As I put fox guides out of mind, I could at last turn my attention back to our then destination. Our steps carried us in time to a secondhand shop not far from the city’s outskirts. From the road, I gave it a look over and made a swift mental catalogue of its outward features: a collection of glass bricks for garden or home decoration; the discarded metal sign from a one-time “northern brasserie”; rusting frames for nightstands given over to the elements; the facade’s dirty brick and flecked paintwork; without forgetting an assortment of handpainted cards affixed to the facade and promising all manner of finds therein. In all, the outside could rightfully be considered unassuming by secondhand shop standards.
Yet once through the front door, the exterior’s unassuming quality fell away before the inner tumult. While one might reasonably expect a measure of tumult from any secondhand, given the social purpose as a repository for things unwanted, this impression owed more to the shop’s architecture. For I found the place to be comprised of several uneven levels, which had seemingly crashed into one another and, generally, fit ill at the joints. Certainly, the owners had done much to smooth this rough quality through careful placement of ramps, short steps and hidden stairwells, as well as the choice clearing out of walls. But there nonetheless lay over the shop’s inward existence all the clues necessary to follow its growth from meager, one-room beginning to sprawling, multi-room present.
Thinking back on this time, I can now imagine G. having related as much to me through our tour of the different floors and rooms. Yet I cannot shake the feeling that I have, of my own built up from nothing this recollection and that he gave no such independent confirmation of the shop’s steady takeover of building and neighboring structures. Whatever the truth of the matter, the cards on the premises had not lied in that many finds indeed lay inside, and G. served an excellent pilot through oxbows of linens and fabrics, eddies of glassware and banks of cast-off furniture.
Display cases occupied pride of place in the shop’s organizing logic and stood ready for the treasure hunter, brimming with unusual castoffs. Among their number I counted a 1940’s contact lens set, complete with dropper and instructions, for a mere forty-eight pounds. At a glance, the lenses appeared too large by half for human eyes, so I wondered whether the first lenses had not in fact covered the eye’s full surface, the ocular globe closed off from the world by glass sheath. So had their user lived free from that decade’s distorting effects. The same case held everything from replacement clock batteries to leather cases for poker dice.
Elsewhere, our inspection found us perusing old postcards, maps and prints, for which my companion had an admitted weakness, or posing for an obligatory photograph, beneath empty birdcages, in all manner of headwear, most notably a deerstalker, which I had turned up in one musty corner. Outside, morning shadows grew shorter, as did the list of rooms still to be visited, until, some minutes later, Victoria’s decidedly impassive bust showed us the door. Back in the cool morning air, we set our sights on a pub at the other end of the road. Over vegetarian sausage and porter, we would soon thereafter discuss afternoon plans and come to an unexpected resolution.