Chapter 1 - Shopping
Thus, we poured ourselves into various activities and projects in hopes of filling the current void in our life. Not the least of which is renovating our house. Our current project is the bedroom; we're working on an oriental theme with an emphasis on classic deep blood reds & black and including as many neat trinkets as possible to add those extra little touches.
I mentioned our renovation plans to Jack, one of my coworkers, while comparing our workloads at home as well as at our paying profession, and he pointed out a quant little oriental trade shop a few blocks from work. Having never heard of it, I made a mental note to go check it out at lunch later. In the mean time, the monotony of work beckoned and we needed to return.
Once lunch finally rolls around, I asked Jack if he'd be interested in checking out the oriental shop, but he had a meeting or some other lame excuse about having to eat in. Jack really was a work-a-holic. But that's just life for him.
In any event, the directions he gave were rather well and it was a nice brisk walk on a clear day. After hearing the tinkling of the bell toll once I was inside, I knew I would have to watch my wallet here as I could easily go further in debt in a store like this. There were dozens of mismatched oriental furniture pieces, and all sorts of genuine looking art pieces. This definitely was not a cookie cutter chain store but something closer to a second hand store for authentic, high-quality, oriental wares. Most of it appeared out of our price range, but some of the smaller accent pieces could be excellent additions to our room. I was so enraptured by all the exquisite details, it never occurred to me that I hadn't seen anyone else; even someone minding the store.
Suddenly startled by a shuffling coming from the back, my head shot up to see a very elderly looking oriental man come walking out from the back. I realized where some of these items may have come from when I was forced to decipher through his very think Chinese accent, "Hello! Welcome to my store. See anything you like?" I must have looked appalling staring at him dumbfoundedly while my brain churned away on those simple words. He merely chuckled and continued, "Yes.… plenty here for you."
"Um… yes, yes... you have quite a fine selection," I finally answered. "My wife and I are looking to redecorate our bedroom and you have some very fine items here. I am mostly looking at the moment, but I'm sure I will be back with her for several purchases."
"Ah yes, but that is not all you seek for your bedroom and your wife… is it, Geoff?"
My brain wrapped so hard around decrypting his question, it didn't even register that he used my name. "I'm sorry; what do you mean?"
"You seek more from her even though she give so much. She does not do everything you need and leaves you unfulfilled."
"I'm sorry, but you must be confused, sir. My personal life is none of your business, but I will have you know I have a very loving, adoring, and attentive wife! And I will thank you stick to the business at hand." I had made the cardinal rule of bartering, because I should have just left after being insulted so personally rather than continuing to argue the point and showing my desire to buy. But I just couldn't pass up what was available here.
"Ah, but there are things that you have not given her either leaving her unfulfilled as well." That stung as I know even though we have not been able to have children yet, Stacey has been disappointed we haven't been able to conceive.
"What are you trying to get at, old man?"
"Come here and I show you," as he shuffled off behind a counter waving to me to follow.
As I approached slowly still trying to figure out why I was still entertaining this conversation, he reached under the counter and brought out a roll of velvet. As he slowly unrolled the velvet, it exposed some very old looking parchment. Looking closer I could tell this was genuine bamboo parchment just looking at the edges, the thickness, and the way it held its weight; no modern-day paper can ever simulate that. By the looks of it, it was definitely old; much older than even most of the artwork on his walls.
However, one strange thing immediately spoke out about this very old parchment: it was totally blank. There were two sheets that he slowly spread apart and neither had a drop of ink anywhere on them. Why there would be such old parchment never used, but still so delicate kept over such an obvious time period escaped me.
Looking up at him, he was sporting a very broad and toothy smile, "Ahh… very nice, eh? And yes very old, too."
"Well… yes, but they are blank."
This brought out a very deep and throaty chuckle for such a small and aged man, "Hahaha. But of course! How else you use them if they have already been used?" This was followed by some under the breath comment in his native tongue that I could only assume was something along the lines of "silly American" based on tone alone.
"Okay, and what exactly would I use them for?"
"To help you and your wife" or was it life? Very hard to tell with his accent.
"How? Eat them? Burn them? Use them for tea bags? What?" At this he was most startled and against.
He follows this up with some very long winded grumbling and what I can only assume is cursing as he paces behind the counter alternately staring at the floor and parchment and glaring at me.
"NO!" He finally spoke plainly violently landing his hands on the counter. "You *WRITE* on them." Punctuating this with a slap to my cheek.
Nursing the side of my face in stunned silence he continued.
"You take two pens of good, strong ink and soft, delicate tip. Divide parchment and pen between you and wife." He continues as I focus on getting through his quant accent. "You write what you would like to see in her; she writes what she would like to see in you. Then place under pillow and sleep. In morning, everything is as you both would like. All Happy!" There was that toothy grin.
"Okay, I'm supposed to take this very old parchment. My wife and I write on it. I put what I'd like to change about Stacey; she puts what she'd like to change about me. Then we sleep on it?"
He nods, and then answers gravely, "but *never* use names; only use 'man spouse' and 'woman spouse'."
"Sounds like a therapy exercise. Also sounds like a lot of trouble when she reads it…"
"NO!" Cutting me off quickly in mid-sentence, "Never read! Only write and put under pillow. Must not read!"
Okay makes since as would allow us to be honest. Sounds like an interesting exercise, but I'd be damned if I'd use this old parchment for a silly exercise like that.
In any event, I figured that some artwork and framing could add a bit of personal touch to our theme and his sales pitch deserved some reward, so I asked the final question, "How much?"
I must have misunderstood; that is a steel for two genuine, classic bamboo parchment sheets, but before I could allow him to correct it I took out my wallet and handed him a $10 bill.
As his hand touch the modern day weaved artwork, I found myself standing outside my office building 6 blocks away with a roll of velvet in my hand and not remembering taking a step from his store. "It's got to be the heat."
Listening to the church bells in the background announce the time, I knew I'd have to hurry to get back upstairs before my staff meeting. Just back to my life.