ARDOR Literary Magazine

ARDOR Literary Magazine - Issue Three, September 2013

Issue One, Published January 2013

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Page 79 of 109

FICTION WHEN MEN WORE HATS MATHIEU CAILLER Shin's hatchback rumbled as he waited for the traffic signal to click green. In the distance, the buildings of downtown Los Angeles shimmered like a galaxy, each glittering light, a bright star. He wondered if he'd ever be a part of this American solar system—if his star, too, could strongly gleam. The light changed and Shin took off, though he didn't drive the usual route home. School had been tough today. When he'd decided to teach Chinese here in L.A., it had sounded easier. He remembered that Thursday at Donghua University, flipping through the glossy brochure with his English professor, studying the students' faces—big and happy with easy smiles—and he thought it would be fun. But now, five months into the school year, he just felt alone. His days were consumed with pronouncing simple Chinese words and hearing students giggle; his nights were focused on lesson planning and grading. At the next light, he listened to his engine idle and picked up on the scent of stale coffee from his Thermos. His eyes wandered towards a small theater. The yellow marquee and big black letters looked tired. The sign read, AUDITIONS FOR A STREETCAR NAMED DESI E NOW TAKING PLACE. Shin found it funny that the "R" of "DESIRE" was missing, and he immediately thought of his Nainai, his grandmother. She'd passed when he was fourteen, but he remembered her well. She ARDOR | 76 CAILLER was an American lady from New Jersey with curly hair and dusty arms who'd fallen in love with Shin's grandfather and eventually moved to Pingyao. She and Shin were always close, and it was with her that he'd learned English. They always watched old movies, anything in black and white, and she'd told him that "love had gone to hell when men stopped wearing hats." Shin stared at the marquee for a few seconds before a honk ruined the moment. He hit the gas. That night, while plugging a bunch of B's and C's into a spreadsheet on his computer, he opened the Internet and scrolled through photos of Marlon Brando. He stood up, walked across the room, and inspected himself in the mirror. "Marlon Brando," Shin said. The name did something to him. It was as though the man had been born to have that face, that career. He couldn't imagine Brando working at a school, filling out report cards, or wearing an orange vest while patrolling on lunch duty. He rushed to his bedroom and doffed his dress shirt and slacks for a white t-shirt and jeans. He wished he had a cigarette to complete the look, but he settled for a piece of chalk from his satchel. His Nainai had always told him to stop thinking. Many times she'd said that he was too cautious, and that the best things in life always happened when you gave in to passion. He closed his laptop and headed out. Once at the theater—the Fox Hole—he felt nervous and stupid for not having a plan. The entry was sticky, tugging at his shoes with each step. He approached the ticket booth, but it was empty. He yanked on the copper handle of the front door, which was shiny in only one spot, and pulled the door open. Inside, it was as Shin imagined. For the first time, America matched up with his mind: high ceilings with ornate golden moldings, an overhanging balcony, and rows of empty

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