We stumbled on a gold mine of junk stores, all set in a row, on 14th Street near T Avenue. I found a parking spot a few blocks away and eased my way in. I promised Bob I would be no more than a few minutes and locked the door. The contradictory parking signs took me a good while to do the math and I found myself using my fingers to count as my lips moved reading the postings.
Secure that I wouldn’t be towed, I looked around and found myself in a neighborhood where loitering seemed to be the primary activity. I walked the few short blocks to the stores and I vowed to find an old doctor’s cabinet for the bathroom. I wanted one that was hospital green with glass doors and stood about yea high. I had it fixed in my mind.
The first store had nothing more than lamps from the sixties, not ironic enough to be stylish, and plain bookshelves. However, the second store was a bingo. There were so many pieces of furniture, all stacked together; it was difficult to see anything clearly. I saw a sign that said 75% off of everything in the basement and I ventured down the wooden stairs. I was slapped by the smell of my grandparent’s basement, a dank reminder of where the boogyman used to live.
Back upstairs, I went further into the store and found a pair of old library stairs; three wooden steps with green leather covering each one and what looked like clever storage space. It looked like a fine and odd piece and when I found the owner up front, I asked him how much they were.
“There’s no price on it?” he asked, sweating from juggling the mosh pit that was his store.
“Just the over-price,” I said. He smiled and walked back to take a look. He knocked off eighty dollars and I instantly said I’d take it. I also found two small linen table coverings with Navy insignias someone had woven in needlepoint. I paid and told him I would go get the car and I would pick up the stairs from the sidewalk.
Once I pulled up to the store, I saw my new purchase waiting for me. It looked meager in the sunlight, a rickety replica of real steps with gouges in its wood. I grimly loaded it in the back of my Explorer and drove home, unhappy. The last thing I needed was another piece of furniture other than the one I wanted for the bathroom and now I was stuck with an overpriced piece of grim junk.
I didn’t ask for my money back. I don’t do that. It folds into my shopping panic, the feeling I get whenever I step into a store and can think of nothing but to buy something as quickly as possibly and leave. I get dizzy from choice and the one I usually make is unshakably wrong.
We drove back home and lugged our faux stairs up in the elevator. I suppose I’ll use them as storage space and try and find a corner in which nobody will notice my mistake. Maybe I can stuff the horrifying curtains I bought last week at Ikea, the bold vertical striped ones whose receipt has been long lost; the same ones that will never cover any window of mine.