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Looks Can Be Positively Deceiving

It was one day in South Africa that I was caught in the rain. The city streets were crowded with people; gum was stuck to the sidewalks. Everyone walked hurriedly, some spreading open colorful umbrellas like flowers blooming in a spring shower.

As the sparse amounts of blue in the sky were filled in by the existing gray, I spied a small antique shop nudged between two brick buildings. Old brass lanterns that looked brand new sparkled through the window. Antique trinkets and silver teapots also littered the display. I was drawn inside; my love of antiques had given me an excuse to escape the rain.

I tried the handle, but the door wouldn’t budge. I started to leave, dismayed, but then I heard a buzzer, and the lock clicked open. Before I had a chance to think, I had stepped into the warm little shop.

A scary man greeted me, and I was immediately afraid. He was old?at least seventy, I thought. His face was deformed, and he looked surprisingly similar to Hannibal Lectur in Silence of the Lambs. If he was the only one who could open the door, I was trapped. It would be morbidly easy for him to hurt me.

My breath was rapid, and I tried to act normal as I browsed the displays. Maybe if I don’t act afraid he won’t do anything, I thought. But as I walked around, he followed me, and attempted to start a conversation. If I picked up one of the items on the shelves, he’d start to tell a story about it. When I examined a small white box, he informed me, “This box is made entirely out of ivory, even the pins are made out of ivory. And look at that carving,” pointing to the top of the little container, “It took a long time to carve that design.”

I was a bit skeptical of him. Was he trying to persuade me to buy it? That wouldn’t happen. It was two hundred dollars! But as I started thinking about these things, instead of “he’s going to hurt me,” I relaxed, and the tension left my back and shoulders. I found myself enjoying his company, and began asking him all sorts of questions. Where do you get all these antiques? Is business slow in this bad economy? Why did you decide to open an antique store? But my favorite conversation was when he told me about when he was a teenager.

“My love of old things started when I was in high school,” he started, “I signed up for the scuba diving program. Back then, it was a pretty dangerous hobby. But it was exciting. There were so many shipwrecks around that no one had salvaged. In the scuba club that I joined, it was our job to dive on the wrecks and look for the treasure.”

His story impressed me, and I respected him. Before I knew it, an hour and a half had slipped away, and it was dark out. I had to get going. My worries were gone however, and when he pushed a little remote clipped to his pants, the door opened and I was on my way, back to the hotel.

I only got the chance to visit him one last time before we left to go back to the US. He asked for my email address, and I gave it to him happily.

I haven’t heard from him since, until now. I just got his message today, and I silently cried to myself for a long time. He was closing up his antique store. He had decided to retire early, because of his rapid deteriorating illness, cancer. He hadn’t said a thing to me about it. He had seemed so happy, inspired by the past and all of his treasured antiques. I felt so sorry for him that he’d die all alone. But it wasn’t until now that I truly realized how looks really can be deceiving. That even though people sometimes looks scary, they may truly have warm




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generousgenerous said...
Apr. 10, 2010 at 10:18 pm:

Wow, your story is truly moving.

Unfortunatly, I have the habit of judging people by their looks immediately before I get to know them, even though I know I shouldn't. Just goes to show that not everything about a person is displayed for the world to see. You have to get past thier appearance to find out the true person within. I loved your story.

 
sailerc This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 11, 2010 at 9:17 am :
Thank you!
 
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