Thrift Store Stories by Leighton Schreyer

View of person wearing sweatpants looking down at their feet

These are the sweatpants I wore; when I tried to end my life; when I laid in the hospital bed, arms sliced open, revealing the truths I’d buried too deep for too long, throwing back the curtains of a picture perfect life to reveal the mess backstage, only for those curtains to be frantically, furiously drawn back together again, secrets tucked away again, futures preordained again, lives put on display again, roles cast, steps rehearsed, lines recited, again—I’m good, thanks, how are you?; when my parents filed for divorce, my mom stoic, my dad sobbing, her heart healing, his breaking; when, I blew out sixteen candles on my birthday cake, not in one breath or two, but three, lungs still sleeping, only just rousing, yawning, stretching, warming up for another long day of work, of short, shallow exhales wedged between deep, greedy inhales, of always wanting more, always needing more, always wishing for more, and of those wishes remaining unfulfilled, until I blew out twenty candles in a single, steady, savoring breath, that is; when I packed my life in battered boxes—books and binders and office supplies in one, all matching in color, all neatly labelled, fairy string lights, fun throw pillows, crisp sheets, and a cozy comforter in another, a third reserved for the mismatched crockery and cookware collected over the years, the half-empty toilet-bowl cleaner and extra bottle of disinfectant my mom, ever motherly, insisted I take, and the whole shebang of Command hooks and hangers, clips and studs, putty and tape and strips of all sizes, the kind that don’t rip paint off the wall, residence policy—and moved out, went to university, started adulting, as some would say; when, two years later, I crawled out of bed, body aching, virginity lost, thinking that, surely, sex was meant to feel better than it had, wondering why I felt nothing while my partner panted and pleaded and pawed at my body, barely able to reign in his desire, how it was possible for someone to love my body so fiercely when it felt so foreign, so foul, so fallacious to me; when the closet door creaked open and I slammed it shut, again; when a virus declared war with the world; when I interviewed for medical school, virtually of course, costumed from the waist up, face painted, hair styled, shirt collar ironed, chest weighed down by a glamorous gold-chain necklace and the pressure of a lifetime’s worth of dreams come true, unabashedly homely from the waist down; when I tried my hand at baking, mashing bananas, cracking eggs, measuring flour and sugar and butter and salt, throwing chocolate chips into the batter, batter into the bread pan, bread pan into the oven, a success, really, until I set the dish towel on fire and instinctually, irrationally, slapped the towel against my thighs, burning my foolishness into the fabric, not obviously, not explicitly, but it’s there if you look for it, like so many other things in life, right there under our eyes, waiting to be seen, a small hole, see here, just above the left knee where the fabric is fraying; when I decided to live my life, the secrets too heavy to keep carrying, too beautiful to keep hiding, too real to keep denying, making it impossible to do anything but come out to my family, to introduce them to their son, not daughter, their brother, not sister, to this dazzling, daring, debatably crazy, definitively quirky, undeniably queer person I am; when I went shopping for new clothes, hoodie pulled over head, eyes down, shoulders slouched, body furled in on itself, as I filled my cart with jeans and khakis, crewnecks, button-downs, sweatshirts, and sweaters, a handful, literally a handful, of boxer briefs, grabbed hastily while no one was watching, and, most importantly, a new pair of sweatpants to bid these old ones goodbye. They’re yours now, these sweatpants. Enjoy them.

Meet the Contributor

Leighton schreyerLeighton Schreyer is a medical student at the University of Toronto and Junior Fellow at Massey College, who is passionate about exploring the intersection of health, art, and the humanities. Through his own writing practice, Leighton seeks to shed light on hidden systems of oppression and challenge the status quo, empowering others to critically reflect on the biases and assumptions that shape our world. They strive to see the unseen and hear the unheard, to make the invisible visible and tell the untold. An emerging writer and passionate activist, Leighton turns to stories as a tool for connection and healing.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Quinn Dombrowski

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