September 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

I have a thrift store habit. Like, the woman who works Fridays at the Salvation Army, Ms. Pam? She knows me. She practically has a petting zoo at her house. I know this because she shows me photos of her new llamas and zebras when I check out. ” I had to feed that one with a baby bottle,” she’ll say. Ms. Annette knows me too. She works during the week and always asks about my sister.
I can’t pay more than $3.39 for anything anymore. I’ve gotten caught up in the hunt and sudden discovery of something even better than I imagined. I tried to quit, but then, like a confirmed smoker, I decided to revel in my habit. If you go in for retail therapy, this has to be the least damaging kind. I am one of five girls, after all. I’ve never had many clothes that weren’t first worn by someone else. I don’t mind taking home someone’s cast offs, throwing them in the washer, and calling them mine.

A few weeks ago at the Army, as my sister and I call it, I ran into my thrift store sweetheart.

“So nice to see you, Stephanie,” Mr. Antonio says. “You’ve been on my mind.” “Have you found anything good today?” I ask. “Only you,” he says. Mr. Antonio is about eighty, with a thin, angular, caramel face. His eyes are bluish with cataracts, and they stare right through me. Mr. Antonio is still spry. He still drives himself to the Army. He wears a fedora, and I get the impression he always has. Usually, our greeting is the extent of our interaction. Sometimes, though, if he wants conversation, he will tell me I look Polish and ask about my ancestry. “I spent time in Europe,” he will say. “Really?” I will say, and listen to his story, even though I’ve heard it fifty times. He’ll say something to me in another language and smile. Mr. Antonio and I will wander aimlessly around the army then in different directions, looking for something, even though we’re never sure what it is until we find it.

I worry when he doesn’t show up for a few weeks, but he always returns. I am beginning to believe he is half magic, and unlike the rest of the world, will never disappear. I’m happy to be the Polish girl of his memory, and he doesn’t seem to mind playing my charming sweetheart, always looking out for me, keeping me on his mind. Each of us, for a few moments, finds what fits.


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