Trilby's Hat, short story by James Marchiori at
Andrey Zvyagintsev

Trilby’s Hat

Trilby’s Hat

written by: James Marchiori



Good day to you, my name is Basil Montague. I’m a lonely spirit, a lonely man, or whatever you prefer.
For sure, a free soul, a man of courage, a toxin in the social morality, no bravery, a bohemian, proud of it.
I’m a poet, and that’s why my scathing prelude; probably mine is the continuous research of verse to justify a universe of the multitude, where a multitude is nothing, I’m afraid. Too complex for a single soul, even if made of stanzas and verses.
I laugh when people talk about some laureate poets able to afford a life in poetry; they are fake, or those supposed poets have other providing for their lives, something untold. Poetry is just a virtue that doesn’t match with sordid trade.
In my case, I must confess that my poetry is a small part of my livelihood, but most of my being.
It’s out of the question that I’m poor, poverty of matters, but a richness of soul, an unconventional way of life as I already said.
What I do to live is a scramble of events that put a slice of bread on a bare table every day, it doesn’t matter. The only matter from now on is Trilby.
We are the same arcane page in an everyday diary. I must admit that after Trilby, mine is less mysterious.
The mystery that was embracing me, until that day, was revealed on a misty morning, finally able to remember, finally on track over a fantasy.
My movements are slow, well, I should say I dance on the stairs and corridor to get out, dance because mine are slow-motion movements to achieve a style. I try to be pleasant and to please myself for first. Always insecure, always beaten even before to begin. But now I’m doing it for Trilby as well; I hope she will be impressed by my graceful walk, my shabby elegance. She is so pretty, like a statue, every time I see her, she is posing there in her window for nosey eyes like mine. And yes, I’m not sure Trilby is her name, I call her Trilby, because of the hat she normally wears, Trilby sounds good, and it’s easy with my stammer.
I know she’s there not just for me, or better say, just for my eyes, but I’m sure I’m the man for her. She’s watching from her window, always smiley and statuesque still, the makeup in place, always the same, so perfect and geometric. I never spoke to her, I tried to wave, but she never gets back to me, I think it’s because of her task at work. She works there; it’s a kind of luxury boutique, a place for snobby elderly women. I saw some men accompanying the rich ladies, I’m sure they were enchanted by the beautiful Trilby. They can’t just say a word, or the ladies would be offended, but how to avoid it? Strong-minded men, I thought, not like me, how lucky they were to have the privilege to pass nearby Trilby and look closer at her, they had the right pretext I don’t have. It’s fine, anyway. I’m her favorite, I can feel it.
I saw her one morning months ago; she was there. I think it was the first day, the opening of the shop where she works. She had a nice dress in multiple tones of copper, a short emerald green furry jacket and one of her unmissable Trilby hats. I noticed from that day that she changed her hair often, from blonde to dark, from long to short, and long again. I forgot to say that I met Trilby for the very first time while I was going to Ms. Plummer at the Behan café. I’m always there in the morning, every single day, most of the days in the afternoon as well. It was Ms. Plummer who suggested that probably Trilby was wearing a wig under her hat. I don’t know; I’m not into those ladies’ things, I can feel the power of beauty, describe it and yet being unaware of the ingredients that compose it. Ms. Plummer said she never met Trilby; she didn’t even understand where she works. Ms. Plummer is in love with my poetry, and I think she respects me much more than any other in town; she listens to my descriptions dreamily, her condition on a wheelchair doesn’t allow her to be as free as in the past. Her son gets her at the café every morning; she spends her day at the till talking and laughing with regulars and welcoming new clients. By late afternoon, he comes back to pick her up. From her stronghold behind the desk, I can tell she is a real bandleader. Nothing escapes from her experienced eye.
I love her; she is like a nanny to me; she’s always eager to know about my last poem, finding in me a sad soul. Still, she’s been interested, clever woman, since Trilby entered triumphantly in my life and now our conversations are twenty times juicier than before.
