I lost my hat on my eighteenth birthday. It was a warm April, fierce blue sky, flaming sun, the wind whooshing past the palms searing them like my mother’s sighs.
My hat was a thing of beauty. Woven straw, mellow gold with a midnight blue band wrapped around the edges.
How could I lose it? Where did I misplace it? The mall, the market, the poky ice cream parlour on our block? All year, I scoured the streets. All year, I waited for a miracle to bring it back to me.
Whenever I dream of Dad, which is not every night, I see my hat perched on his head, the wide brim shading his eyes from the glare. He drifts past me, lights a cigarette, strums his guitar, hums a slow tune like he has nowhere else to be.
I travelled to Europe the year I turned twenty. In the pub where I bartended on weekends, I met Stephen, a six-feet-tall Nordic giant with the gentlest smile. When we kissed, I noticed his blue eyes were flecked with gold. With his mouth pressed to mine, I wondered where my hat was, wondered how it was faring in this madly spinning world.
In Prague, I visited so many castles I lost count. I loved walking under sky-high arches, clambering up rickety stairways, gazing at towers stacked with centuries worth of secrets. One evening as I was wandering down a mirrored hallway, a little girl ran past me, her red dress trailing after her like a cape. Her face was flushed. Her voice teetered on the edge of tears.
“I don’t wanna go home,” she yelled, outrunning her harried parents.
“I don’t wanna go home,” she squealed, plucking her hat from her head and flinging it at me like a frisbee.
Vineetha Mokkil is the author of the short story collection,”A Happy Place and Other Stories” (HarperCollins). She was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Award June 2018. Her work has appeared in Jellyfish Review, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Gravel magazine, and Ghost Parachute among other journals.