The Romantic Conversations of Alice and the Hatter
“I’m quite mad, you know.”
The Hatter stared into the blue eyes of a young woman. He and Alice had met many years prior, when she was just a girl. Now those eyes, still the same large Christmas ornaments they had been all those moons ago, had replaced fright with affection.
“I know,” said Alice. “I’ve known all along.”
“And I’m quite a bit older than you.”
“Why, yes. Of course I’ve thought of that. But you see, you’re stuck in time. One day, I’ll catch up to you.”
“I’ll grow older than you. My hair will turn white, my skin will sag. The youthful girl before you will be no more.”
“But my eyes? My eyes will always belong to you.”
The Hatter pushed Alice’s hair behind her ear, still golden and full of life. He remembered first meeting her, once in a dream. He had loved her in a different light then. But as her mind filled with wisdom, her heart with passion, and her body with womanhood, the fatherly love quietly, subtly morphed into something else.
He kissed her gently. First, on her head, smelling the fragrant tiger lilies she used to wash her hair. Then, harder, on her bow-shaped lips. He lingered a moment, feeling the coolness of her mouth, letting it spread like a cold cloth on a fever.
“Or perhaps Time will pity a hatter. Pity him something fierce and stop for you, too.”
“Perhaps he will. Until then, you can teach me to grow.”
Alice looked at the man before her. She couldn’t remember a time her heart had been so full. All around, colors swarmed with pastel exhilaration. The blue sky was a painting of Easter morning. Butterflies looked like they had been dipped in paints by clumsy children. The trees and the grass and the flowers danced to the music of her jiving soul. She was deeply, madly, in love.
The romantic relationship of Alice and the Hatter was one best enjoyed in secret. The folks of Wonderland had a real knack for outlandish gossip, so distorted from one person to the next that fact became fiction, and fiction became nothing more than a children’s fairy tale. So the two lovers often stowed away in a rolling field for picnics and love-making. They met so frequently that the field became “their” field, a place known to most but meaningful only to those who used it for magic.
In this field, during timeless hours, they shared their deepest wants and desires. The Hatter longed for a pardon from the Queen. He wished for a home on the outskirts of the kingdom, one to grow old with Alice. And he wished for the ability to grow old. After all, eternity seemed like a very long time.
Alice, not wanting to sound naive, listed off hopes and dreams from a life long ago. She told the Hatter she one day wished to be a teacher of children. “Math and Science and all that.” And she’d like a pet of some sort, but “definitely not a hare or a cat.” Although these things were once her truths, in the depths of all that made up the woman she had become, Alice’s only unvarnished desire was a forever with her Hatter.
But on this particular day, at this particular picnic, during this very particular time of year, Alice felt bare. You see, if time were counted, it would have been one year since the Hatter had first confessed he fancied her and Alice had returned the sentiment. It sparked a fire in Alice so robust and searing that she wished to unzip herself right down the middle and expose any secrets that lingered. So she decided to do just that.
“Hatter, my dearest?” Said Alice, absentmindedly plucking blades of fresh grass from the earth.
“Yes, my love?”
“I’d like it if we married one day. I’d like it very much.”
The Hatter had been in the middle of pouring a rather large glass of peach wine. Alice’s words jumbled his brain a great deal. So much so, in fact, that it did not communicate with his hand quickly enough, and the sweet liquid spilled over the goblet.
After coming to know Alice, the Hatter had never imagined a life without her. Never wanted one. He’d become accustomed to her presence and enjoyed it so that he found himself longing, aching, when she was absent. He’d seen himself with her as the man he was in current time, and the man he would be in all other timelines he might happen across. But the problem with being a man stuck in time is that thinking in finites makes infinity drag on forever. And marriage seemed the most finite of all.
His silence worried Alice, making her question his heart.
“Don’t you love me, Hat? Don’t you love me with all that you are, the way I do you?”
The Hatter felt immediate guilt for his quiet reaction, but he had spent so much of his life speaking before thinking and really, truly, having no idea what he was talking about. He didn’t want that reckless dithering in the words he shared with Alice.
When he did finally speak, his words were gentle. He picked up Alice’s hand as one does an antique ceramic figure, delicate and priceless.
“My sweet Alice,” said the Hatter. “You are my greatest joy, my only love. Life before you was riddles with no answers. I’d known nothing of the heart’s senses before feeling the metronome of your name. Al-ice. Al-ice.” The Hatter demonstrated the thrumming on his chest with his fist.
“I know there is a but coming…” said Alice.
“But I am a man without time. We speak of what ifs, but what of the right nows? There is no cure for forever, not unless Time says so. And if Time were to take away the gift he has bestowed, the right nows and the what ifs would be nothings because the Queen would have my head.”
Alice considered this. “Oh darling, for a man of such wisdom, you are often but a fool. Without time, there are no what ifs. Right now is all there will ever be because you will only exist in your present state. People change, but you needn’t have such worries. You will always be who you are, right here, right now, in this field.”
“Yes, but you will change. And what if your heart changes, too?”
“There is no room in my story for an ending without you. Which leads me to something I need to share with you.”
The Hatter sat at attention, a soldier ready for his lieutenant to finish providing crucial instructions. He leaned forward, urging her on.
“About a year ago, I went to see Time. I asked him for a favor.”
“Alice! You didn’t!”
“Is it not something you want?”
“Of course it is. I’ve already said it is so. But it is not a decision I wanted you to make until you were of an age and time when you were ready. You’ve still got so much living to do.”
“I agree. Which is why I’ve asked Time to stop me only when I intersect at your freezing point. I figure that’ll be all the time I need.”
The Hatter chuckled. “Are you calling me old, my dear?”
Alice returned his laughter. “Timeless. The term I was looking for is timeless.”
“Then what was all this business about you growing older than your Hatter?”
“This place has taught me to never show my cards before the hand is dealt.”
The Hatter looked into young Alice’s eyes, and he knew they were the eyes of his wife. Suddenly, the cruelty of eternity seemed softer, exciting even. There was finally something to look forward to. He gazed at their surroundings, nothing out of place, not even them. They were a part of the scenery, something beautiful to be seen and talked about, even painted.
“And what would you do if we were trapped in this field? Just the two of us, forever?”
Alice pondered a moment.
“Well, I reckon I’d eat dandelions. I’d eat dandelions for the rest of my life.”