The shop where Trilby works, I’ll better say pose, is in the town square, squeezed in one of that small batch that forms the long multi-colored stream of offers. The only interesting mall in our small town. What I love of the oblong square is the shine of marble pavement, and the large porphyry planters. I love the purple, yellow, and blue flowers that grow in the black peat. One day I stopped nearby and looking at Trilby in her window at arm’s length, I offered her some of that magic bloom. I immediately realized that taking those flowers could represent an offence, so I went to the florist; I asked for a bunch of cheap but impressive flowers. When I realized I had just the money for the drinks at the café, embarrassment grew up. But I can’t avoid my daily appointment; it represents too much for me! The woman at the florist understood, giving me the flowers for free. It wasn’t a fresh and radiant bunch, but fine. She understood because everybody knows me here, empathy. They know the poor poet, the shabby friend in town. I tried to go straight over to Trilby’s window to offer the bouquet, but evil forces of shyness and inadequacy stopped me once again. Where was the romance I coveted for all my life? Prisoner of my distance from the world, my disturbing voices of alert in a constant rampage through my pure and good purpose.
So finally, I gave in. Trilby was smiley in a new dress, her eyes bright through the infinite, proud of beauty, her knee slightly leftover the other in a goddess pose. Why does she never even glance at me? Of course, she’s working. The owner must be a strict one; she never looks at me, but neither at anybody else. Oh, Trilby, if I could whisper my words of love just for a moment, my songs and my praise for you. Probably I would ruin our universe, my glances, and your feelings. Because I know you feel me. I know it so well.
I gave the bunch to Ms. Plummer, who lovingly scolded me for wasting my money. I told her the story, and she smiled at me. She had great news that morning. Apparently, she stated I was shaking like on the day of the graduation exam. Ms. Plummer saw Trilby! I couldn’t believe it! She didn’t say that much. I was eager to know; she kept watching at me with a mischievous smile. She said something I couldn’t hear, something about my being incorrigible; I was confused.
At one point she stated: “Be very careful my dear, I think here we go again, you need help, my dear. Trilby is not for you. Look better at her; she’s not your cup of tea.”
I was speechless. Everyone could say a similar atrocity, I know the evil and malicious out there, but not Ms. Plummer. No, she can’t, she didn’t have to dare. She can’t treat me like that.
“Where did you meet her?” I asked foolishly, my eyes bloodshot, “How did you know she was the right one, Trilby, my Trilby for heaven’s sake!!”–“I didn’t meet her, not even talk with her; I saw her where you said she is always. It was her for sure, the unmistakable hat, the pose, she was wearing a red wig today. I asked Dermot, my son, to drive me in Kenneth Square early this morning, and she was there in the shop.”
Ms. Plummer was lying, Trilby’s shop used to open at the same time as the café, so it was impossible. She was trying to psych me, but why? Envy, jealousy, the old lady considers Trilby too much for me. I never realized what exactly Ms. Plummer was thinking of me. I didn’t expect it from her; she betrayed me, she’s just like the other ones. She considers me a loser, a meaningless wretched. She said that I couldn’t afford a beauty like Trilby.
“You just killed me, Ms. Plummer, I’m so sorry to say that your words just hurt me like darts in the chest. You’re trying to destroy my dream. Why? What did I do to you, apart from being honest, friendly? I’ve always paid my bills. Why I deserve it? Why from you? My consideration and respect for you are the same I would reserve to a mother. Why do you lie to me? Trilby is not at work earlier than you. Her shop opens at the same time as yours.”
“I’m sorry you’re taking the thing this way Basil, I’m just trying to help you, to dissolve your fog and stupor. I’m sorry son, anyway I won’t continue any further. I suggest you go to the shop overnight; I’m not that happy knowing you out at night, but it is necessary. You must, Basil, you must look at her at night, son.”
My stomach was twisted like a bramble’s nest. I felt stupid, deceived and betrayed. I went out of the café straight away. May heaven have mercy of the brutality reserved to me; may the Lord forgive them for violating my enamored heart! I ran over the square puzzled, angered, and hurt. I glanced at her. Damn you Trilby, you and your endless happiness, never a wave, nothing to me. I went home, and I was waiting for dusk.
At midnight I went out alone, the town empty, a ghost town. I was accustomed to loiter at night, but not anymore. I moved fast and determined, and when I arrived at the square, the joke. That horrible joke, that tormenting vision. The shop, the lights off, no one in or outside. Trilby there! Oh no! In the darkened window, still there with her damned hat, statuesque a mannequin.
Trilby was a bloody mannequin!! I felt like I had to faint, and after that nothing, darkness. Then I was shaken like if somebody was pulling me strongly. When I opened my eyes, the day was bright and blinding. The scenario changed in the blink of an eye. I was at the Behan café’s table, and Dermot, Ms. Plummer’s son, was shaking me. The old lady was staring at me smiling, I was confused. Dermot said: “You’ll better go home Basil, my mom said it is more than an hour you’re here sleeping on the table. We have to close now, see you tomorrow, poet.”

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