Gregor McGillicutty was walking home from work one day when his top hat flew away. There was nothing exceptional about his cocoa brown felt top hat, other than it was the only one that fit on his head. Not being the type to run, Gregor hustled as best he could to save his hat from a nearby looming puddle. The day was a gray one, and it had rained the day before. There was a brownish ash hue to the surrounding buildings; the street looked particularly blue. Gregor was all alone in his brown over coat and trousers holding his black briefcase by the handles while allowing the over the shoulder attachment to hang down hitting the ground every time he took a step with his left foot.
He finally managed to catch up to the hat that had stopped next to an excessively muddy puddle. Gregor hunched over and squatted down huffing and puffing as he went to retrieve his top hat. He didn’t want to return the hat directly to his head since it had picked up a few pebbles and specs of dirt from the rough pavement. He looked around to see if anything was opening early.
For Gregor, used to being alone, it was unusual to be looking for people. He worked the overnight shift, and had grown accustomed to walking home without the lights from the shops beaming into the street. In the small, upstate town he lived in most people worked the regular nine to five shifts, and joined the hustle and bustle of the shopping centers on Saturday and after church Sundays. Mrs. McGillicutty had been one of them that enjoyed the shops on weekends.
As Gregor shook his head slightly he became aware that his hair was exposed. It wasn’t that Gregor was bald per se, he happened to be balding, without his hat on he was self-conscious of his comb over. He decided to take a different route home. If he had remembered correctly, there should be a diner a few blocks over. Hopefully someone would be there getting ready to open if not, there was sure to be something out back that he could use to brush off his hat. He made his way through side streets until he saw a metallic looking building with neon lights lining the roof. Gregor wondered if the lights meant the diner was opened.
The closer Gregor had come to the diner the more he realized that all signs pointed to closed. There were no cars or bicycles anywhere near the building. No smells of bread baking or waves of heat were coming through the brisk air. As he crossed the street he noticed no lights were on inside, minus the little dots of light coming from the coffee machines. With each passing step Gregor began to lose hope that he would be able to avoid skimming through the garbage for something to clean his hat. Although, after what he sees each day shifting through some trash can’t be that bad. Just in case he’s mistake, Gregor made his way to the glass front and peered inside. It was as he suspected. No one.
Gregor made his way to the back of the building with the idea that there would be a large dumpster filled to the brim with a whole variety of things, hopefully including a rag. As he walked along the side of the diner he glanced in the windows taking in the benches and trying to imagine what the red seats would look like with people in them. It was too hard for him to envision people sitting reaching for their knives and forks, cutting up their pancakes dripping with syrup into oblong rectangles. He did however see Mrs. McGillicutty in a booth on the opposite side of the windows. Her long brown curly hair danced as she threw her head back laughing. Across from her sat a familiar head, bouncing up and down along with her. Before she had stopped laughing she was gone. Gregor continued on his way thankful to be away from the windows.
He had made it behind the diner now. There was the dumpster almost exactly as he pictured it would be: the garbage stuffed to the gills, threatening to jump out on to the ground, a young woman on the balls of her feet trying to retrieve something from the large collection. Gregor froze. He hadn’t talked to anyone in years, not to anyone at home, not to anyone at work, not to anyone he didn’t know.
Incredibly self-aware, Gregor used his hand to wipe away the dirt and promptly returned his hat to his balding head. The young woman had not yet seen Gregor, and before she had the chance, he wanted to turn around and get home. Instead he remained there, frozen. He watched the young girl whose hair was the color of dish water struggle to pluck what she needed from the trash. Her coat was worn, but was still a brilliant shade of blue. In its prime, the dress must have been an incredible color, bright and stunning, similar to that of a peacock. It was the length of a dress, with long sleeves that opened up at the ends. He would have believed it to be a dress had he not caught a glimpse of the front buttons when she turned. Underneath her coat was a pale liliac, or gray, dress. Simple in design the color was lost to the vibrant coloring of her coat. Her hair circled around her face in varying lengths. It wasn’t like Margie’s hair that curled like the ribbon on a present, instead it was straight until the bottom, and then it curled up. Her eyes were the most stunning shade of gray he had ever seen. She was beautiful, and she was looking at him.
Gregor panicked. He didn’t know how long she had been looking at him. He hadn’t heard her say anything, but he wasn’t listening. He was taking in the sight of her, etching it to his memory. An word had almost escaped Gregor’s mouth, when it got caught in his throat resulting in a noise similar to a burp and a cough. With a quick nod of his head, and a delayed wave Gregor McGillicutty turned around and walked home with the same speed he always walked. Even though it was his inclination to run away, he carried on one consistent step at a time until he reached his front door. Once inside Gregor took the one flight of stairs to his house, unlocked the door, and headed to the bathroom to clean his cocoa brown felt top hat.