The light in the attic went out when Isaac put on the suit. The electricity was faulty, but it hadn’t happened before, and there had been plenty of chances. Every night for the last two weeks, this had been Isaac’s ritual.
He’d say good night to his parents, lay in bed playing games on his phone, then sneak up to the attic. He’d been stashing all of his thrift store finds in an old camping trunk from when he was younger. Now the trunk was full of everything he could find and afford to keep hidden.
His parents, for all their love and encouragement, wouldn’t understand this. A career in fashion was something his father couldn’t understand now matter how many awkward after dinner “family meetings” Isaac spent explaining it to them. No matter how good his grades were, he couldn’t convince his parents to let him apply to FIT, SCAD, or even an online fashion school. They didn’t see the point.
So his work - his dreams - couldn’t live at the dinner table. They’d have to live up here. In the attic, against the cold seeping through the roof, Isaac opened his trunk and sighed. It was all there, folded and clean and right. Leggings, suit jackets, skirts, trousers, blouses, dresses, deep greens, pure blues, wild and undulating patterns and prints of black and white and plaid and pink. He felt an excitement he didn’t fully understand as he ran hungry hands over the anachronistic clothing. He held up the suit, black and shimmering, like chitin, against the single dangling lightbulb above his head. Isaac remembered the messy handwritten price scribbled on tag.
How could anyone just give you away? He thought as he shrugged away the sweatpants and too-big T-shirt he slept in. Who threw you away? He brought the suit to his grandmother’s sewing machine, forgotten in the attic like everything else, and started to work. His scissors glided through the excess fabric, carving elegant shapes like figure skaters across an ice of his expression. The suit was discovering its new shape, its true shape. Isaac, in the throes of his creativity, scarcely remembered to breathe. Under the steady staccato of the needle the suit became a new bird blooming with bright feathers of new color.
Whoever threw you away, whoever gave you to me, would weep at the sight of you, Isaac thought. I am giving you new life. New purpose. His hands began to tremble. The tireless tik-tik-tik-tik of the sewing machine started to hypnotize him.
It took him a while to notice the needle hammering into his fingertip. His hand must’ve slipped. He jerked it away, tearing the flesh and dotting the machine bed with haphazard sunbursts of blood.
An hour later, it was finished. Isaac put on the new jacket and smiled wide as he ever had. The wardrobe mirror he’d dragged up from his bedroom showed off his handsome handiwork. The suit was transformed. Its shimmering black blended seamlessly with a firework display of color. The materials looked like soulmates as they hanged off his body. Hung. Not hanged. Isaac said, shaking his head.
Then the lightbulb burst, leaving Isaac in the dark. He stepped back from the mirror and felt shards of the bulb break under his slippers, jab into the tender pad of his foot. His finger started to throb from the needle. He could feel his slipper filling with blood. He was never this clumsy. He’d always been so careful sneaking up here, doing his work. He barely made noise apart from the sewing machine.
He stood statue-still, waiting for his parents to thunder up the attic stairs and confront him. They never came. It was deathly quiet. All he could hear was his breath. Then he could hear it. At first he dismissed it as his panic, but he was calm now. He could hear another person breathing, could feel it hot on his neck.
His clothes tightened around his wrists, around his ankles. In the dark he felt the stern hands of someone years older than his constricting him within the newly tailored suit. Without realizing it, Isaac found his eyes stinging with tears. He could feel the air close around him, like a coffin. His vision vanished into the dark of the attic.
His fingers stiffened. This suit was my favorite, Isaac thought. I wrote it down as clear as day that when I go, I’d go in this suit. His own thoughts felt alien...absent...distant. The breathing on his neck left drops of moisture on the blades of his hair.
He could hear someone, more than one person, weeping softly above his head. Now I took that suit and cut it into scraps. The shame was hot in Isaac’s face as the sleeves of the suit pulled him towards the trunk, willing his bloodied fingers into motion.
Tears in his eyes, Isaac dutifully tied the clothes together, one by one, until the rope was long enough to go over the banister.
This suit was the nicest thing I had when the world went cruel. When I had nothing at all, I had this suit. And now you cut it. Isaac wanted to apologize but the rope was tight around his neck. Shouldn’t meddle in a dead man’s things. Isaac wanted to scream as he climbed atop the stool of his sewing machine. His screams disappeared when he kicked it away.
It was raining the day of the funeral. Isaac’s father stared out the window, red-eyed from crying. His mother couldn’t bear to look at the casket. It was a small gathering, given how sudden everything was. The arrangements were simple and made quickly. Isaac would be buried, the wake would be at the house. The hardest decision was, of course, the suit. Despite his love of fashion, the boy left no instructions for his parents. They had no idea what to do with his clothes.