My toque is the only thing that’s keeping me from tearing my hair out
When I was 21 my girlfriend bought me a toque to celebrate our first kiss. Hopelessly Canadian, it was meant as a token of our budding affection – within 24 hours of meeting face to face at least one of us was already in love. Typical winter.
Trina lived in Calgary, a seven hours-long trip by Greyhound, which was far enough to keep us longing for one another for the three months we were together. Unfortunately, it wasn’t far enough to circumvent the constant bickering. When we broke up I threw out everything she had given me, including two sweaters, a typewriter and a dozen terrible love letters. But the toque managed to escape persecution by proxy. Saskatchewan had a reputation for being icy, harsh and indifferent, and soon enough the toque became a constant companion through the scant few months of the year that masqueraded as a brief flicker of summer. It saw me through my twenties and well into my thirties. Along with several other failed romances, it outlasted the most solid of friendships. It even managed to survive David.
David was one of those friends who brought out the worst in me, always egging me on to drink more and crank the stereo higher. For David, the whole reason bands put themselves on stage was to be heckled – anything to keep the bouncers busy. Of course, with any decent party, there was always a healthy amount of drama and tears. So when me and David invariably got thrown out of the pub on the north end that sat glumly beside the freeway off ramp, it wasn’t just several hundred dollars of wine glasses that lay broken at our feet. My beloved toque, the only article of clothing I had held onto for more than a dozen years, was also gone.
That stupid toque – it was the only thing that kept me from literally tearing my hair out. I lost it several times a week it seemed, including the first day I got it when Trina had to call the all-night restaurant to see if it had fallen under the table (it had).
“That’s the problem with caring about anything,” I yelled stubbornly, drunkenly.
David nodded in agreement. A divorcee in his mid-twenties, he already knew.
But the good thing about friends like David is that for everyone they alienate or anger there is someone else ready to defend their stupidity. Having worked at a gas station for the past five years, David had amassed a solid herd of random chuds and well-wishers who inexplicably had his back. In the end it was Dan, one of David’s many pals, who thought to pluck my toque out of the hands of a vindictive waitress.
But Dan only knew David in the context of buying cigarettes at staff prices (“free,” said David. “Stolen,” his boss would have corrected). Nevertheless, he managed to convince bar staff that, despite us breaking an entire tray of pint glasses, we weren’t actually assholes who deserved to have our arms broken and our lost clothing destroyed in the trash compactor.
Dan grabbed my toque and wore it out of the bar. Of course, since he and David were more rumble buddies than actual pals, Dan decided he valued the skull and crossbones motif more than his tobacco hook-up, and decided to keep it. A week later, Dan passed out after drinking too much gin at a house party and the toque was plucked off his head by David’s ex. Another week passed before she stopped by the gas station where David worked.
Life is a funny, terrible thing sometimes, an off-kilter dance that invariably turns into a wrecking ball. Seeing the toque in the clutches of his ex, David decided to rescue my most cherished item of clothing. Of course, he couldn’t just ask for the hat back. Instead he asked for a date, a tryst that only ended after even more clothes, and feelings, became askew and misplaced.
“I thought you were on good terms with your ex,” I laughed.
“I am,” said David. “At least, I think I am now. But I got the toque back for you,” he added triumphantly.
“You stole it,” I corrected. Even so, this warranted another round of shots in celebration.