Investigating New Territory Through The World of Writing
There was no way we were going to make it all around the hot city, hauling luggage without wheels. After one full day of traveling in New York, my body felt the aftermath. So I suggested to my husband we invest in some inexpensive, but practical relief, in the form of rolling carry-ons. We happened upon an everything store, the kind you find on every stretch of every block in New York City. Black, urban suitcases stood stacked in the window of the store front, welcoming us in to buy. They were labeled $24.99 on the price tag I could see through the window. When reflecting on the pricey taxi we paid for the previous evening, the luggage seemed relatively reasonable. We tried to slip inside the store to peek at the luggage. But, we were discovered immediately by a casually dressed man. He insisted we could get a deal.
“For you, today, $19.95.” With a quick nod of his head to the back of the store, the man communicated with the lady behind the counter. We were granted an exceptional price. Anxious to be on our way, we quickly disassembled the pyramid of carry-on luggage to make our purchase. We hustled the bulky bags, along with the clumsy luggage we already carried, to the back of the store to complete the sale.
Without warning, a pink and purple tie dye tank top on a hanger was thrown in between us. My husband and I stepped back willingly to engage in conversation with a small, bold, heavy set, African American woman.
“You like this?” The lady turned to face my husband.
I announced my opinion. “I love purple!” I smiled in my well practiced, first-grade-teacher-way, making eye contact with the socially awkward lady.
She then struggled to pick up her foot and put it next to the tank top, “I need somethin’ to match my kicks.” She referred to her bright pink shoes. My husband and I shared a smile, secretly treasuring her.
While my husband continued speaking with our new friend, I tried to purchase our luggage. So, I felt torn. I wanted to show respect to the store owner while at the same time acknowledging the needy, outgoing lady with a fashion crisis. When I looked over my shoulder she was gone. I heard a voice, an aisle over.
“You got Beautiful?” She asked everyone.
I pulled the suitcases off the counter, thankful the lady’s attention was taken elsewhere. Mark and I began unpacking and repacking in the corner directly next to the perfume where the loud lady had paused. Before I could begin, I discovered some misplaced stock. There were measuring tapes in the bottom of the new bag, clearly labeled for sale. Why would these measuring tapes be stuffed into the bag? I had no idea. So, I scooped 6 or 7 measuring tapes onto the empty counter. I explained to the lady in the lovely orange and teal sari and full hijab behind the counter I did not require any measuring tapes today. I had not paid for them. They had simply been stuffed into my merchandise by someone else. Before I finished my explanation, guess who was back in my face? That loud lady.
“What are those?” she barked into my ear, her head arching over my shoulder, right next to my face. After recovering from the shock of her closeness and the amplitude of her voice, I responded.
“Measuring tapes.” I answered quickly without looking to meet her eyes this time.
“What are they,” she wanted to know.
“They measure.” I answered, still not making eye contact, wondering if she was going to be spending the rest of the day with us.
“Should I get me one of those?” She considered aloud for half a second, then headed back to the shelf of perfume for more consideration about Beautiful.
I hoped our encounter with the lady had wrapped up so we could finish our packing and get on our way. After Mark zipped the new carry-on closed with all his stuff, he and I noticed we did not have a plan for the now deflated duffle bag. We considered it in the fluorescent light of the store, on the white squares of linoleum. After a moment, Mark picked it up and handed the limp bag in the direction of the Beautiful lady.
“Do you want it?” He asked hopefully.
She took the bag slowly and began to look it over. “Thas a nice bag.” she crooned under her breath.
We waited as she went back and forth with herself in a debate like monologue, “I really shouldn’t take this bag. I just got some new luggage yesterday. But its a nice bag.”
“You could give it away,” Mark suggested. I was immediately horrified that he would expect this stranger to take care of our problem.
I touched his shoulder and whispered in his ear. “It’s not her problem. Let’s not expect her to take care of it.” Then I looked to her and apologized,”We can take it. Don’t worry about it.”
The lady moved. Behind her, I suddenly noticed her companion, an older lady I assumed to be her mother. She would not make eye contact. She appeared to have a very different presence than her daughter. Her daughter turned back over her shoulder to bark at her mother, “You should take that bag. It’s a nice bag.”
Mark immediately held it out again, eager to get rid of it, “Do you want it?”
Looking closely at the older lady I noticed a small moment when she made eye contact with my husband. Then she gave an almost unnoticeable nod. Boy, did she want it.
When she took it, she embraced it, holding it tightly to her chest, smoothing her hands across its canvas. Then I froze. She cared more for that bag in 30 seconds than I had in ten years. In that moment I was thankful to be there, in that store, with those ladies. I had been part of a gesture to make someone happy.
With our bags now rolling behind us, our shoulders, happy to be free of the burdens of luggage, we made our way to the exit of the everything store. Somehow, the lady, who only wanted some Beautiful perfume, beat us to the door. There she was, again appearing almost too suddenly. She slowly reached out her hand and touched my shoulder to thank me.
“We are going to be blessing you today for your kindess,” she said in smooth, gentle words.
We both smiled. Then, we walked out into the hot cement tunnel that was a Brooklyn street.