by Joe Kapitan
I was wearing a death suit that summer night on the Brooklyn Bridge when some punk (who was high on something) sprang from the shadows and put a gun to my head, reciting his list of demands: the wallet, the watch, the phone. “Hey, and that suit too. Take it off, bitch!” The kid was shaking. The tattooed tears under his left eye glistened in the dim light of the lone flickering streetlight.
I did what he said, handing him everything. He pulled the suit pants and jacket on over his shorts and T-shirt, grinning as he stuffed my valuables into the pockets of the suit. He flipped me off before he disappeared. I waited a few minutes, let my heart rate return to normal, then turned around and walked back home in my underwear and fancy shoes. Nothing much happened on the way because, you know, New York City at 3 a.m. I blended right in.
So the very next day I get a call at the apartment from the NYPD. They found my emptied wallet and my cell phone next to a kid’s body in Brooklyn. The cops think he ended up on the short end of a drug deal gone bad, culminating in a bullet to his forehead, his half-naked corpse left in an alley. I asked them if the kid had teardrop tattoos. They said, “How the hell did you know that?” I had to tell them about the bridge.
I didn’t tell them about the suit, though. That would have been tricky. See, I got it from a buddy who works at a funeral home. Manny thinks it’s a waste that these dead people get all spiffed up just to rot away inside a casket, so whenever there’s a gap between the funeral and the burial, he strips the bodies. “Ashes to ashes, right?” he always says with a laugh. I never really wanted one of Manny’s death suits, but this particular one happened to be my size, and I thought maybe the pinstripes would make me feel like I could become the guy my mom always saw, not the one everyone else did.
It didn’t work. The suit actually did the opposite---it made me hate myself. The pinstripes became little whips, lashing at me with no relief. The suit was shoving me toward the one way out: toward the bridge, at night, with no one around to hear the splash.
I think about the kid sometimes. Sure, he was a drug-addicted hood, but he saved my life and the suit made him pay for his mistake. Where was that suit now? Who was it tormenting, driving toward madness? And how many others, Manny’s cursed suits, were walking the streets of Manhattan or Harlem, parasites slowly destroying host after host?
I think maybe I should have warned the kid, but then again, I can’t be held responsible for the actions of others. And I’m certainly not responsible for their fashion choices.
published 30 March 2016