Sunday, November 12, 2006
We bought an antique on Friday to replace a lovely parquet-top table which had room only for a lamp and framed photos of my children as kids. (I need to get some new ones. Photos, not kids.) Our place is small. Everything needs to earn its keep in multiple ways. The new piece is a Chinese elm chest with doors that open on shelves and a couple of small drawers as well. It will hold even more pictures of my children on top.
We went back to the antique store to pick it up yesterday. Flip dropped me off and drove around to look for parking, an impossible task in San Francisco on a Saturday. He thinks double parking is immoral or something.
I've discovered that one of the local cab companies has mini-vans. Great to know when you've purchased something larger than your car and the store doesn't deliver. The shop's owner and I were carrying the chest to the sidewalk when another customer with a voice like a crow asked me, "What did you pay for it?"
I ignored her and held up my end of the chest. Kept walking. She repeated herself, louder.
I said, "I'm not sure. I bought a couple of things and don't know how it breaks down." Not true. I know exactly what I paid. It just wasn't any of her business.
She said, "Did you already pay for it?"
"Uh huh." Almost to the curb now.
"You PAID for it?" Well, no. Actually, I'm stealing it. And the owner is helping me.
She planted herself in front of Joanne, the shop owner, and said, "I need this piece. It goes perfectly with my console."
Joanne didn't say anything. What COULD she say, really? The woman said, "Did you hear me? I have to have this piece. How much was it?"
Joanne told her what I'd payed, which was a little less than the ticketed price because I'd asked if she could do better on it. The woman was screaming now.
"IREALLYNEEDTHIS. It matches my console perfectly." She was stroking it obscenely. I wanted to smack her hand. Nobody does that to my furniture.
Her friend piped up. "It matches her console."
Joanne said, "It's already sold."
My taxi-van was waiting.
The woman said, "Well, give her her money back and sell it to ME." She didn't offer to pay more; she just wanted to replace me as the buyer.
Joanne and I waited while the cab driver, Anne, opened her back doors.
The woman, still holding onto my elm chest, MY elm chest, said to me, "SELL IT TO ME!" It was clearly an order.
I shook my head. Smiled through cold teeth.
"I want it," I said. As in, that's why I bought it, you-stupid-bitch.
Her friend said, "But it goes with her console."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Flip do a drive-by. He didn't double park. He disappeared into the ether again. I tried to call him on his cell, but it went straight to message. Of course it did. It was ringing on his desk at home.
Joanne and Anne and I hefted My Chest into the back of the van. It was carpeted, so we didn't need the blanket and thick quilt I had brought along, which were still circling the planet like a satellite in our car.
The woman and her friend were now trying to prevent Anne from closing her doors.
I pointed to the store and said, "There's another Chinese chest right by the door that's beautiful, and about the same size." I had to repeat myself because the woman was still loudly trying to bully Joanne into revoking my parental rights and selling it to her.
Finally, she heard me. She and her friend gave the other piece, which was quite lovely, a cursory glance, like a fly swatter killing a fly, and pronounced it "a piece of shit." Not like MY Chinese chest. The one that got away. The one that went to a Good Home.
"I want THIS one," she yelled. She was apoplectic now. The veins were standing out on her dried-up neck.
"Well, you should check back often, "I chirped cheerily. "She gets in new things all the time."
"That's what always happens," said Joanne. "As soon as something sells, someone else wants it." I wondered if they were all so aggressive and rude, but didn't ask. After all, I won this round. The taxi driver emptied about 90 pounds of stuff from her passenger seat and we headed for home.
I had asked Joanne to tell Flip that I'd had to leave if he ever came back, and just as Anne and I finished unloading the chest to my lobby, he showed up.
It looks beautiful by the fireplace, just as I knew it would. It looks happy here. I think it knows what a narrow escape it had. Everything deserves to be loved, and not just acquired.