Metamorphosis, through jpegs and wool

Design by Helen Huynh

My little sister marks her territory with soup stains and watercolors. I know this because my father always sends me pictures of her baptizing my old clothes. The most recent update: gap-toothed smile, wispy hair escaping pigtails, and a brown wool knit I always found too itchy. I remember hating that sweater. I remember how it kept me warm. I remember my mother knit it herself so I always folded it with care before shoving it to the back of the closet. If these memories are so prickly, why the syrupy longing for the hug of that cloth? Perhaps it emerged from where the seams of my clothes began stretching and splitting, the way mushrooms bloom through cracks in bark. Ovid said that what exists between exile and death is metamorphosis. I think that’s a little dramatic for brown knit sweaters. But whenever I get these pictures, a thousand miles from home, his words itch like a reminder, like wool—the ordinary revelation that I have grown, that I have sentenced that sweater to somewhere between the death of loose fabric and the life of a stranger filling the stitches. And yet even as I wallow in nostalgia, as my thumbs halt over the keyboard, I do not feel the drape of viscose-polyester blend over my shoulders. That’s how it must go. The missing of this sweater will inevitably take form later, blossoms of soup stains and watercolor; for now, it keeps me warm.

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