By Fred Reed
Morocco – One of the many advantages of growing old is that you have more time to remember. Providing you haven’t forgotten most of what’s worth remembering. But I digress, as I often do. Digression, like thinking you remember something, is after all one of those qualities that comes easily to the old and the ageing.
What I wanted to say is that I have a favourite shirt. A pseudo work-shirt it is, of the kind affected by some Canadians that want to pass as woodsmen or construction workers. Back then wool red and black checked shirts were obligatory dress for anyone who fancied himself (dare I say ‘herself’?) a friend of the proletariat and wanted to be seen by real woodsmen or construction workers as one of them.
I confess. I wore one. But as soon as the real deal looked at my hands, whose most strenuous labours had been those of wielding cutting shears in a garment shop, it was all said real deal could do not to sneer. Or worse yet, look right through you.
That period came and went, the period of large vocal demonstrations in support of meritorious issues, the workers’ cause, the heroic excess of Québec nationalism before it came down with a bad case of identitarianism, banning face coverings except when it was medically imperative to require face coverings. (“Not the same thing!” barked the Québec premier in response to an impertinent journalist, if I recall correctly.)
But that’s not really what I wanted to say about my gray shirt, a cotton flannel checked shirt made in Pakistan that has been my faithful companion for perhaps 10 years, maybe more. I got it as a gift from a dear friend, and I could do not less than be as faithful to him via the shirt.
My wife and life companion of lo these many years and I live now in Morocco, in the very temperate city of Agadir on the Atlantic. We get some warm days, and a few very hot days, but mostly it’s cool and breezy, and when the fog rolls in off the Ocean late in the afternoon, or early in the morning, it’s downright chilly.
The thing about my shirt, though, is that I don’t really wear it, but use it instead as a cape or a light blanket when I take my mid-afternoon nap. There’s something just right about the flannel, its smooth texture and softness, as well as the satiny lining, that make it a near-sensual experience when I drape it over my shoulders.
And on really chilly afternoons, I lay it over myself in such a way that it reaches my knees. Ah, how delicious is that sleep; how thronged with bizarre and vivid dreams that in many cases incorporate the beeping of my telephone alarm sounding all too soon.
Of course, the best thing about my shirt is that it reminds my of my distant friend, who probably knew not what he had wrought when he gave it to me.
Or maybe he did.