The Little Man With the Hat
How nostalgically quiet everything is… and what a night, dainty and mellow, as if descended from the magical womb of the sky.
I tripped over a rock. I remember needing a rock once, a long time ago, when I broke the window of a shanty with some of my fellow playmates. There was a kid who used to break windows with great precision, after which his tutor came and replaced them.
Here comes a vagrant! He’s heading towards me... What a strange look in his eyes! What does he want me to tell him? That I am strangely familiar with his shabby clothes? That I used to know a tramp who wore the same rags and who could barely make a living? I could tell him that this chap made a lot of people laugh, but he wouldn’t believe me. He’s so hungry, the poor boy! Tramps are usually like this. It seems nothing has changed in the world.
A day without laughter is a day wasted.— Charlie Chaplin
I should make him giggle a little. A day without laughter is a day wasted. Did I say that? Am I saying it now or has it always been my belief? If I were to pick up a flower from this garden, smell it and then taste its petals, would he take delight in my joke? Or would he still mind about his rumbling stomach? I’m afraid to embark on this petty adventure, for fear that I should be overwhelmed by its outcome.
That funny policeman appears to be awfully tired. I’m sure he would rather be in his cozy bed, reading a paper. Give me a park, a policeman and a girl and I’ll make you a comedy! The common will become uncommon and the tragedy will turn into a farce. What’s with all these ideas disturbing my solitude? I have to get a hold of myself.
I see a poster... an angelic face staring into nothingness. I remember a girl just like her who would sell flowers at the corner of the street – flowers she could not see. And then there was a vagabond who gave her a banknote without expecting back the change. This girl reminds me of other pretty faces that I used to love. They are all painted on the canvas of my memory, yet I forget so many colors and shapes these days... Women! I guess I haven’t been so indifferent to their charms.
Oh my, what a rambunctious bunch! They’re taking pictures. How ridiculous! Are they photographing me? No, they don’t see me. And there’s a beggar playing the violin... a wretched artist of the streets, a modern troubadour cast away on an island of regrets sprinkled with velvety notes. If he didn’t play this sophisticated instrument, what good would it do to just reach out his hand and humbly ask for a penny? Art is the gilded door which leads to the most enchanting realms of the soul. What a sublime music rises from the vibrant strings of this violin! It speaks about the kindness that conquers malice, about the beauty that outstrips ugliness.
An old man with wrinkled cheeks, like two raisins solaced by the light of dusk, is gazing at a huge drawing of a little man with a top hat, a cane, and large trousers. Three enormous words hover above him: Making a Living. It’s the title of a moving picture. I wonder if they call them like that because they move the audience.
The old man chuckles somewhat despondently, and starts fumbling through his pockets. I guess he would like to go and see the movie starring this odd little fellow. If only he could afford it… Money keeps complicating our earthly existence. Coins and paper with dead people’s faces imprinted on them.
What a pleasant surprise! I found a few pounds. I’m happy to place them in his tiny hand. His face glows, as if illuminated by a wondrous epiphany. His eyes fill with tears and he hugs me. I, too, hug this old man who is a stranger to me, but whom I seem to know since forever.
Unexpectedly, I catch a glimpse of my mirrored image in the window of a dusty antique shop. I uproot myself from the old man’s arms. It cannot be! I am dressed and I look just like the little man on the poster! It is really I, whom I was looking for in the depths of this silent, blue night.
I search for the old man, but he’s not there anymore. He vanished like a butterfly at the end of its ephemeral life.
I am alone now... more alone than I have ever been in such a long time… and more MYSELF than ever before. I used to be called Charles Chaplin; I had a sweet-tempered mother… yet a bit sad. Her frail fingers would caress my hair before I went to bed. I made movies, and music. I danced…oh, how I danced and somersaulted and mimicked hundreds of beautiful stories! Even when everything around me turned black and white, I was able to paint my life with some of the most sublime nuances of happiness.
But all is gone now… and why wouldn’t it be? Times change. Silence evolves into sound and sounds grows louder and louder, until the heart bursts with joy.
I have to make away. Goodbye, my dear ones! When you’re sorrowful, always remember to smile! Remember Charlot!