This is the English version of The Man with The Hat. Since I wrote this, still in London, many of my English speaker friends have asked about the story, especially because they heard the original tale (in which I'm a character as well, of course :p). So, after asking my cousin Iona for some help reviewing everything, I finally managed to translate the text to English. My special thanks to her, and my best wishes for her birthday, which happened this Wednesday (and I was so busy I didn't have time to send her a message x_x), which means that this story is here in commemoration for her birthday! :) Happy birthday to you, cousin! Please forgive me for being such a forgetful person and thank you very much for all the help! Well, I'll let you read it now... Hope you like it!
All quotes are from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Lewis Carroll).
To read the Portuguese version of this story, click here: Versão em Português.
Catching the train during the morning was always a battle against sleep. When you added a night spent awake in front of the computer, the situation would get absolutely unbearable. But she always had hated sleeping on trains or any other means of public transport and, on that morning, the rule still counted as a testament to her strong will.
That didn't stop, of course, her body of reacting in the opposite way, and it was in one of the many moments in which her eyes snapped opened after a short nap that she saw him.
He was in the other carriage, the one ahead of hers, two glass doors and her own reflection away. Standing in spite of all the empty seats around him, he was leaning on a chair and reading the newspaper like someone who, despite doing it every day, still could put some interest in the act
But there was something... Strange about it.
‘What Day of the month is it?’ (p.88)
Blinking in confusion, she still wondered for a moment where had that thought come from. It was a guy reading the paper. What was wrong about it? What could possibly be unusual about that?
But, disobediently, her eyes remained on that spot even when the movement of the train, for a few seconds, made him disappear from sight. She waited until both carriages were aligned again and then, without any apparent reason, she tried again to see him behind the reflections, from the light and the glass itself, and the people around him. And she tried to observe every possible detail on his person.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!How I Wonder what you’re at!” (p. 91)
There he was. A black long coat covering his body and he wore leather gloves of the same colour on both hands, it was possible to see them against the newspaper. A red scarf draped itself around his neck in a very elegant fashion. Short beard on the face and curly hair - dark brown, maybe? - falling around the base of the neck here and there. But of his face, she could see nothing else.
Because he wore a hat.
‘The Dormouse is asleep again.’ (p.90)
There was nothing special about this item - it was also black -, and nothing peculiar about the way he wore it. The flaps had been placed in such a carefully careless way that managed to curiously hide most of his face.
Or, more specifically, his eyes.
It was strange how having his eyes covered could hide so well a person's intentions, she thought while stopping a yawn so stubbornly that her own eyes watered while still watching the person on the other wagon. And she wondered, while the train shook, if there was some kind of reason behind that.
‘Have you guessed the riddle yet?’ (p. 90)
Maybe you just don't want to let anybody in, passed through her sleepy mind in a way crossed between challenge and stubborn perkiness, and she blinked the tears away from her eyes while, again, the carriage moved to the left, moving the man with the hat slowly within...
And in that fraction of a second before he disappeared again, she could swear she saw him looking away from the paper to stare at something directly ahead of him...
‘Who’s making personal remarks now?’ (p.94)
Without noticing, her eyes opened wide to the glass doors, and a surprised breath was sucked inside, just a weak noise underneath the sound of the train moving slowly, bit by bit. An electronic announcement informed that it was approaching the station, but she was too busy waiting for him to show up again.
And then, after another infinite moment, there he was, calmly folding his paper and putting it inside the long coat. With the smile never leaving his lips, a gloved hand fixed the hat, and he looked at her again, and brought a finger to his lips in a gest for silence.
Then he turned to the door and, with a few steps, in spite of the train still on its last vestiges of movement before stopping and the people standing up, he disappeared in front of her eyes.
‘Have you guessed the riddle yet?’
Around her, everybody was standing up and waiting for the doors to open so they could get off the train. She gasped and grabbed her bag and gloves, standing up as well and walking to the closest door. Still another whole minute passed before the doors finally opened and she stepped onto the platform in order to look around, breath visible as a weak cloud of steam on that winter morning.
‘Have you guessed the riddle yet?’
Dozens of people were walking in a hurry towards the exit, none of them wearing a black hat. A mother was trying to soothe a wailing baby and an old man walked slowly with his cane, being cut through by a group of laughing teenagers.
But not a sign of the man with the hat.
Maybe she just had missed him in the middle of the crowd, she thought while forcing herself to walk a few steps. Maybe everything had been a trick of her tired mind. Maybe she should have had more sleep the night before. Maybe none of that had really happened.
Maybe she had never seen the eyes of the stranger under the hat.
A low chuckle sounded close to her ear, and made a shiver run through her neck, just before the voice whispering:
"Maybe not... Or maybe yes...” - her eyes were wide and she could feel her heartbeat quickening in such a way that it was surprising (and to be clichéd) that her heart didn’t jump right out of her throat. "We'll see each other later, miss... Maybe you can guess the riddle.”
And, of course, the moment she looked behind her there was no one to be seen.
(Originalmente postado no Vegetando em 20/5/2011).