David Arioch – Jornalismo Cultural

Jornalismo Cultural

Archive for the ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ tag

A short christmas story

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The more I walked inside the shop, the more I felt like walking through Nell Trent’s grandfather’s antique shop


I walked to the back of the shop and showed her an old small brown wooden chest (Photo: David Arioch)

It happened in my town when I was 14 years old. As I walked down the street on Christmas Eve, the rain was thin on the busy downtown. I looked at the turbid sky and didn’t understand how the water that touched my body could be warm while it dampened my head in a solemn short cold interval.

I was intrigued and I saw a purpose. The drops that crashed against my scalp and my forehead, dripping between my eyes, sliding down my nose, and making the contours of my mouth before jumping from my chin to my chest, reduced my drowsiness and sent me warning signs, it demanded my attention where I walked.

Until then, I walked like a peculiar kind of incorrigible sleepwalker. I had slept less than five hours and I felt my eyes warm, tired and flushed. My reflection in the shop window revealed a tangled and abstract aspect. I heard acute, mild, severe and oscillating voices on all sides, but I couldn’t identify words. “Are they really speaking English?” This question protruded from my consciousness.

Mixed with rain, sometimes violent, sometimes calm, falling from the branches of trees that shaded the narrow sidewalk, the unexpected smell of wet earth in Mine Street inebriated me. The fairy lights colored the drops that returned to natural transparency when it released from its plastic and glass hosts. The truth is that I noticed just what glittered or amplified my senses.

People talked to me. I didn’t know who they were or what they said. Confused, I limited myself to smile as much as possible, without showing too many teeth. I felt very tired and my bleary eyes didn’t help me deal properly with human interaction that morning.

After a long walk, I scratched my eyes and stopped in front of a mirror of an antique shop. “Hmm, now I’m getting better. Soon I’ll feel 100%”, I concluded. A nice lady invited me to visit the place. The entrance was narrow, but the interior space was big and seemed so inviting and mysterious, that I had a sudden urge to spend hours there.

Fragrances of cloves, vanilla, amber, sandalwood and musk, distributed in various antiquarian points, leading the visitor to feel like part of a divided reality into fragments, with perfumes that enriched objects, the shop owner asked if I would like to see something special. I said no, and she left me at ease. Previously, she told me that she devoted many years of her life buying and collecting objects from 1910 to 1970.

“My father passed away over 30 years ago. He was a collector of things that people considered obsolete or of little value. ‘How something that marked a period and demanded days and even months of effort, may someday be seen as insignificant? There is nothing in the world that deserves such depreciation”, he told this to Martha, the owner of the antique shop before leaving to meet a client who was looking for a music box.

The more I walked inside the shop, the more I felt like walking through Nell Trent’s grandfather’s antique shop, immortalized by Charles Dickens. For a moment, it also reminded me of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” by Frank Capra. Well, in my case and at that time, happiness could be purchased.  However, the reality was a destroyers desire. I opened my grizzly and battered wallet, counted the notes and coins which bobbed into my pocket, and I quickly made sure that nothing there fit in my budget.

The sadness hit me hard. It made me perspire, moistening my hands and the few notes of low value that I looked crestfallen. The coins have lost their luster, as if they were powerless, destroyed by circumstance. By far, Martha noticed the moment I quickly cringed to put money in my pocket and left the antiquarian.

She interrupted me and asked if I appreciated anything. I said yes. “Ok, then why won’t you take anything?” I hesitated for a few seconds. I felt trapped, like a helpless animal. Seeing in her face a comforting expression of benevolence, I just told her that I didn’t have money to buy anything in her shop.

“Why not? How much do you have?” Reluctantly, my hands were shaking when I took the notes and coins from my pocket. Marta smiled and asked me to show her which object pleased me most.

I walked to the back of the shop and showed her an old small brown wooden chest that cost more than double of my savings. “Who will you give it to? It’s a nice Christmas present! You have good taste!”, commented Martha, making me blush. I explained that it would be for my mother. Then she asked if there was something in my pocket. I took a piece of white paper that carried a little poem of mine called “Faience Child”.

Martha read it carefully, smiled and, to my surprise, declared that “my work” covered the rest of the amount. Before leaving, she asked me to autograph the poem and to help her put it in a golden frame of baroque inspiration . “Now we have a valuable framework,” she emphasized.

We said goodbye and she accompanied me to the shop’s entrance, where I saw her smiling graciously until the time that I disappeared from her sight. Excited, I walked through Vargas Street and I returned home watching the sun clearing the cloudy morning, drying the asphalt and illuminating the scene, vehicles, people and animals which were covered by the same warm and lilting mantle.

The following month, I took my mother to the antiquarian. When we got there, there was nothing, only a rent board. “A glimpse of passing faces caught by the light of a street-lamp or a shop window is often better for my purpose than their full revelation in the daylight”, wrote Charles Dickens in “The Old Curiosity Shop”.