A Desk with History

I wanted a secluded place to write. I pictured a little desk with a chair and lamp in the corner of my room; something small; no frills; a simple space to work.

I searched online for something new, but knew in my heart, I wanted something old. Something with history and perhaps characters with stories of their own.

I planned on going to a couple of local antique shops. I felt a strong pull toward one in particular, so I went there first. It was a small shop I had recently fallen in love with. They sell all kinds of old things: furniture, dishes, lamps, fans, clothing, etc. They also sell things that are repurposed.

I walked in to the shop and – to my surprise – they had expanded! The space was now the size of two small stores combined. I felt giddy. There were so many fun things to discover. However, I remained focused. I didn’t much time, the girls would soon be out of school, and I held baby Abe in my arms. Most of the time, Abe is a great shopping partner but with babies you never know what might happen.

As I entered the shop, I was greeted by a woman behind the counter. “The credit card machine is down.” She soon informed me.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “I came prepared.”

I walked through the store with Abe and carefully looked over all of the furniture and a few of the treasures displayed on top of them. I made a mental note of a white metal folding table that could work for the space I envisioned and continued my search.

I saved the best for last: a small cove in the new addition of the store felt like a secret hideout. As soon as I entered, I was struck by a tiny table on top of a substantial desk. The tiny wooden table had a card attached to the knob of its drawer. Written in black permanent ink were the words: Primitive Writing Desk. As soon as I read those words, I knew – this was it. And I wondered just how old “primitive” was.

I approached the counter and asked the clerk for more information. She explained, the woman who owned the desk had many things she sold in an estate sale. And she had a story for each item she sold.

My heart leapt in my chest. I could potentially find out more information about the desk. Not only would I have a place to write, I’d have something to write about. “I’m sold.” I said. And we walked over to retrieve the desk from its perch.

Once we arrived at the stack of desks she was taken aback. She thought I had inquired about the bottom desk. “Oh no.” I said, “I want this one.”

She didn’t know much about the top one except for the fact that it was “primitive.”  She also pointed out one hand made nail that slightly stuck out from the top of one leg. I was disappointed, but nevertheless, I fell in love and had to bring it home with me. The clerk carefully removed all of the trinkets on top of the desk and brought it to the floor in front of the register.

As I checked out, more people entered the shop and voices filled the room. The clerk addressed one of them in particular. I looked to see who she spoke to. My heart dropped as I recognized his face. It was the face of someone I try to forget.

I turned my attention back to the clerk. We discussed how to get the desk into my car and where I should park. She asked me a couple of times for the color of my car. I felt disoriented and couldn’t comprehend what she was asking. The past and present blurred into one moment and I forgot where I was. I finally managed to let the word “silver” slip out of my mouth and turned round with my head up. I looked straight ahead as I walked past the face and out of the store.

As I retrieved my car, I prayed he would not touch my desk and felt anxious as I pulled my car up to the shop. I was relieved when the clerk walked out with my desk. It was small enough for her to carry alone. I helped her get it into my car. I thanked her and drove away.

I tried to shake off that face. I won’t let him…I thought. I shook my head. I knew it wasn’t him. It was me. I had the power to ruin my day. I made a conscious decision to not let my thoughts travel down that road. I found what I was looking for and for that, I was grateful.

On the way home, I called my husband to tell him the good news, and who I had seen. He was happy for me but felt protective and angry over the past. “It’s okay.” I told him. “But maybe we should move out of this town.”

It’s something we casually discuss. A part of me wants to run away from the history here. Different locations around town are marked by past events, some sweet, some sour. I have a strong grasp on my roots, but there are times my hands bleed from holding on much too tightly. It’s a tough love, the love for my hometown. The bitter taste of a home causes me just as much pain as it does love.

For now I must learn to let go of faces and places that have scarred me. I have to learn how to forgive and live with the past and who I used to be. That’s the most painful thing about crashing, face-to-face, with the past is knowing who the person sees when they recognize you. The person you were then. I was reminded of my mess and how lost and desperate I used to be.

I brought home Abe and a desk with history. I had a story to write. But I hadn’t planned on it being my own.