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Anytime we walk into a store with hats, you put one on me. Not just any hat, but a big, floppy hat with a Saturn-like rim that droops over my eyes, or pushes my bangs into my line of vision. I know they look ridiculous because they feel ridiculous, but they make you laugh. Sometimes I think that’s the only reason I tolerate it.

But today, we weren’t at a store. We were at your parents’ place, pulling out the decorations for your brother’s graduation party. I’d never met your parents before and anticipated the surprise opening of the front door while you rummaged through their hall closet, mumbling that what you were looking for was in there somewhere. While you pushed aside wreaths, plastic eggs, and Styrofoam pumpkins, I glanced from door to clock, preparing myself for a moment I’d never be ready for. The time tensely ticked by, and suddenly your cursing turned to laughter.

“What is it?” I asked, looking at you only long enough to see you rise to your feet. The moment I looked back to the door, you’d put a hat on my head, a lightweight hat that didn’t flop over my eyes.

I reached up to touch it, hoping to identify the type of hat by touch. First you smiled, and then you laughed, and I envisioned a dunce cone or reindeer antlers. The top felt like straw, but as I pulled it off, you protested.

“No, don’t take it off!” You were still chuckling. “It looks cute on you.”

Then you were telling me to wait.

You disappeared for only a minute, returning with your clunky Polaroid camera and telling me to smile. Normally, I would be annoyed—you can’t destroy a Polaroid picture, after all—but you were having such fun, and your smile was contagious.

The flash went off, and while I waited for the spots to clear from my vision, you stuck the print in your pocket to warm. At last the image developed, and right as you pulled it from your pocket, your parents opened the front door.

Story by Christian Peter

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