Ben had recently lost a co-worker.
She had checked out a few months before, but had finally just made one too many no call, no shows.
Since no one was going with him, he decided to take me. He said that there was a Yellow Deli right on the way, and a few antique stores that he’d driven by, a number of times.
At this point, I have been hardcore collecting old photos for roughly a year, and am old hat at this game by now.
We always end up leaving really early, the days that I go with him. I typically pack the night before; some pillows, a blanket, devices and snacks. I always bring Pluto with me, as he is of great comfort, though I grab him in the morning, since I sleep with him, nightly.
Ben and I leave around 330am, me mostly miserable, as I hardly ever get any sleep on those nights.
I remember the drive down, so clearly. There was heavy, rolling fog, so dense you could hardly see 50 feet in front of you. I suppose I love the mountains; the beauty they have, the comfort they bring.
It was an amazing ride down, which I had expected to miss most of. I had planned on sleeping, on the way, but my mind was whirring, endlessly, battling demons, of a kind.
My head was throbbing, and I felt awful by the time we arrived, and I easily passed out in the back seat, once Ben left to inventory the store.
It took me a while to get comfortable, though this is nothing unexpected. Getting comfortable is always a struggle for me.
Though once I had— I was out like a log, and didn’t stir. Except, apparently, to answer the phone and talk to my biological father for an hour or so. Strangely, I remember the call, but I don’t remember the waking, or the eventual fall back into slumber.
My biological father has his own demons, too numerous to really get into, but the call sounded especially desperate. I remember the concern that the call evoked, and I did, later, shoot him an email, asking if he was okay. He said he was, but I doubt that. Nevertheless, I cannot help if he doesn’t ask.
After Ben finished the store, we were on the way to the Yellow Deli. It’s my favorite sub shop, and they have the best reubens. I also love their mango tea.
Contemplating if I were to try something new, or stick with my favorite, I spotted a large old factory, made of brick. It was right off the road, though it sunk down so you could only see the top floor, and a bright red white and blue flag that read ‘ANTIQUES’ in bold, waiving letters.
I quickly squealed, begging Benjamin to stop. He said we could, though we had to be mindful of time, as we had already called in the sandwich order.
Inside the place was huge; three full floors of antiques. The first floor had a white wooden ramp that lead down into the main floor, in which we were greeted by an incredibly friendly golden retriever.
I like to think I am good with animals; I must be as they mostly adore me. The large old pup did too, and followed me through the entire place. I joked to Ben that he was the security, and made sure we didn’t shoplift.
The thing I remember the most from the store is a booth with African masks. Each of them was stunning, and I would have bought everyone of them, if they hadn’t cost over $200 a piece.
The booths were all independently owned, and managed. I happened upon a tubberware bin full of photos, straight away. I scoured through them, and picked out a few. At this point in time I am searching more for interesting looking people, rather than pretty. I tend to be inclined more towards the pretty photos, but I really try to pick a good variety.
I hadn’t expected to find much more in the way of photos, most places only have so many. To my surprise, however, there were two more booths with pictures, one of which had an amazing family album, which was disappointingly out of my $20 price range.
The room in the front was set up like an early American bedroom, all quilted soft pinks and lace. The bed was iron, wrought in an old fashioned style, painted white, which was far too pristine to be original, though it was still stunning.
There was a gramophone in the corner, with a brass horn covered in a patina that was wholly unreal. Two end tables sat on either side of the bed, one with an antique fan, the other with an ancient, hardly in one piece, Bible. The Bible had giant calligraphy scrawled across the cover, stating plainly what it was so there would be no questions.
But none of this, nor the paintings on the wall, held my interest for long. On the bed, sat a hatbox. It was plain, and hardly much to write home about; I think it was navy in color. Inside the box, however, was a pile of cabinet cards, which my greedy hands could not touch fast enough.
On the top of the pile, almost set above the rest, was a picture with two boys, certainly siblings, possibly even twins.
I was besotted. I wouldn’t put it down. To this day it remains my favorite in my collection.