so later when the old lady asked me if I really, really wanted a letterman’s jacket, I said no because no was the answer she wanted and if I said yes there would be no end of shit about the jacket. Just getting her to sew the letter on the jacket would be a fucking agony.
And maybe in some way I was relieved because I had this feeling that, if I did get a letterman’s jacket, I wasn’t sure I would wear it anyway. Maybe I didn’t want to stand out or something or maybe I didn’t want to be identified with the jocks. Hell, I didn’t know a single guy on the football team. Or maybe people would think I thought I was special if I wore a letterman’s jacket and get the idea that I thought they were all a pack of shit eating idiots.
So I didn’t get a letterman’s jacket and fuck me, if I cared. But years later, I got to thinking that things might have been different. What if I had a father (or even a mother) who said something like: “Damn, you got a varsity letter! Now isn’t that great. Where do we get the jacket? Oh, you have a form here. You’re right….that is a bit of money. But what the hell? We can scrape it together. What do you mean you aren’t sure you will wear it? Sure you will wear it. OK! OK! I see the problem. But it’s a warm jacket right. You can wear it in cold weather. That’s a good reason. Right. When people get cold they wear a jacket. This one will just happen to have a fucking varsity letter on it. Your letter!”
So what, things could have always been different. They could always have been better or even worse for that matter. Maybe I didn’t want a letterman’s jacket. Maybe I wanted a different father. Hell, he simply couldn’t talk like that to me, since he hated me and wanted to kill me, I guess. Who’s going to spend 25 bucks on a letterman’s jacket for a kid you would just as soon kill.
Anyway, by now—if I had got the jacket—it would be long gone, in tatters, I guess, with moths flying out of it or whatever. Just another piece of crap—in what does Yeats call it—the foul rag and bone shop of the heart. I wonder what’s worse. A nearly empty rag and bone shop? Or a nearly full one? Goddamn, with that echo in here I can’t hear myself think.