Coat

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Notes: Rent obviously does not belong to me and I am making no profit from this story. This fic is based off of the film version, as I have never seen the actual musical.
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The coat hangs on a peg on the back of the bedroom door.

In an apartment like this, in a rathole like this, there is no coat rack. Maybe there could have been, maybe the squalor is voluntary; the man who lived there had enough to eat. He had some nice, comfortable furniture. Maybe there's a reason that he didn't pay the heating bill, let it wait too long until the heat was turned off and the entire apartment became like a refrigerator at night, preserving him, preserving.

Preserving memories. In the cold clear air, maybe he could picture more sharply the Old Days, not the Good Old Days, because there have never really been any Good Old Days, just Old Days that were sometimes Good. Some days, not many, just few enough to make each one a treasured, precious jewel. Amazing how exciting it can be to have a single day where your stomach is never empty. Little pleasures like that can get taken for granted in a room with heat.

That's why the coat hangs on the bedroom door; the apartment is too cold. The man who lived here must not have wanted to travel all the way across the apartment to get his coat. He must have worn it all the time, even indoors, and taken it off only to go to bed.

The coat certainly looks worn. It's a long, dark brown affair, and as tattered and worn in as old friends who have nothing left but each other. Rips and rugged edges, missing buttons and coffee stains, how long has this jacket lasted? Was it worn, day-in and day-out, because it had sentimental value? Perhaps not. Perhaps every man needs a warm coat, for the times when he is very cold.

If you look hard at the coat, you can picture cocoa-brown hands, rough with age and care and too much disappointed idealism, large hands, capable of caring and holding up the world and holding a dying lover in a hospital bed. Large hands, too care-worn for that lover to have survived. You can picture them, slipping into the pockets, knuckles nestling against the fabric, leeching body heat back and forth, seeking some unknown comfort while hiding from the bitter chill winds.

If you think about those hands, perhaps you can picture them younger, with fewer lines and fewer cracks and blisters that come from too much cold. Perhaps you can picture them surrounded by two smaller hands, the color of dark honey, hands that bring these dark, weary hands to soft lips, and gently kiss the fingertips. Perhaps you can imagine the way these dark hands would stand out against paler flesh, the way the thumb would look tracing the line of a rib. Can you see how gently the hands travel over this body, like handling a sacred artifact? Can you see the guilty pleasure in it of taking one's time, when the owner of those hands knows how limited time truly is? How gentle and soft, how delicate the caresses.

Look at the coat, see how large it is? A man could fit in that coat with room to spare. A man could easily fit in that coat with room enough to pull a smaller body inside it, pressed flush against him, back to chest. If you look at how large that coat is, you can see a long winter night stretching out, and two bodies beneath it, and the warmth leeched back and forth from body to body, comforting each other.

It is amazing how the lack of something is made less when there is someone to share it with. When there is no heat, two bodies can stand the cold together much better than one. If you can see those two huddled in the cold apartment, then you'll see how the larger body drapes over the smaller like a coat, and how the coat drapes over them both. They are both protected, warmed by each other.

A coat alone is always cold; it is the body heat of the person inside it that first warms it, and in turn allows it to provide warmth.

This coat hangs alone on the back of the bedroom door. No one is inside it now. It simply hangs like a mute observer, staring mournfully at the cold figure in the large bed. The sheets cover the man like snow, like cold, white drifts piled softly onto a grave. The man will never be warm again, and neither will the coat.

For a brief moment, the coat was filled with the warmth of two bodies. And then, for a long time, too long, there was only one.

And now, at the end, it will only evermore be cold.

- THE END -