He had a phobia of belts and, because of this, he never wore one. He had great friends who, every Christmas and for his birthdays, would send him belts of various sizes, colors. It was their inside joke.
“But your pants never fit.” “Just give one a try” “A belt would help.”
He had a whole closet of belts. Some hung on racks and others were pilled on the floor. He collected and stored them, thanked his friends for their gifts, but he never wore them.
At a party, during one of the many belt-centric conversations his friends shared with him, suspenders were suggested as an alternative.
“You do need something.” “You’re living dangerously.” “We’re just looking out for your co-workers.”
And after the laugh was shared and after sleeping on it, he actually did go to the department store. He stood in the suspender aisle, thumbing through the designs but, finding them too belt-like, he left them un-bought. He told his friends, at the next party, that they looked too 90s, too powerbroker. They laughed at his absurdity.
Then one night, after the wine had flowed too swiftly, and he was asked by the collected partygoers to “seriously” and “for real” explain his phobia, he bowed in what they thought was mock embarrassment.
He explained, “It’s not the belts, not the belts at all. It’s when you fold them over, fold them in half. And bring your hands together then snap them apart. It’s the sound that they make when you snap their halves together.”
And his friends were drunk and looked at each other sideways, the puzzlement plain on their faces. And he was bent almost double now, drunk, yes, but mostly this: he was feeling again, vivid and present, that which used to come, in that long ago, after the snapping of the belts.
“And the bite of the buckle. The bite of the buckle, too.”