There are few novels that I would describe as simultaneously weighty and light, serious and funny, complex and straightforward, deep and effervescent. Somehow, Jacket Weather is all of those things.
Mike DeCapite is the kind of writer who makes reading easy without ever compromising beauty of prose. His narrative is told in a series of fragments, but each one is glittering:
I’m seeing this as a plein air novel, DeCapite writes. Written on the fly. Since I quit smoking, a few months after we got together, I’m averse to writing routines. So I write when I feel like it. Sitting on a standpipe. On the train. At the gym. Which is where I am now: downstairs at the Y, across from the pool, watching a swimmer on the other side of the glass. I used to wait here on Sundays so June and I could steal an hour when she got done showing her place. I started carrying a notebook so we wouldn’t lose a moment, since any moment, together or apart, was one of ours. I sit here watching, blank and alive, like a cat. The lights on the pool, a swimmer’s arm, a splash: all you.
DeCapite’s story is stream of conscious, perfect in its dogged resolve to acknowledge imperfections, to experience and record the small moments with the large.
Five a.m., thunder in the dark: two long, soft, satisfying reticulated unrollings of it, and then—complete rain. I lie there listening. There’s a flash of lightning through my eyelids, and then another soft, long roll of thunder, like a bolt of carpet bouncing down heaven’s stairs.
I loved every single moment of Jacket Weather.
I want to feel about the person I’m with—every single moment—the way Mike feels about June.
I want to be in love with the city I inhabit the way Mike is in love with New York City.
I want a life as ordinary and extraordinary as DeCapite’s.
As I’ve been recommending this book to people, I’ve been describing it as what When Harry Met Sally would be if it were a novel instead of a film. It’s a love letter—to eccentricity, to life.
Isn’t the past just the present, minus the uncertainty?
Happiness is just a change in the light.
I guess you spend so much time thinking about something, you’re startled when there’s evidence of it in the world.
There’s no high like when the pain eases off. The color gets dialed back into the world. It’s like when you leave the dentist and you want to talk to every doorman, pet every dog, look at every flower. I had to stop myself from striking up a conversation with the guy beside me on the train. I don’t know why. Nothing’s settled. I’m like a teengager, an unstable substance. I want to make phone calls. But I can’t think of anyone to call except her.
Okay, I’m a person who needs help. But email creates its own anxiety. The minute you send one you’re waiting for a reply. Whoever it is. Let alone the person controlling your air supply. Email, texting, Facebook, WhatsApp and all the other forms of messaging—this is another thing they’ve sold us now: the anxiety of connection.
Drowning in air. In the past hour alone, there’s been sixty separate minutes when she hasn’t called or written me back.
[visiting a Walgreens in Cleveland] The only thing comparable in my life in New York is Bed Bath & Beyond. You go in there for razors and you come out a couple hours and $200 later with no memory of how you got there, or what else you were involved with in your life at that point—or your family or the town you grew up in, or your sexuality, or your name. You’re starting from right now, with two big plastic bags. Back at Walgreens, the lights are buzzing, you go up and down these aisles: you feel really alone among the people who consume this stuff. And you get a sense of the predatory powers amassed above you. Obviously if they’re trying to sell you microwavable Mac & Cheese they mean you harm, right?