I lost him once, in a back seat of a Bangkok taxi on the way to the airport. Miraculously, I found him 10 days later on my return from Tokyo. I left him on a train in Croatia, but jumped back on, grabbed him, and hopped off while the train was moving out the station. An Indiana Jones escape.
He pegged me as an Australian, although he was in fact made for life on the prairies, complete with ear flaps to keep me warm. But the travel took its toll. My friend became warped and twisted, shrinking and fading from healthy tan brown to sickly grey-green. I took him to a specialist, who looked at me incredulously.
"What the hell did you to this guy?" he asked me.
He wouldn't believe me if I told him: Mongolia, Guatemala, Tasmania, Poland, Laos, Argentina, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Brazil, Albania, Peru, Cambodia, Bolivia, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Lithuania, Colombia, Thailand, Fiji, Russia, China...it goes on.
The end was nigh after we spent a night in Chernobyl, as one does. Perhaps it was the radiation, perhaps the fear, but my old friend teetered and heaved, his rims folding, his arches collapsing. I retired him to my home office, where for years he stoically watched the usurper (grey, more urban) accompany me to over a dozen other countries. My home office has in turn made way for another cycle of life, one that finds no space for a disheveled old memento that may or may not be dangerously radioactive.
And so tonight, in the cold, dark rain he was made to withstand, I will gently place him in the licking flames, and sadly watch him dissolve to dust. I will watch his ashes blend our remarkable good fortune with the winds of the city.
Goodbye old friend. Good night, my sweet hat.