International Writers Magazine:
for a hat
mark of individuality in my fathers family was their baseball
caps. Everyone had one: my aunt, my father, my grandfather, my uncles.
Whenever the family was together, they always wore them, indoors,
outdoors, and everywhere except church. They came off at the dinner
table grandmothers rules but would inevitably
go back on their heads before they were back out the door. The hat
was the fashion accessory of the family, and I felt thusly compelled
to wear one.
My mother felt that baseball caps were juvenile, and more than once would
stop me from leaving the house because of "that stupid hat."
I often protested that my father wore hats, or even that he had given
me the particular "stupid hat" to which she was referring, but
her response would still be to take off the stupid hat. Perhaps it was
through the denial by my mother to wear baseball caps that I turned to
hats of a more unusual persuasion. It wouldnt be fair to fully pin
that on her, though, as I romanticised myself into many situations of
grandeur that required a particular hat. By wearing a hat of distinction,
I could inspire the same thoughts in those around me, without needing
to convince them of my greatness as a usually non-popular, somewhat-geeky-but-not-entirely-so
At fifteen, we went to Tarpon Springs, a Florida sponge-fishing community
inhabited by the descendants of Greek fishermen, and I bought a Greek
fishermans hat. It was black, with what I considered a luxurious
red silk-effect interior. I imagined myself as a bearded fisherman, confronting
the sea much like the Old Man and the Sea. I thought of the salt crystals
that would form inside and burst out of the seams as they absorbed more
water, how they would almost rot the integrity of the hat whilst, by their
mere presence, enhance the virility of the wearer.
I wore that hat for two years. I think my mother tacitly approved of it
as it was mark of self-expression (she liked that sort of thing). Its
bizarreness drew comments from my peers not always nice
and my fathers family was too polite to say anything about it. Yet
I kept wearing it. It became less about being the grizzled fisherman,
and more about something that was unique to me.
The hat didnt survive the teenage love affair with the automobile.
I got a car at seventeen a red sports car with T-tops and
I simply, not maliciously, forgot about the hat. I became more known for
owning a red Camaro than I had ever been known for the hat.
When I did come across the hat again, some years later, it had salt crystals
formed in its brim. It was crushed, and browned in places as if from sun
exposure. The crystals did not come from the sea, however, nor the browning
from the sun. No; instead, it came to an ignominious end in the back of
my mothers leaky car boot, where an old battery had been placed
on top of it, crushing it and dripping on it. I must have put the hat
in the trunk, an infamous place for the ruination of things, shortly after
getting my own car. Who knows when the battery arrived. The battery acid,
in reaction to the damp of the water in the boot, slowly ate away at parts
of the hat and formed salt crystals as the residue of its destruction.
The corrosive atmosphere bleached the cheap black fabric, which gave it
a more sun-browned appearance.
I picked it up by one corner and reflected on its falsely-acquired briny
smell and appearance. I thought about what that hat had once signified,
how I would never wear it again, even if it had been given a decent retirement
on a hat rack. I straightened it out, trying to achieve the studied indifference
the shape of the hat had once offered, before placing it in its own black
trash bag, and into the rubbish bin.
Two years later, I would buy another equally atypical hat whilst in England
a greenish-brown fedora that I would wear in the conformist
halls of a rigidly disciplined US military academy. It, too, would meet
its end in the back of a car after two years of steady use, but by the
time that happened, I no longer required a hat to characterize me.
© Ryan Sirmons October
University of Portsmouth - MA Creative Writing
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