Mikey sat beside me with my hat on, trying to look cool, and succeeding because fedoras are an inherently cool hat.
“What?” I said in response to Nikki’s look.
She slowly shook her head. “I made no judgement.”
“Not out loud.”
A small smile turned up one side of her mouth. “I concede the point. Fedoras are cool.”
I didn’t trust that look, but I carried on.
“So, sisters, huh?” I said.
He nodded, causing the hat to fall over his eyes, momentarily.
“Never had a sister. For me it was a brother. She do something to make you mad?”
A shrug, which also somehow made the hat fall over his eyes again.
“Yeah, I get that. Sometimes just existing is enough. But why the doll?”
He didn’t look at me, instead just focusing on the back of the seat in front of him, his mouth a hard line that cracked, briefly. “She carries that stupid thing everywhere and shoves it in my face.”
I chuckled slightly at that. “Kinda reminds me of my brother.”
The kid still didn’t make eye contact with me, but that didn’t bother me.
“I was on the other end, though. I had a hat, a lot like this one. Not as nice as this one since my mom made it for me, but it was my first hat, and I loved it. I thought I was so cool, like Indiana Jones or Sam Spade.”
The kid didn’t give any recognition of the names, which didn’t surprise me.
“So I played at being an archaeologist on an adventure or a detective on the case every time I put the hat on, shooting Nazis, swinging on my bullwhip over chasms. And I guess I annoyed my brother. He was always the bad guy since I had the hat. Only the hero gets to wear the hat, y’know? Finally, he had enough and stomped on the hat and ripped it into pieces right in front of me.”
“What’d you do?” Mikey asked.
“Oh, I was mad. Sure, I went to Ma and Dad, and they punished him, but it wasn’t enough for me. It was war. It was a blood feud. I stopped talking to him. Any chance I got I would wreck his toy cars when no one was looking—so I wouldn’t get in trouble. It lasted for months, even after Ma made me a new hat. It didn’t matter because he had wrecked the old one.”
“Are you still mad at him?” Mikey’s voice had grown softer, as had his face, genuine concern that his sister might feel the same way about him.
“I was ready to be hate him for the rest of my life, but six months later, he said he was sorry and gave me a new hat, one that he bought from a store. It also wasn’t as nice as this one,” I rapped the brim with a knuckle, “but it was one he bought. He saved up his money and bought it for me.”
“Did you ever fight after that?”
“Oh, sure, all the time. That’s what brothers and sisters do. But it was never a feud like that ever again. After a day or so one of us would apologize and we’d go back to being brothers. But you know what?”
“For those six months when I was mad at him, I was lonely. I was just mad at him all the time. I was mad at him for ruining my hat and I was mad at him for making me mad at him. I was mad at him for not being there to play with. I just kept getting madder at him, and then I’d stomp on his cars.”
Mikey laughed at that.
“Yeah, now it’s all funny, but then I was just mad at him. I wished he hadn’t waited so long to apologize. I wish I had realized I was making him mad with my hat. I am glad that, together, we used fire crackers to blow up one of his old model cars.”
“You led quite a destructive youth, Matthew.”
“Doll,” I laid the 30s accent on thick, “you don’t know the half of it.”
“Indeed. I shall have to come by more often for you to regale me.”