He walked through the glass doors and stood there for a moment, taking everything in. So I took him in. He was probably in his mid-seventies, with a slightly stooped back, a blue flannel shirt, and a baseball cap.
I hung out around the counter. Men almost always come to the counter at my store. It’s a women’s and children’s clothing store – few of them really want to stick around. So they come to the counter, ask their question, find the answer, and they’re on their way. Right on cue, the man made his way to the counter. I figured I’d probably be pointing him toward the smoke shop a few stores down.
I said a cheery, “Hello there!”
He met my eyes and nodded. I could add another item to my list of his characteristics: he smelled. “I’m here,”he began slowly, “to ask you about some coats I have.”
Hmm, not what I expected.
“You do consignment here, right?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
He tapped his fingers on the counter between us. I noticed that he had dirt beneath his nails. “How does it work?” he asked.
“Well,” I said, starting my spiel, “first, we go through your items and let you know which things we can keep to sell. Then, as your items sell, you build up money in an account here at the store. Then it all depends on how you would like to be paid. You can either be paid by check and receive forty percent of the price we sell your items for, or you can get store credit and receive fifty percent of the price.”
He nodded slowly and I wondered if I should have slowed down. I doubted that he would have anything we would be able to sell.
“Well,” he said, “I have some coats.”
Yes, I thought, you said that already.
“You see, my wife died two months ago.”
My cheeks began burning red for my unspoken thoughts.
“And I just worked up the courage to go through her things.” His eyes were intensely studying our carpet. “She has some nice coats, and I thought maybe somebody could use them.”
I paused for a moment to swallow the lump in my throat. He must have taken my silence as doubt, so he continued.
“I thought about bringing them to the Salvation Army, but she was always telling me how expensive those coats were. So I thought she might not like me to just donate them.”
I cleared my throat. “I can take down your name for an appointment next week, if you want.”
He nodded, gave me his name and the date he could come in, and left.
I walked to the other side of the store and related the story to the manager.
“Ugh,” she said, “I hate that. Because you know he’s going to come in with all this emotional attachment to the clothes, and he would be much better off just keeping them. They’ll probably smell like mothballs anyway.”
I nodded and walked back to my counter. Her words disgusted me, but I couldn’t blame her. A few minutes ago, I would have said the same thing.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.