“Nashville Shirt” by Josh Olsen

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I bought a western shirt in Nashville
I now refer to as my “Nashville shirt,”
because it’s so resplendently ugly
it should only be worn in Nashville,
but I’ve taken to wearing it in Detroit,
because Detroit can appreciate
an ugly shirt, too.

Our last night in Nashville,
outside the hotel,
there was a highly intoxicated woman
in an NSYNC t-shirt.
“I ain’t got no shame,”
she was saying to the doorman.
“I like to party.”
The next morning,
we saw her at the hotel
continental breakfast,
clearly drunk from the night before,
and still in her NSYNC t-shirt,
but silent now,
and stuffing her mouth
with scrambled eggs.

On the drive home,
from Nashville to Detroit,
we paused at a truck stop
in Lebanon Junction, Kentucky,
where I saw a t-shirt that read
I’VE BEEN HAULIN’
SINCE YOU’VE BEEN CRAWLIN’,
and I desperately wanted to buy it,
but didn’t feel like I earned it,
having never been a long-haul trucker,
just an adjunct writing instructor
turned academic librarian
who drives 140 miles per day
to work and back.

My first day back to work,
at a library in Flint, Michigan,
I proudly wore my Nashville shirt,
but no one commented
or asked about it,
good or bad,
which made me think
it was probably even more ugly
than I originally thought.

Josh Olsen is a librarian in Flint, Michigan. He’s the author of two books, Six Months and Such a Good Boy, and the co-creator of Gimmick Press.

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