HEY GANG. Today have a vintage Erin and Henry post about the first time we went to the flea market together in 2005. This was also back when we hated each other, so read between the lines, I guess is what I’m saying, oh ho ho ho.
I’ve only ever been to a flea market once in my life (I’m a reformed Versace-girl, remember). That was in high school, and it was only a quick jaunt for my friend Jon to pick up some cheap cigarettes. I remember wanting to stay longer so I could look for cool things like slap bracelets and ugly lamps, but Jon reminded me that we had more important things to do, like sit and drink coffee at Denny’s for five hours.
So when Henry pressed his luck and threw “flea market” into the Sunday Morning suggestion box, I shrugged and said, “Maybe.” After learning he would buy me trinkets of affection (and shameless bribery), I hurriedly changed my vote to a yea.
I was eager to experience this so-called bargain circus with my frugal, blue-collared boyfriend, who is no doubt quite familiar with spotting a deal. Hopefully he could show me the ropes. At the very least, maybe it would turn into another social experiment, like when one of my ex boyfriends tried to show me how to grocery shop with coupons.
The flea market we attended was set up inside an old movie theater, with the excess spilling out into the back parking lot. Henry wore a proud look of “welcome to my world” on his face, as he steered the car through aisles of limping elderly and spandexed women. I saw fanny packs and torsos sausaged into crop tops everywhere I turned.
Feeling a swell of excitement as he parked between two Nascar bumper stickered cars, I whipped out my lip gloss for a touch-up.
“Are you kidding me? Did you not see the people we drove past? No one cares how you look! It’s a flea market.” But I like to look nice while I’m shopping! He stood next to the car with crossed arms until I dolefully returned the lip gloss to my purse.
We entered the converted theater and Henry seemed to be harboring some hesitation. Maybe he was regretting bringing me?
Once my eyes adjusted, I scoffed and whispered, “Oh my God, this stuff is so dumb! People actually buy this?” causing Henry to grip my elbow and push me along the aisle.
“Stupid. Ugly. Dumb. Whoa…..what’s that?” On a table to my right sprawled a sparking strand of exquisite black baubles suitable for any good Zsa Zsa Gabor impersonator (I should know — I dressed as her once in fifth grade). I held the necklace in my hand and allowed the coolness of the black gems to sink into my palm. This must be a thousand million dollars, I thought to myself in disdain. My eyes furtively sought the table for some sort of price tag, when they landed on a sign that said “All necklaces, $2.”
Be still my heart, I swooned! Pivoting on my heels, I silently implored Henry with wide eyes, necklace clutched to my heart. He rolled his eyes and passed me two dollar bills. When I looked at him in confusion, he said irritably, “Go give it to that old woman behind the table.” I didn’t know! God.
My first flea market purchase! I skipped back toward Henry and gloated in his face. “That’s great, now watch where you’re walking.” He was jealous, that’s all. This is when it occured to me that perhaps my depression could be attributed to lack of accessorizing. So I embarked on a mission for more gaudy adornments.
Twenty seconds later and Henry had lost me. While he continued to walk ahead, I had been drawn over to a table boasting brilliantly colored wooden necklaces. I fawned over them with glazed eyes until Henry made his way back to my side.
“I’m buying these two. Give me money.” When Henry’s hand failed to move toward his pocket, I made like I was going to cause a scene and he hurriedly slapped a twenty in my hand.
I wore the necklace pictured later that day when we went to lunch and each time the waitress would stop at our table, I would flip my hair dramatically over my shoulder and wait for the inevitable shriek of “Oh my god that necklace is so great! Where did you get it!” Alas, she never noticed (Henry maintains that she noticed, alright, but just didn’t care).
Quickly deciding that I was going to empty his pockets if we stayed inside amongst all the “nice” merchandise, he decided to take me out to the parking lot where all the junk was set up. On our way out there, an old woman careened into Henry with a rolled up rug and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry dear heart.” I made a mental note of calling him that for the rest of the day, but it became a fleeting memory once we walked out the doors and were barraged by blaring country music and the dueling aromas of soul food and teriyaki chicken. What a mix.
I shielded my eyes and took in the sea of slipshod tools, bargain cleaning products, and board games with missing pieces. We flipped through stolen DVDs and crates of cracked CD cases; I’ll never see more Rick Astley CDs in all my lifetime if I try.
