Sheetman finds it hard to keep roommates. They never understand why he won’t wear clothes like everybody else. They dislike the shuffling gait, the dustbusting train, the impenetrable blossomlike folds. In public, though, it’s a different story. People on sidewalks and passing busses and clattering motorbikes that make their own onomatopoeias—brattahbrattahbrattah—all mistake Sheetman for a foreign dignitary from a country that they are embarrassed they cannot name. Cashiers think he is a holy man, although that assessment is less frequent on the days he wears the Garfields or the B. Klibens or the PJ Sparkles. Sometimes the smarter school kids, the ones who have figured him out, will bombard him gleefully from over the fence with lunchbag missiles: apples are bad, applesauce is worse. But Sheetman doesn’t care. The sheets make him feel comfortable. Airy. Award-winning. Elect. In touch with the garments of bygone civilizations from which he likes to imagine he is descended. In sheets he thinks himself regal, action-heroic, capable of sweeping poetic gestures, prepared at every moment to issue a cliffside oration on metaphysics, just a matador-move away from sudden and debonair urination.
But when the breeze picks up and Sheetman finds himself inflating like a spinnaker, he rises to his tiptoes and lets his body exult in the sorcerous promise of flight. Sometimes this is joyous; sometimes it is so impossibly lonely it feels like it will break his bones. These are the times he remembers what it was like when his sheets were warmed by the body of another. They would move together through space, two bodies caught in the embrangle of hot cotton, swelling into each other, groping for the future in their bodies the way a potter feels the bowl take shape in his hand. Then Sheetman thinks about why she left. About the silence of his days and nights. About the miseries of the untouched. This, Sheetman realizes, is what he misses most of all: living contact. He wishes passionately that he could be a jostler or a fight-picker or maybe the world’s gentlest mugger, just for the body heat. But he is not any of these things. He is only Sheetman. So—for the first time ever—he shrugs off his beloved garment and stands there, naked as a shucked oyster, and waits for the sirens, the onrushing cops and the painful things they will do to his arms, the cool salty taste of asphalt, while thinking giddily to himself: here they come, here they come, here come the hands.