What I Found In The Antique Shop

In an antique shop that doesn’t belong here or anywhere

There in one feeble glass case that looks like it will surely shatter and collapse to the floor when I touch it with the pad of my finger 

Are the relics of some woman’s jewelry case coated in a thick layer of dust

A locket that can’t open anymore with a tarnished silver chain a pair of silver earrings that are cemented to their backs a bracelet with broken pink painted beads a wedding ring and its pair 

And it tells a story that I was never supposed to know, and suddenly I am looking in on something I was not supposed to see 

How did he kick the bucket, why did he run, why did he leave her with the ring 

I am painfully out of place in this antique shop that is so full of lives that are not mine to barge in on 

So why can’t I stop looking in

And stop rifling through their jewelry boxes and their daughters’ old dollhouse full of barbies with promiscuously altered frocks and a worn set of golf clubs that have been used with boundless enthusiasm but not with skill and a corner table with one leg gnawed on by a great big dog 

If you listen in close enough to this junk you can almost hear its owners 

And like any chronic snoop

My disgust at sifting through these things is not outweighed by my loneliness


It is when I am here in the lake, shallow enough still that my face never dips below the surface

But deep enough to kick off the sandy pebbled floor and swim

That I don’t feel the twang of guilt that comes with peering into the lives of others from the periphery like an intruder 

I take one gulp of air, one look at the towering pines and purple-blue mountains that surround and plunge in 

Dead man’s float-


The water is so clear that I can see my hair spiraling out like kelp

Bouncing in my face and half obscuring my vision

Four yellow paws paddling behind me 

And down here it’s just me, there’s nothing to peek in on, no stories to invent, no drawers and displays to snoop through

I realize 

It is hard to feel out of place somewhere that nobody belongs 

And I come up for air and the water has cut the noise 

Because on the flip side everything is loud again with an unspoken contest on who blends in here the best

So I swallow air and take the plunge for the second time


But it is only a matter of time before I am in these houses

with a smattering of red plastic cups on a hastily painted table filled with cheap vodka diluted by some stale mixer 


Someone nurses them all night taking small sips like they are a fine wine paid for by the glass

 Until they are with company 

And then gulps become exaggerated and ugly and go down with a burn but not the good kind 

And the table with peeling paint and cigarette shaped burns is littered with fat burritos 

Packed to the brim, starting to ooze and become too warm to eat but too untouched to toss until the next morning when it becomes a fossil from a night better forgotten 

And I’m left wondering how I got here 

In these rooms that smell like single-use cotton shirts soaked with sweat and smoke 

Where a song disguised by a reverberating electro-pop beat and a cacophony of roguishly played drums shakes the floor

And drowns out hushed whispers and half-hidden giggling fits shared between the flocks that push their way brashly into the heart of the crowd

I am careful not to brush any shoulders too forcefully 

Or touch a hand in a pitch dark room

Or step on the floor littered with shards of green white and brown shattered glass like a chapel window masterpiece

They crunch and they crackle over the overlapping sounds of conversation about boyfriends and girls trips and the new bar downtown they won’t ID they never do

And I still don’t belong 

In this room that emanates the thick humidity of a hundred different perfumes mixed together like jungle juice 

But I’ll still listen in like I do

Shruthi Vasudevan

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