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A gentle gale is reeling around my limbs, reminding me that these are summer’s closing moments. It’s a nebulous Sunday afternoon looming with warnings of the approaching seasons. I’m perusing aisle after aisle of cheap stands marketing crappy merchandise in pursuit of the music vender who seems absent from the crowd.
The masses bustle about in complete disregard of me, aside from the occasional cat call from the middle-aged Hispanic men who frequent the flea market in the overwhelmingly Hispanic town of Dover. The other bargain-seekers keep to themselves, myself included. I suppose the thought that this place isn’t exactly known for its safety is always looming in the mind of a girl with little experience outside her element. (Her element being a wealthy, predominantly white, Republican town so intent on preserving its history that fast-food and chain stores are denied existence within the city limits.)
I’ve always felt that crossing over the town borders can be a refreshing burst of cool air. To understand that the majority of the planet’s population does not consist of the superficial beings immersed in designer handbags and manicured fingernails I find so superfluous in historic Mendham is something that keeps me honest and open. When I stroke my overfed tabby, who purrs like the diesel engine in my Mercedes coupe, as he kneads my angora sweater in an unnamed feline nirvana, I can only be thankful for what I’ve been given.
And while I appreciate what I have, I also appreciate what it takes to make things happen. Since sophomore year, I have held a part-time job working for an incorrigible elderly Jewish couple of colossal proportions. Through their complaints concerning my avant-garde style and my laugh, I have supplied myself with the chance to travel to Europe twice, as well as with apparel and anything else I want. Through this I have acquired an awareness of how many hours of mind-numbing busy work at $7 an hour are required to pay for those $80 moccasin boots I’ve been craving.
I’ve given up finding the music vender; he must have moved on. So here I am wandering aimlessly through the vast expanse of hideous, poorly made clothing and housewares, one foot in front of the other, taking in the scents of corn dogs and body odor.
I’m approaching the outskirts of the market when something interesting catches my eye. The sign reads “Shoes $2” and hangs on a rack piled high with pawed-over pumps and espadrilles. I look through them and find every pair to be at least mildly distasteful. I turn to continue my undirected stroll when I see a pair of what appears to be moccasin boots. I can’t quite understand what I’m beholding. I have little control over my speech when I approach the vender.
“H-how, wha-what size? Are these?”
The elderly woman runs her gnarled fingers through her profuse, kinky hair. She glances at me with a hint of concern through glasses so thick that they magnify her eyes almost twice, prior to examining the boots and concluding they’re a size eight.
That’s my size. I’m a size eight. I feel as if my stomach is surging up through my chest, enveloping the quickening pace of my heart.
“Can I try?” I stutter, directing an index finger toward my size eight feet. She nods permissively.
I couldn’t have found a better fit. I wiggle my toes and gaze longingly at the tasseled cowhide encasing my size eight feet and inquire, “Two dollars?” At her tired nod I fumble for my red patent wallet and extract two worn bills. She bags my boots and I steal away greedily as if to say, “Good riddance, George Washington.”
I turn the key in the ignition. The miniature moccasin keychain bumps against my right thigh and my arms systematically rotate the steering wheel to the left. I glimpse the hair on my forearms standing on end, towering over the cold bumps of my usually smooth skin.
Great bargains give me goose bumps.