¿Como se dice?

Sep 4, 2003

I’m an avid reader of Barbara Wallraff’s Word Fugitives column in the Atlantic, and I think I finally have a situation to submit (a word fugitive is a newly created word to describe something rare or common in our lives that doesn’t seem to have an apt phrase). It happened like this:

gapshorts.jpg I noticed last weekend when I pulled my navy blue Gap shorts out of the dryer that they felt different, felt more familiar. Same thing happened today when I took them from the dryer and put them on. The feeling of the fabric took me back to college.

One of the summers during which I served as orientation advisor at John Carroll University, a group of us – Mike Sacco, Bridget McGuinness, Joe Cimperman and Colleen Kearney – went shopping at Severance Mall (since demolished to make way for a busy collection of big-box retailers). In the mall was Gap, a store I hadn’t ever shopped in before. Sacco and I found the sale rack and each bought a few pairs of shorts. One of mine was navy blue, and I wore that pair of shorts until it was tattered and torn, and the memory of that fabric is one of sensuality.

I’m still buying my shorts from the Gap sale rack. This current navy blue pair was always a tad too baggy, and had a sheen that just didn’t seem to match my t-shirts and Aloha shirts. Until this week. I have these shorts on now, and they feel so good I may sleep in them tonight.

So what is this? Think of the inspiring movie of this summer Seabiscuit, or The Black Stallion, and the sequences of scenes over which those horses are tamed. Think of your boyhood baseball mitt or your La-Z-Boy that might still be in your den.

Some things we love new. A season-old ski jacket doesn’t have the right stiffness or shine to match the brilliance of the snowy slopes. New-model cars have that wonderful smell that lasts only so short a time (hey, maybe that’s another opportunity for a word fugitive”).

What is this process of something new becoming something, well, not older or less but really something more? Last week, these navy blue Gap shorts were just another folded pair of shorts among a dozen other folder pair of shorts in my lower right dresser drawer. Tonight, these shorts are attached to a good memory, and I’m now attached to a tailored piece of blue cloth?

Alas. The phrase “broken in” seems to answer my search. Or does it? What do you think?

Anton Zuiker

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