The Scene: Say it’s your birthday, or if you celebrate it, Christmas. Your extended family has come over to celebrate another year in the life of you/an undead God-Baby and ply you with gifts. It’s an enjoyable event, one filled with laughter and light, and you think it’s all going smoothly until you see your cousin Rick moving towards you from the shadows by the coat pile.
A Brief Profile of Your Cousin Rick: Your cousin Rick is the only son of your mom’s oldest brother (your uncle), who is also named Rick. While Uncle Rick likes Lee Harvey Oswald conspiracy docs and complaining about how the shipping container revolution displaced longshoremen, Cousin Rick prefers to spend his time working on magic tricks and writing Yelp reviews for different Six Flags locations. He owns three Fushigis, each of which has its own nickname (Patrice, The Enforcer, and No-Scope). There’s a decent chance he was just going through the coat pile in search of shiny things (their luster draws him in). He lives más.
The Gift He Hands You, Unwrapped and Dangling Loosely From His Pringles-Smelling Hand: It’s a t-shirt! You say “thank you” and try to end the interaction by taking the shirt and turning away, but then you notice that the front of this shirt features a drawing of several wolves howling at the moon. You notice several more things about this shirt immediately:
Material: The shirt is very, very soft. You’ve heard Cousin Rick complain about his sensitive skin before, and wonder if he bought the shirt with this ailment in mind. If so, it’s a touching gesture, though it also means he likely bought the shirt for himself, then for whatever reason decided to give it to you. At first, there seem to be no holes, but then you notice several small openings in each armpit. Rick says this is “a custom job, for ventilation.”
Color: The shirt itself is a deep-gray, almost black, and the wolf designs are a shade of gray only a few degrees lighter. Above the howling wolves, there’s a rising moon the gray-green color of pond scum. Your cousin claims that, under blacklight, “new and mindblowing designs of exquisite beauty” will make themselves visible. You fear this claim.
Scent: It smells like your cousin’s vape. Don’t think about this too much.
Linework: There are, you think, only three wolves on the t-shirt, but each wolf’s outline is so malformed and cartoonishly curved that you would be forgiven for thinking there were actually four wolves, or two, or just one horrifically distended Akira-wolf. The linework firmly establishes the artist as a disciple of the “1970s airbrushed van” school. You suspect that with repeated wash cycles, the lines will continue to fade until wolf, background, and even wearer will begin to blend into one chaotic miasma: the natural and final expression of the unchained power of the wolf.
The First Time You Wear It: It’s Feb. 10, 2020. After more than a month of procrastinating, you must either do your laundry or cobble together an outfit from the few still-clean items you have. You end up going with compression shorts underneath, no socks, homemade jean shorts from a frat party whose theme you don’t remember ( you don’t really remember the party either) and The Shirt. Huddled amongst your similarly grotesque, similarly procrastinating classmates in BCS lecture, you finally feel the way Cousin Rick must feel every second of every day: totally free.
And you let out a howl.