by Mary Peelen

I like to think of myself as a scientific sort of person, but I was in need of a miracle the day I found those jeans. It’d been a terrible season of disappointment. To keep my spirits up I indulged in shopping, a transitory but reliable thrill. I’d been eyeing this crazy-expensive pair of pants at Rolo in the Castro. Jason the skinny salesclerk with meticulously sculpted hair talked me into them, said they made me look hot. Even as I watched the words fall out of his mouth, I knew he was lying but he did it with such charm and forbearance that I forgave him immediately, handed over my credit card, and I was happy for a minute or two.

The tragedy was my fault, mine entirely. I cut and hemmed those jeans before I washed them. Jason told me they would shrink up—he did—but somehow (Percocet? Xanax?) I forgot until after I did the laundry. My brand-new pants were rendered unwearable, three inches too short, and I’d exhausted my credit through the end of the year at least. It was a minor upset in the scheme of things, of course, but I let this stupid sartorial mishap get under my skin.

I was depressed and mad at myself, so it was a cruel errand that sent me through Union Square that day. I had to walk past about a hundred stores, all the way from Powell Street BART to the corner of Montgomery and Pine. It wasn’t easy. Neuropathy made my feet sting so much I couldn’t possibly relax. With every step, the concrete jarred my bones, which were brittle and edgy with a chalky kind of dryness I’d never known before. My hair was growing back in, but I still had to wear a hat.

I was trying to breathe in sync with my steps. I’d signed up for this cancer yoga thing at the hospital, and they told us to walk in stride with all-that-is. I was being the Buddha or some shit, free from attachment. I didn’t need those jeans.

Beyond the shops and well into the Financial District, head up, shoulders back, focus on the exhale, I was feeling pretty damn selfless when I stopped short because I’d stepped on something. I looked down, and there they were on the sidewalk right in front of me. Just like that, a brand-new pair of jeans, all neatly folded. They still had the tags on them, I swear to God.

There was no hesitation. I knelt right there on the concrete, picked up those pants, and with my arms fully extended, I held up them to the world like some kind of sacred offering. I called out to everyone, to all the passersby: Are these yours? Did you lose something? Sir? Ma’am? But no one claimed them. Bankers with their Starbucks looked down at their phones and scurried by. Nobody answered me. Not a single person even slowed down to take a look. They feared, no doubt, that I was a crazy person or (worse) a religious fanatic.

You might think so, too. If I showed them to you, you’d say they’re just a pair of pants, proof of nothing at all. But I swear to you, dear reader, those jeans fit me perfectly—I didn’t even have to hem them—which I take as evidence that there’s a shred of mercy out there. Or cosmic humor, maybe, replete with pratfalls and pants falling out of the sky.

I got up off my knees, then, and headed south toward the Mission. I managed to walk all the way home to Bernal Heights, a very long stretch. I was feeling a little better, hardly noticed my feet at all.