To the Man in the Checkered Hat

Thank you


Three wooden giraffes stand in the yard underneath a spring canopy at Audubon Park in New Orleans.

We shared a bench on the streetcar, the man with the checkered hat and I. I recognized him, well mostly his hat, as a regular on the afternoon streetcar. That hat often tilted, like so, behind the daily newspaper, to sneak glimpses of feet shuffling down the streetcar aisle. I think the man in the checkered hat has brown eyes; I’m not certain as he rarely looks up beyond the rim of his checkered hat, and, even more so, rarely speaks. His silence was never grumpy or dismissive. In actuality, it was a gentle silence, comforting even.

As I ungathered my things on our shared streetcar bench, he slid closer to the window, peeling the latest copy of the Times out wide. My prying eyes stole headlines from his $2.50 newspaper, Involuntary Servitude for Government Employees, Hipsters Saved The Avocado From Perilous Extinction, Altuve’s Home Run Dance Is Not Offensive.

I leaned in for a better look but to no avail. Foreseeing a nosy seat neighbor unwilling to pay $2.50 for a paper, he had perfectly cornered himself between the bench and the window, warding off prying eyes. As I sighed, settling on an untied shoelace to entertain me on my travels home, I noticed from the corner of my eye the slightest dip of his newspaper—in my direction. Without peeling his eyes away from his story, he widened the crease of the paper, revealing a photo of Altuve’s awkward home run dance and the half page spread.

Magazine Street, New Orleans, flooded with pink petalsJasmines all a bloom along Freret Street, New Orleans

I glanced at the man with the checkered hat, his gaze unwavering to the consequences of government shutdowns plastered on page 3. Had he intended to open the crease just wide enough for me? And was that a dimple at the edge of his smile shadowed underneath the rim of that checkered hat? I leaned back against the wooden paneled bench, reading the stories he silently shared with me.

We shared a paper on the streetcar, the man with the checkered hat and I.