If it hadn’t been for the socks I wouldn’t have bought the trousers. And if I hadn’t bought the trousers I wouldn’t have bought the coat or the sunglasses. So, really, it all started with the trousers because I wasn’t sure about them but once I had gone ahead and bought them there was no going back. I should admit now – the trousers cost me one hundred and ten pounds.
Oh, but once you’re wearing a pair of socks which cost ten pounds, and your feet are feeling spoilt like a billionaire’s houseboat guest couched in sunbeams, you begin to appreciate what you get for one hundred and ten pounds of trouser. And the colour of those trousers…
I saw them across the shop and I’m pretty sure that they saw me straight back. They were resplendent red corduroys, I was a scruff in my usual attire, out of my depth. I shouldn’t have been in the shop but I had wandered in once, unaware, and now visited occasionally, treating it like some kind of art gallery. Looking at and not touching the clothes.
Before I knew what was happening I found myself standing right in front of the trousers. I had no recollection of crossing the room. I ran my finger down their perfect corduroy lines, I looked with my eyes but I also touched with my grubby fingers. I sniffed them with my nose and when I picked them up I listened to the sound they made. They were red but not a bright red – a kind of russetty, burgundy colour, a fine claret couched in sunbeams on a billionaire’s houseboat of my own imagining.
I wore them home, being unable to contain my excitement. Both my head and my wallet felt dizzy, giddy and light. One hundred and ten pounds, I calculated, was only four or five weeks of food. The trousers felt soft against my legs which now shone red – a magnetic beauty such that I could only tell that they were my legs because they were attached to my feet.
A few weeks later I followed up my first purchase with a new coat and a new pair of sunglasses. These subsequent purchases were made out of deference to the trousers because really I could not expect them to find happiness whilst accompanying my usual careless fashions. But I stopped short of buying new footwear – there is no joy in pristine shoes. I carried on with my usual bash-about shoes because I find that shoes are at their best when the leather is lived in like a second skin and the sole is rough and flattened like a hammered-down sentence.
In my new clothes I hid away for a spell, dressing secretly in my expensive socks, coat, sunglasses and, of course, trousers and then posing for the mirror. It was the height of summer and I cocooned myself in perfect tailoring because I knew that being outside could not possibly be as good as this. I played the radio continuously for ten weeks, letting it bring the outside world in.
It was early autumn when I strode out in my sartorial grace, just as the leaves were beginning to fall and litter the ground like crisp-roasted squashes and pumpkins. Everywhere were people in their gardens, on their hands and knees in their best bash-about gardening clothes, picking chillies. The chillies were something else – bright oranges, reds running into greens, bells and whistles, perfect yellows like tiny melons. As though all the plants were Christmas-lit months early. Through all this I moved, resplendent in my trousers, feeling like a ghost in the heavy autumn sun, like a billionaire on his houseboat couched in sunbeams.
Feeling like however heavy-footed I stepped, I would not touch the earth.