So, I just wrote a story (essay) about a hat for the Iowa Writers Workshop I’m participating in. The piece is part of the welcome week activities in which we were supposed to write about an object of wonder. Here’s what I wrote:
The baseball cap sits atop the plastic pencil drawer on my desk, just to the right of the computer screen, silent and unobtrusive as a hat usually is, yet loud and boastful with its simple message. The hat — it’s black, my favorite color — includes one six-letter word written across its face. All caps in a clean, traditional Courier font.
No, not a sports team or a city or a logo. A word. A simple word.
That one word is my constant reminder of who I long to be, and who I am. It is a word that is both bold and sure of itself, regardless of anything else. It is a word as powerful as the person it describes. As poignant or as humorous or as exciting as I am. As fearful and as lonely as a person can be. As I am.
It represents a desire, a quest, a calling.
For the longest time, the hat was missing from my life. Work and obligations, distractions and procrastinations unfairly got in the way. When don’t they?
It took a visit to Los Angeles a few years ago for it to be discovered, or perhaps rediscovered. It sat on the shelf of a local gift shop, with others of its kind, yet oddly by itself.
Cost was no object. It fit. I had to have it. I bought it. I brought it home. It has been my constant companion ever since. Always there. Greeting me every morning, afternoon, evening and late night. Whenever I sit at the computer, it beckons to me in a voice only I can hear.
It is, in effect, a mirror to my soul, this hat. This hat and this single word. This wonderfully complex word.
It is lonely. It is fearful and full of self-doubt and consternation. It asks, “Am I good enough?” “Will I ever achieve this dream?”
It dares me. It tasks me.
When I fail to follow through, it taunts me. It teases me, as if to say “This isn’t meant for you.”
And I must dig deep within myself. Pull myself up and respond, “You’re wrong. You are meant for me. We are meant for each other.”
It is a hat. It is a word.