Sunlight glimmers inside my caravan and wakes me from a dream of books and whales with jazzy piano chords floating in the background. I fell asleep last night looking at the box, not daring to open it. Now here it is at my feet, round and closed like a perfect question. Without even asking, the answer resonates inside my head: "You wanted something and you don’t even know what it is, Nar."
I make coffee and put the box on the table. I realize that the emptiness of my desire has found its fulfillment in a threat: “It’s alive, and it bites,” Dylan had warned me. His anger at losing the bet resembled somewhat my own bewilderment, multiplied now by its echo and by the minutes ticking by, none encouraging me to undertake the denouement.
I smoke cigarette number six and caress the round lid before lifting it. As I do, I catch my image reflected in its inside mirror and I see, in the circular belly, a top hat. Black, worn out, upside down. "You're more innocent than I thought," Dylan had told me. "What did you expect, idiot?" he would add now, witnessing the mute perplexity of my realization.
“Can I come in?”
The laughing voice of Rick knocking at the caravan door rouses me from self-absorption. In a reflex, I close the box before answering.
“Come on in.”
“ ‘Morning, Nar. Would you like to come and have breakfast with us? Garth fixed a mountain of good stuff to help us recover from the hangover. What a fucking night!”
“You said it ...! I don’t know, I've already had a couple of coffees and I'm not hungry, but thanks anyway for ...”
Rick interrupts my sentence, coming closer with a laugh.
“What’ve we got here! The box of discord! Dylan was really pissed off when ...”
“Don’t open it!” I hear myself saying in a despotic voice.
“Okay, okay, cool it. You don’t have to be like that ... Besides, I already know what’s inside that hatbox. I've opened it a hundred times.”
“What did you call it?”
“Hat-box. Why do you make that face?”
“Nothing ... I understood something else. Forget it.”
Rick looks at me closely for a few seconds, then smiles and pulls a crumpled sheet out of one of his jeans pockets, torn in half.
“I came to bring you this too, I thought you'd like to have it. It was bitch having to take care of your desires, you know?” he says as he unfolds the papers.
I immediately recognize the sheet on which Dylan had written what he wanted to get from me in case he won the bet. Without thinking, I rip the two fragments out of Rick's hand. Then I put them in my box, which now has a name like that of anyone: a few letters on a safe-conduct for the territory of the rational, I think as I see Rick out.
“Thanks man. And now go, please.”
Rick looks down and, turning his back to me, speaks quietly.
“I suppose it fucked you up making Dylan so mad and maybe not being allowed to get back into the basement, all to win an old box with a hat inside ... Well, now you have it, and also these pieces of waste paper. Read ’em and weep, as we say in poker. And then you better throw it all away; what happened will keep fucking you up. When something hurts a lot, Nar, it doesn’t matter what you do: it makes no difference.”
When Rick leaves, I pick up the hatbox and sit on the steps of the caravan, placing the box to my left. I light a cigarette. Then I open it. I put on the top hat, and in the end I read that one single word Dylan wrote to shape his desire and at the same time appease his fury. Six letters, six strings that he was playing for me right here, just a few days ago: