I am tidying the cellar of our new flat while my wife goes shopping. Rummaging through a pile of rags I come across a hat that intrigues me, despite its plain appearance.
It is an old-fashioned, pointed, white nightcap made of a thick, silky material.
As I examine it under the naked light I notice a ping-pong size jingle-bell knotted to the tip which rings when disturbed.
The creamy fabric has a subtle sheen which glistens in the harsh illumination, its slippery texture, unlike any other textile, exhibiting a bizarre, soothing shimmer.
A label is sewn in the hem with the words "LIBERTY CAP - DRY CLEAN ONLY" in bold, black capitals. Underneath this, in larger, bright-red letters is the instruction "DO NOT WEAR".
This peculiar injunction further stimulates my aroused curiosity so after a moment's hesitation, in which I dismiss the ominous gloom lurking at the fringe of my ego, I place the floppy,
tinging hood on my crown. It fits perfectly, enclosing my hairline with a cosy accommodation.
Immediately delicious, warm ripples rush along my spine and through my quivering limbs.
My essence sizzles with a gorgeous effervescence as I observe the cramped basement change into an enchanted grotto,
its lurid lamp now a glittering chandelier fluttering before my surprise-wide eyes.
Resolving to explore I climb the once rickety wooden steps, now a stairway to heaven, arriving at the hallway. The corridor is a maze of mystery that eventually leads to the kooky kitchen.
Navigating the fantastic forest of chairs, the ensemble of gaping saucepans and the audacious parade of glitzy cutlery I dodge the solemn congregation of noble crockery,
exiting into the crisp summer air of our erstwhile tiny garden.
There I dance, entranced by a vast arcadian paradise, until a distant, heavy clang breaks my reverie.
This unexpected sound composes my perspicacity to realise my partner is closing the front door, returning from her spending spree.
So I finish cloud-skipping and glide down a sunbeam, completing a monumental expedition through the secret recesses of our yore humble abode to greet her in the lounge.
After enquiring why I'm wearing that "silly thing" and receiving no answer from my beaming, tongue-tied astonishment she dismisses the quirky get-up as yet another of my irrational whims.
Then she enthuses about her purchases, especially a to-die-for dress that, to her great joy, she acquired at a considerable discount.
Asking my opinion she models it in the mirror, now a glue-hued aperture to a parallel world of glossy symbolism.
Soon I am staring in amazement at a mythical nymph, enraptured by the stereo image of what is left of reality and her scintillating reflection.
Wrapped in her alluring apparel she is a goddess, my fairy queen, a paragon of femininity.
Equivocating on whether to worship her or take her in my arms and declare my love in the classic fashion, I choose the latter course.
She readily responds, feeling pretty and perky after her happy outing in the fabulous weather and her slip into such voluptuous attire.
She leads me into our heretofore pokey bedroom, now a luxurious temple to Eros, where we quickly unclothe between amorous embraces.
Soon we relish supreme coitus, our supple physiques wrapped like elastic snakes. Our spirits melt through fused bodies, consummating the holy unity of universal self.
Our climax is the Big Bang, the primal formation erupting through our sensual strata.
As we rest, languid in our mingling limbs, she again complains about my "weird cap fetish" and its distracting ding-a-lings,
although she expresses her otherwise complete satisfaction in our conjugal endeavour.
After a refreshing doze she rises to potter about and cook a curry and I return to the profound parlour to indulge my psychedelic circus.
I spend the evening coaxing yards of rubber timbre from my electric guitar.
I decline dinner, my nerves too abuzz for my stomach to interrupt their charged tension, and later wish sweet dreams to my fair damsel as she retires for work tomorrow.
Well past the witching hour my energy starts to sag as my visions begin to exhibit a brittle crust.
I decide to finish my exceptional excursion,
especially because I too must soon take my place in the creaking wheels of sober society and attend my gainful employment and attempt to remove my cap, eager for calm after my stupendous storm.
But I cannot take it off. Try as I may, it is stuck fast. As I tug and twist I am alarmed to discover that the tough fabric has merged with my flesh.
No amount of yanking will budge it, my increasing violence feeling like it will detach my scalp.
My trip drips into nightmare. I dash into the claustrophobic kitchen, now a warped torture chamber, to hack the obstinate hood to pieces.
But despite sawing and slashing with our sharpest knives, and even heavy tools, it stays intact, its uncanny stuff impervious to force.
Meanwhile the delicate tingle of its irritating chime mocks my futile efforts, resisting all exertions to cut it from the flaccid apex of the indestructible material.
As dawn spreads her new-blue beauty through my infernal reckoning I fumble for relief in the earth re-birth, wrecked by my insomniac torment.
A sickly stream of overwhelming sensuousness gushes through my ruptured portals of perception, offering no respite.
Indeed, the morning light adds a searing harshness to my experience, slapping a sandpaper glaze onto its gaudy aspect.
My busy bride pops in, asking what I'm up to and moaning about my persistent ringing spoiling her sleep before darting off to get ready, soon leaving for her shift.
I assess the situation as best I can with the loopy logic of my molten mind. I understand, goaded by my aching fibres and cramped guts, that I am here and now and things are what they are.
The basic laws of science and economics apply, and I must get to work as rent and bills need to be paid.
We desperately need money to avoid eviction and the dismal fate of again residing with my spouse's parents.
I ponder on calling in sick but I've done this too often to pursue my yet-to-commence career as a professional musician.
As I'm on my final warning for misconduct and poor performance my position is extremely tenuous, my employer ready to dismiss me on the flimsiest excuse.
My post pays a decent wage and I probably will not obtain another as lucrative, especially if they refuse me a reference. I need this office job. I cannot go back to menial labour.
This reasoning, difficult in the best circumstances, discombobulates me. I do not know what to think or do, teetering on the brink of paranoia.
Yet I must do something, because lingering here will kill me, swamped by the mire of my desire. All I can grasp is to do what I've always done, praying for salvation in habit.
Wrestling with the concept of linear temporality I deduce that I have time to prepare.
Although I cannot face a shower, worrying that it will dissolve my jellied vitality, and the very notion of shaving seem abhorrent as I've already been scraped inside out,
I manage to don my business suit. I collect my wallet, keys and season-ticket, grappling to comprehend the nuances of their functions, and leave my crazy cloister.
Traversing the waving pavement I'm reminded of my cursed cowl, jingling to my clumsy stride. But I'm too strung out to care about my embarrassing garb.
The train journey is an expedition through the teeming tunnels of hell. By a miracle I negotiate the epic mayhem of snapping barriers, congested clamour and hordes of zombified commuters.
When I arrive my boss, obviously annoyed by my unkempt condition, tells me to lose my ludicrous hat. I jabber an explanation that only makes matters worse before I'm summarily fired.
Subsequently I drift the squared city, that sprawling purgatory of purposeful action.
Some children, taunting my comical cap, remind me of my sorry predicament and I return to the scene of my crime, guilty and contrite.
I determine that I must, at all costs, dislodge my hat to regain my wits and resolve this ghastly affair. I pull hard, the skin straining across my cranium.
The pain focuses my strength, my muscles bolstered by their earlier exercise. The combination of hurt and distress turns my despair into rage.
With a super-human effort I tear the adhered cap from my skull, ignoring the agonising rip of living tissue.
Suddenly it ends. I am back to myself.
My crown is a grisly mess. My wound is excruciating. Blood flows in rivulets down my face. What was my scalp is now a grotesque hirsute pulp glued to the still-integral hood.
Each ear is a bruised, gashed jelly, although mercifully they remain attached. I am exhausted, shattered, spent.
But notwithstanding these afflictions I am relieved to be who, what and how I am meant to be.
I telephone my wife and explain the incredible story. She comes straight home, taking me to hospital and thereafter burning the wretched cowl.
I make a full recovery, but only after months of medical treatment, including several skin grafts. My lost hair never returns, and I cover the conspicuous scar with a wig.
We survive on my partner's earnings and my sickness benefit, acquiring more debt until I am able to find another job, worse than my last but better than nothing.
I am forever agitated by the jingle of little bells and any dinging, metallic sound, suffering nasty flashbacks. I abandon my ambitions and sell my instrument to help pay our expenses.
I panic even at the thought of leaving the safe confines of the known and expected.
Nature sets wise limits. Total liberty is for the gods, a blazing star that burns and destroys the fragile constitution of mere mortals.
As political freedom has to be curtailed by judicial law for the proper operation of society likewise spiritual autonomy must be restrained by the chains of karma to prevent chaos prevailing.
If these omnipresent boundaries are broken it is very difficult to return, which can only be done at great loss.