My friend David, to whom I gave the shirt, tells the story along these lines: "I told Steven I wanted his shirt and I badgered and badgered him until he agreed to let me try it on and then I pleaded and cajoled and bullied him into giving it to me." He provides various elaborations here, and shirt-grabbing gestures. It's not a bad story, although it's not how I would tell it.
The shirt is from my formerly vast collection of vintage shirts, most of which I gave away when I conceded I'd most likely never fit comfortably into a men's size medium again, which most of them were. Some of these shirts were amazing, having been purchased at many yard sales and flea markets and vintage clothing stores in the 70s when a shirt from the 50s wasn't all that old and you could find Hawaians and bowling shirts and atomic prints and black nubbly rayon and grey-orange houndstooth for 50 cents or a dollar.
The shirt from which I was divested on Friday is made of sea island cotton, with an official sea island cotton label. A second label is from a cruise shop in Jamaica. The background color is white. The print is in the orange and turquoise of Howard Johnsons. The print includes clock faces (set to cocktail hour!), and cocktail glasses perspectived from below (which makes them round, echoing the clock faces). The cocktail glasses, along their bottoms, have the names of various liqueurs printed on them (Courvoisier, Pernod, etc.).
Yes, it sounds fabulous. And, in theory, it is. But it never worked for me, despite the wondrous texture of sea island cotton. I put in on last Friday and once again thought that it just wasn't the shirt for me. I wore it to the Eagle anyway. Which I soon regretted, because it was not only wrong for me but wrong for the Eagle.
But David, on seeing me, said with enormous enthusiasm that it was a great shirt I was wearing. I replied, without a second's pause, "Do you want it?" He gave me a look as if to determine whether I was serious (not everybody knows that I spend a good part of my life finding just the right homes for the odd things I accumulate), so I went on: "I'm not kidding. Do you want it?" He asked to try it on, so I took it off and handed it to him. He tried to get me to wear his shirt in exchange, but I wouldn't. I just stood around shirtless while he walked around the bar and went off to check himself in the bathroom mirror. He returned about 15 minutes later and said it needed a straw hat, which it does. He tried again to negotiate a shirt exchange but I said no, I'll just wash and iron the shirt and keep it in my car until I next see you. He said he didn't need me to do that so I told him if he were still in the bar when I left I'd give it to him then as who would see me walking to my car and driving home anyway?
Periodically, throughout the evening, he would borrow the shirt again.
We both stayed until quite late and then, outside the front door of the bar, I took off my shirt and handed it to him. At which point a couple of friends of ours, leaving the bar, joined us and there we stood for a long while, on a street with lots of late-night traffic, me shirtless.
Then, half-naked, I walked to my car and drove home, trying to replay in my head just how I found myself in this position. There could be so many stories to explain this, but this is the true one.