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.

The Neighbors Have Lives.

There was a sample station at the end of the grocery isle. Mia was my shopping companion that day. My seven-year-old daughter spotted the table straight away. “Can we try it?” She asked.

“Yes.” I said.

But I hesitated. I stood still and observed. A tall man stood behind the tall table draped in a long black cloth. A spread of deli meats, cheeses and pretzels with hummus decorated the table’s top. I recognized a woman from our complex, the one who always wears a baseball cap, chatting to other consumers with delight. More people approached the table and I came to the conclusion, it was best to wait.

“But let’s come back when there’s not so many people.” I suggested.

“Yeah.” Mia agreed.

But she had more to say…

“That lady is just standing there, babbling to everyone, trying everything, telling them, ‘This is good. Try this one.'” She explained with hand gestures and the disapproval of her head.

I probably should have said something like, “That lady is our neighbor and she’s enjoying herself.” Or, “Patiently await your turn without putting down others who are receiving.”

Something motherly and wise. But instead, I laughed.

We are accustomed to step up to the table, take a bite, say ‘thank you’ and walk away. So in Mia’s defense, our neighbor wasn’t abiding by typical tasting station procedures.

When we returned, the table was cleared of consumers. We enjoyed a piece of turkey pastrami, said ‘thank you’ and walked away satisfied. It was really good. You should try some.

The next day, I spotted another neighbor of ours driving and it completely baffled me. I waited to make a U-turn as she turned left in front of me. She was headed in the same direction I intended to follow.

She is a petite older woman with short brown hair and bangs. I only ever see her out walking her dog, a petite black and white Shih Tzu with a similar hair cut. The dog wears a pink cloth harness and, if I remember correctly, has a sweet girly name like Penny or Maggie.

She drives? I thought.

Where is she going? Where is her dog? Who’s walking the dog?

It were as though she only existed in this repetitive groundhog day reel of walking her dog. But, no! She does other things! She goes other places! How did I not realize this before?

Watching her drive away from the only reality I’ve known, awakened me.

Life is constantly telling me, There is so much happening that you are unaware of. There are whole worlds of living organisms, people and places, realities I’ll never know. The neighbors have lives. They still exist away from here, outside of the complex which connects us.

 

 

An Anxious Trip to the Bookstore.

If I bounced and paced my baby across the living room one more time – I was going to lose my mind.

I’d been shut in the house for too long. Away from the outside world yet, inviting so much of the noise inside my head. The only relief was fresh air and fresh faces. With baby in tow, I headed to Barnes and Noble.

On the way there, I trailed behind a car with a succession of 1’s on the license plate. I saw the 1’s as a sign I was headed in the right direction.

After returning some merchandise and receiving store credit, I went straight to the reference section in search of books on writing. As I stood there bouncing baby Abe in the carrier strapped across my waist and shoulders, my heart raced. I was anxious with indecision: Which book should I get? Should I buy one at all? I do have store credit. But I’m trying to be minimalist! I don’t need another book. If I do buy a book, I better make sure it’s worth owning…

The first book that caught my eye was Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont. It was on my list of books to read. I flipped through it and realized it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted something more instructive. So, I picked up The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark. I could work on my reading skills, I thought. I read a few pages and considered it a possibility. But, I really wanted something on structuring and plotting a story.

I grabbed Plot Perfect by Paula Munier and skimmed through it. This had more of what I wanted, a step-by-step process with examples and exercises.

With Plot Perfect in my hands, and Abe asleep in the carrier, I stood there dumbfounded with reservation.

By that time, more people had invaded my space. A man searched the shelves beside me. I shuffled to the left and noticed another person ruffling through the discounted bins nearby. Had they noticed me? Were they witnessing my struggle over choosing the perfect book?

My face was on fire. I wore a sweatshirt underneath a 20 pound baby in a sweat suit fastened to my chest. I wanted to run out of there but I still hadn’t decided on a book!

I looked to the bookshelves one more time and spotted a tiny green dragonfly on the bind of The Art and Craft of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb. I picked up the book. I thought, maybe this is the book for me. But, am I just picking it because it has a dragonfly on it? Or was it the best choice?

I decided to take the dragonfly as another sign and fly out of there.

 

*I am currently reading The Art and Craft of Storytelling, underlining sentences, writing in the margins and taking notes. It turned out to be the best choice after all.