On a cold night in New York City, Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes meets J. Peterman, the swarthy, hyperbolic Indiana Jones-like proprietor of the J. Peterman Catalog, a purveyor of fine products like the urban sombrero and the Himalayan walking shoe. The catalog uses Hemmingway-esque narratives to tell stories of clothes’ conception. On a similarly cold night this past December, a mysterious package at my door got me thinking: What if J. Peterman wrote for Nephews?
It was a rainy Thursday evening just before Christmas. My eyes sore and bank account low from online gift-shopping excursions turned self-shopping excursions; I had burned the candle long into the night before, tracking lavish packages from exotic lands. ASOS Shipping Notification: Your package has been dispatched. Exit Scan: Barnsley, United Kingdom. The intrepid parcel carrier will not be hindered by the winter weather—the metallic gold suit will arrive on time.
As I climb the steps to my third-story walk-up, I think only of queuing up Iron Chef America and collapsing into my bed. The day was unforgiving, the man ruthless, the coffee shop out of almond milk. It would take Alton Brown himself to erase the day.
I make the final step before my door and glimpse a white box just at the threshold, the corner sporting a serifed N. Could it be? I pull the box into the apartment quickly; the chill from the stairwell chases me inside.
Quietly, I lay out the package on my desk. New York City? I think to myself. No. Too good to be true. I bust the taped seams with the point of my imported artisan copper wine key. Beneath the tissue, beneath the brand card of fine, recycled paper, I see it—the Sweatshirt. Its French terry in the creamiest shade of gray just kissed by heather, its neck as beautifully unfinished as a bald man’s sideburns, its raglan sleeves and ribbed cuffs reminiscent of rough nights spent trying to get YouTube videos of Stephen Colbert to load without error.
I bring it to my nose and inhale the sweetness of its perfectly crafted, buttery soft fabric. I slip it over my shoulders and let the sleeves envelop my arms.
I hear a voice behind me.
Is that my new Nephews Sweatshirt?
It’s the voice the man known, in this house, as “Boo.”
Oh, this? I say, realizing I have no intention of surrendering the Sweatshirt. This is mine.
Tonight, there will be a disagreement of ownership.
- As told by Emily McCrary
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