I can’t say why it slipped past my mother— the chenille V-neck she let me order from the Hot Rod Magazine classifieds was a Playboy Shirt—a shirt for a boy to play in, perhaps she thought, or the girls gathered around that ink-smudged teenaged boy looked wholesome enough in their cardigans & long pleated skirts, not swinging their hips to the Peppermint Twist or the Bunny Hop, better known in Southern Baptist circles as a sin. When it arrived, I carried the package to my room, opened it alone—barging in, my mother said I forbid you to wear that shirt outside this house. The dress code at Country Club Elementary required a collar, & so did the bow tie she made me wear to church—but home was enough. Locked inside the bathroom, I pumped up the sleeves revealing string-bean arms, inspected their reflection, flexed & coaxed bumps to sprout & grow big as muscles that bulged out my dad’s faded green tattoos. Running hands over my chest, I felt my pecs— how my nipples puckered, greeting the fabric with a kiss. I slept in my shirt, only took it off when I dressed for school, laying it face down on my bed where it waited all day for my incarnation. One night around 3:00 a.m. my father’s Cummins diesel engine announced he was home. Goddamns & hells broke loose from the master bedroom, despite Mom trying to quiet him down, shshsh of air brakes between her teeth, his voice revved up above the red line, vibrating my bed. Morning was tense, but quiet. Midafternoon they were at it again— Dad punctuating curses with his trigger finger in her face, Mom yelling & holding her hands over her ears, backing out into the hallway where he grabbed her by the shoulders & shook. I felt it rise beneath my shirt, into my arms & legs— something powerful & ugly as what my father was doing. With arm cocked, I ran screaming Stop! When I got to the tangled yarn of them, I took a swat at him, wimpy as a loose thread. He took a step back, voltage dimming in his electric blue eyes. I turned & ran into my room, hid under the covers—silence filtered by silence—at least accomplished that, I thought, as the shirt dampened around my neck. Soon the heaviness of my father’s frame warped my mattress. I don’t want you to ask me for anything again, he said in a voice too calm. As he stood, my bed sprang back. Justin boots throbbed on tiled floor, down the hallway, until he kicked open the front door. His truck groaned awake, pitch rising as he gunned it, then falling as the load engaged. I prayed never to hear the sound again. I may have slept, I may have stared at my bedroom drapes until the sun lit up the cars & trains straining their fabric tracks. I yanked the cord, watched them race into their shadows. I peeled off my Playboy shirt, holding it at arms length, shaking it like a parent correcting a naughty child for being where it shouldn’t be, for seeing what it shouldn’t see. I’ll never wear you again, I said, opening my bottom dresser drawer. In darkness I slipped out the back door into the alley, found a trash bin, threw in my shirt. Walking away I couldn’t spit the rotting taste out of my mouth, stomach the thought of vile juices soaking into fibers. Some nights now too silent for sleep, I dream of stumbling back of that house, searching feverishly in moonlit alleys, reaching inside trash bins, feeling for the familiar frizz of my shirt until I find it. I carry it home, holding it close to my chest, place it in a washbasin— cool water & delicate detergent. I immerse it, gently agitate the liquid through loose yarn, rinse it, let it air dry. I fill its arms with mine, slip my head through its V-shaped neck, feel its plush interior slide across my skin, lift its body to my lips, whisper: I will never take you off.