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Carol Novack Contact Sheet


Carol Novack


Her Hat

She told herself that the loss of the hat was not important, not a significant event. Well, it was a lavender hat that rounded her face to a soft oval hinting of heart, a hat that mollified the too strong blue of her eyes, and some said, enlightened her recalcitrant smile. She loved it slightly madly for what she imagined it improved, but not for itself. It was only a hat, no longer her hat. Her mother had paid a fortune.

Where did you forsake it, you careless, reckless girl, her mother asked, not really asking, simply telling the child in her flat voice, as always: I told you so, you are not my daughter. Where did you come from?

Turning back to the mirror, applying her too dark red lipstick to her feathered lips, the upper too scarce and needy, Mother always frowned when she looked at herself, as though she wasn’t the person she recognized. Mother had lost parts of babies in her womb, and coming out of it, maybe one, before this one. The girl felt absently an afterthought. Mother added, I knew you’d lose it … just to spite me. You hate me, she told the girl, stamping her feet. But the girl would not cry in visible spaces, that girl.

Who did not say: I left the doll on the hedge while I was playing with the slow boy down the street; left the doll in his bed when the worm between his thighs turned red. Left the hat on someone else’s head.

Who did not say: I left my wedding ring on my lover’s nightstand, or on the beach at three after midnight in the clamping muscles of my vagina. Who mused to herself: maybe I threw it into the sky and it never came back. No, that was the hat. Or perhaps his flighty penis.

I sold your ring, Mother said. I never liked the man, but he knew how to keep his money. A pity you lost him, no surprise. Where’s that hat? You should wear it; your hair’s a mess. Arrange my pillows, turn off the lights. You will inherit all that I have, that I’ve kept: plastic containers and stainless soda pop caps, polyester molds and girdle snaps, your grandmother’s diamonds and pearls … my poor sister’s baby curls.

Turn on the lights. Arrange my pillows. CLOSE MY EYES. Turn on the lights, turn off. My thousands of things glow in the sky. CLOSE ME, please, so I can hold them.

That was that: the loss of everything. She was a girl with a loose brain that flew off its stem, who thought of oceans at midnights when the sky had misplaced the moon, thought of tossing herself in the water when there would be no light to find her self under waves.

Who was a middle-aged woman asking: Where did I put Mother’s ashes? Trying cupboards and closets. No where to be found, oh Mother. All were bare.

Who was a careless, muttering old woman wondering if she had missed something of significance. A passing wonder. No matter the woman, in anyone’s life, a passing trifle.


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