There is a hat that I just took out of a box in my living room. Before the box was in my living room, it was in my garage for several years. The hat is a floppy fuzzy white thing, that might be called faux fur although it doesn't raise to the level of believability that "faux" implies. It is a feminine hat that doesn't really fit me, but one I've kept for sentimental reasons. I am trying to remember when I got the hat: I do believe that I remember having it in 2000, when I walked around downtown Portland, Oregon while wearing it, the floppy hat being an embarrassment to her, along with the aikido rolls I was doing through the intersections onto the sidewalk.
The woman who I got the hat from I first met in November of 1996, in Sedona, Arizona, a rangy girl with wild dreadlocks at the time. We were both in our mid-teens then. I had come to Sedona not because of its mythic qualities or scenic beauty, but because a close friend of mine, having reached the age of 18, left home to meet a girl we had both gone to school with, who had moved there. I was bored in community college at the age of 17 and on a whim, decided to follow him. The girl he had gone to meet was 15, in the Sassy demographic and an overall wildcard. She had always been a mystery to me, and still is. It turned out that her and I had actually been born in the same room, in the same house, in a doctor's house in a small town in Washington. I was born in 1979, but she was born a little bit later, on December 8th, 1980, the day that John Lennon was shot. So we found ourselves all together in America's mystic center, although all we did was go to Denny's and I don't remember actually speaking words to hat girl.
When I met her again, two or three years later in Portland (we had managed to recruit several of them back to Portland, before being recruited to Portland became a thing, the dreadlocks were off and she was an infinitely sophisticated well-manicured 19 year old working in a posh make-up store in downtown Portland. I don't know when I got her hat, although I must have got it somehow because it is sitting on my couch now, in the year
They had another friend, a teen model who became my pen-pal and who I never knew if I met then, but who I remember talking to on a big blocky motorola cell phone back in 1996. Through the magic of the internet and social networking, as I was pulling into Chicago on the Empire Builder in the fall of 2014, I found out that she was in Chicago and asked if we could meet. To my surprise, she said that would be great and we met at the Art Institute, with me waiting outside by the big stone lions, and through the further magic of Instagram, Cloud Strife asking me if they had testicles: something that I could not confirm. But I was ushered into the museum and finally met my pen-pal from 18 years ago, who looked exactly like she had then, and who I felt somewhat grubby next to, coming off of 48 hours sitting in one seat on the train. And then after our brief meeting, I was to continue on my way to Brooklyn, to stay with the same friend who I had gone to Sedona to visit, who was living a few blocks from the corner, of Putnam Avenue and Franklin. We had recruited some people to Portland, all those years ago, and to keep the balances, we had to send some people to Brooklyn.
Back in 1999, or maybe 2000, the girl who I got the hat from was living in an apartment building a few blocks from mine. I remember her being just a bit slinky with me: wearing a cheongsam with mobiles on her ceiling, being giggly and what to my innocent self was flirtatious but might have been innocent. I must have been pretty good friends with her to end up with her hat (I still have the hat, I must have got it somehow), and the closest I can figure is I remember buying her ginger ale once when she had a cold. But it was not to be, whatever "it" was: the slightly more worldly older brother of another one of my friends would become her boyfriend, a man that my sister said talked like Alf, but who at the advanced age of 21, had an easy-going manner with women that overly-cerebral me could only hope to match. I don't know when they split up, and I don't know what happened to her, although perhaps I should in case she wants his hat back. I hadn't talked to him for years when I found out, in early 2013, that he had died, indirectly, from using heroin, jumping off of one of Portland's many bridges a three months before another friend of mine would commit suicide the same way, although off a different bridge. It was hard for me to imagine at the time, my memories of him were stuck in the late 1990s, when the only drug we knew about was marijuana.
And all these stories, together, is why when I go through a box, and find a hat, I don't just find a hat, I find a journey, and a history, and twenty years of wandering that may or may not add up to something.