Saturday, February 19, 2005

Miss (Woulda) Understood

Summer in St. Paul. It’s just under a month now since Adam and I eloped. Two months since we became Ph.Ds. It’s three days before the arrival of the moving van. And nine weeks before our next paychecks.

Sounds like the right time for a garage sale.

Selling books is out of the question. Might as well ask us to sell our cats. But, slowly, laboriously, we move just about everything else to the front lawn. Suitcases, filing cabinets, and Christmas decorations. An electric typewriter, exercise equipment, and my old bike.

Fondu set. Two mini-grills. Juicer. Enormous sofa bed.

Three respectable armchairs, veterans of other people’s garage sales. One hideous wall hanging, gift of a colleague with more generosity than taste. Four Waterford crystal vases, tainted by their association with my wedding at age 22. “Oh, Cello, no!” my mother later scolds. “I hope you got more than a few dollars for those.” (We did not.)

I’ve already talked in this space about how some people shop garage sales for stories, not things. That is to say, they shop for things with stories attached. There is a strict code on honor on this point. The story-seller may not lie. Or exaggerate. An item belongs with a prospective buyer only if he or she is charmed by a history that is real.

Sadly, for Ben’s bamboo-carved desk, the right buyer would not show.

(I know her, although I do not know her: an irony-loving college sophomore who dons cat-eye sunglasses before cycling in the direction of our house. Only some trifling detail keeps her from destiny. (Or desktiny?) Stung by a yellow-jacket, she pedals back to her apartment. The man out clipping hedges witnesses her alarm. He offers ice from his water jug, and an old card table that one of his mother’s tenants left behind. "Plenty sturdy for a desk,” he says, wondering, for the hundredth time that summer, why kids with money enough for college make so much noise about being "poor.”)

Imagine now a time-elapse video of our sale that day. Sun pops in the East and arcs (impatient arrow) across the sky. Shadows twitch on the grass, as grass gets flatter and flatter. Bargain hunters dart around the merchandise—first a handful, then a torrent. And then someone appears to have yanked a stopper from a drain, because the items on the lawn begin to twirl and disappear.

Sun swims on. Porch shadow floats toward us like a barge. And garage salers sail in widening circles around Ben’s desk.

4 p.m. (Stop the tape.) The desk stands alone.


At 10:52 PM, Blogger Benedict said...

It is a great desk.. why not give it a chance?

This said, I have a great desk now. Provided by Cello.


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