Still, no one has ever brought a raspberry beret into the second-hand shop called “Raspberry Beret” but maybe today will be different. What usually walks in: blouses, jeans, a few ties, formal attire worn once, scarves, purses still containing tissues marked with butterfly-like blots in plum or red. This morning, Carol, the shopkeeper, has to make more room than usual on the glass countertop for a new consignor, Lorraine. Beneath the polished glass is jewelry, pendants, charms. Not one bead of a necklace or gem of a bracelet is visible after Lorraine empties her bag of caps.
They’re all from one man, she tells Carol. Lorraine holds a Gatsby that is the very specific color of vanilla extract before it’s been creamed with butter, sugar, and eggs. She explains the caps: they’ve touched her husband’s dark curls, his forehead, the tips of his ears, some he hung on a sturdy hook with steadfastness, some carry strands of her hair. By way of his hands, sometimes by way of hers, the hats moved gracefully on and off, off and on, and only rarely were flung on a table in their home’s entryway. Since his absence, Lorraine says the hats have gathered on a chair in the corner of her bedroom. Sometimes she imagines they’re an all-men’s chorus, singing her to sleep each night and serenading her in the morning as she dresses. Like Scheherazade, the caps know how to keep her intrigued, night after night, but she says she will not make it to 1,001 nights; it’s become too much, all the hats without his head, without his body, caps hopelessly stationary. She tells Carol she doesn’t think he’ll be back for her or his caps. Lorraine wonders if it’s a case of him having stayed missing, or him not being found.