Mr. Border entered The Chapeau Shoppe on Park and discovered the sign above the door hadn’t been lying about the thousands of hats to choose from. Every inch of every wall and much of the floor space was covered. Down, straw, hunting caps, top hats, cowboys. Mr. Border turned in place — fezzes, bonnets, a melee of bowlers — until he noticed a woman standing behind the counter, staring in his direction. He stopped, bent down, untied his shoes and tied them again. The woman was much younger than he and, he guessed, probably called Jessica.
“Those over there are nice,” Jessica said, waving a hand at a rack of multi-coloured berets.
“It’s for my wife,” Mr. Border said, standing up. He noticed first her hair, which was long and blonde and looked unwashed. She was chewing both the hair and gum at the same time.
“Birthday?” Jessica asked.
Mr. Border paused. “She’s shaved her head.”
This was something of a confession. The head shaving had been Mr. Border’s breaking point. All year he’d been coming home to find something else in his house, in his life, changed. She had started with the wallpaper — paisley stripes out, floral print in, even though they’d had that wallpaper since they were first married fifteen years ago — and moved on from there. Cutlery, table cloths, base boards. You name it.
“Cancer?” Jessica asked.
“I don’t think so.”
“She’s fine,” Mr. Border said, finally. “She shaved her head is all.” Then, after another pause, “Lots of women do it.”
Mr. Border, most of all, worried what the head shaving said about him: was he somehow less masculine if his wife appeared less feminine? He guessed so. He, also, worried what the worrying said about him. In the past day he’d decided that he was once weak like
napkins. Now, he thought, he was weak like jelly.
“So why are you buying her a hat?” Jessica continued, tying her hair into a bun. “Maybe she doesn’t want a hat.”
“She doesn’t have one,” Mr. Border said.
“Maybe because she doesn’t want one.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be selling —”
Jessica shook her head and looked away, already exasperated. Did she know? Could she tell he had left his wife the afternoon before? That he had spent the night in a motel on the highway? That he had specifically asked for a room with a kitchenette to maintain some sort of normalcy, but despite all ate both dinner and breakfast at McDonald’s? That he was here, in the Shoppe, to purchase a peace offering?
Mr. Border considered leaving, then strolled to a rack of men’s toques.
“I’d want one,” he said, fingering a fine grey, but overly expensive
cotton cap. “What do you think?” he said, trying it on, looking to
the counter for approval.
But Jessica was gone. Mr. Border himself was bald.
Published On: February 14, 2008
Permanent Location: http://www.forgetmagazine.com/080214o.htm