People bounded from table to table, like locusts, grabbing up armfuls of batteries, watering cans adorned with giant plastic daisies, and Barbie clothes. Underneath small tents, more people pushed and shoved to get a better look at VHS selections, dollar store Christmas decorations and faded Steelers shirts.
I had grown accustomed to paying only $1-$2 for things that caught my eye, so when I’d see price tags demanding a lofty $5 and up, I’d slap my hand across my chest and say things like “Astronomical!” and “Oh, sister, you’re out of your mind!” I fear that I may be forever ruined by the flea market and all of its remarkable deals.
We trudged our way up and down the aisles, Henry stepping on the backs of my flip-flops and me complaining of the pelting sun. In the middle of a train of snide remarks, I interrupted myself with a breathy “Uh-oh.”
“What does that mean, ‘uh-oh’?” Henry asked nervously. “What did you do?”
“Would you look?” I said, as I pointed vigorously to the stand on our left.
“Yeah, it’s all junk. Keep walking.” And he started ambling away, that Henry. I tugged him back over to the table and pointed again.
“I want that.”
“No, I’m not buying it. Come on.”
“But I need it! Please ask that man how much it is!” You know how when you’re a kid and you just have to have a certain toy and your parents know that you’ll never play with it so they don’t want to encourage you? That’s kind of how it is all day, every day with Henry and me.
Henry stood quietly for a few seconds, staring at the object of my desire. “My loins are burning for it, Henry! Please, it’s my dying wish!” I was yanking his arm and lurching up and down like I had to pee. I scrunched up my face and flung my hand across my forehead.
And so he finally cleared his throat and dejectedly asked the elderly black man behind the table how much the brown nudie mug would set him back.
ONE DOLLAR. Oh, my heart soared and I beamed and squealed as I watched Henry make the transaction. The man plunked it into a plastic bag and I wrestled it from Henry’s fist. “I swear to god I’ll use it everyday!” I emphatically vowed.
“Yeah? I wouldn’t,” Henry muttered as we continued along the aisles of clutter.
Still riding the waves of euphoria over my nudie mug, a shiny glint caught my eye. Stopping abruptly, I slowly turned my head to see what was causing such a dazzling glow and gasped as I collapsed back into Henry.
“No, oh no. Keep walking,” Henry’s face was awash with a stew of apprehension and horror.
“But it’s the most beautifulest thing in the world!” I breathed. “I want it. I want it! How much do you think it is?” I had to run to catch up to him, as his pace quickened significantly. “Please?!”
“You act like everything is life or death,” Henry spat as he continued to browse tables for stuff that he likes (which is all stupid stuff).
“I really think that I need this, though. I mean, I love my nudie mug, but this would make me even more happy. Don’t you want me to be happy?” That gets him every time. Every time. I knew that once we made our way back around, he would buy it for me.
What is it? Only the most glorious piece of art you’ll ever see, that’s what it is.
I walked with my head down, body rigid and consumed with panic. “What if someone buys it?”
“Um, doubtful,” Henry uttered while tossing me a fed up face.
Mere seconds later, I was entranced by a glazed ceramic figurine that resembled Big Boy, only he sported frightening lime green eyes. Standing at about a foot tall, I envisioned him perched on my fireplace mantle, keeping watch over my guests. The grizzled old guy manning the table caught me staring at it and warbled in a hoarse mountain man voice, “Anything here catch your eye?”
I wanted to clap and say, “Yes, mister! This right here! How much?” but Henry pierced through my soul with slinted eyes, and with flared nostrils he quickly shook his head “no.” As we walked away, I scuffed my feet and tried to make him understand how much I wanted it.
“That stupid thing was wearing golf clothes and it was carrying a golf bag. Why would you want that?”
“I love golf!” I was offended that he did not know this. When he denied my golfing affectations, I reminded him that I have Phil Mickelson listed as a LiveJournal interest.
“Yeah, but that’s not because you think he’s a good golfer. It’s because you’re weird.” He was still mouthing off about me being a golf fan-poseur, when I saw the most beautiful, gigantic metal bangle bracelet.
I thrust my fist through it and modeled it for all to see. The Asian woman behind the table cooed. “Yes, that’s lovely! Three dollah.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe…I can’t decide.” I scrutinized the heavy bracelet and admired how it mirrored the sun’s blinding rays. I continued to deliberate, peppering the moment with uncertainties such as “Maybe I’ll be back” and “Do I really need such an extravagant piece of jewelry adorning my wrist?” until she said, “OK fine, two dollah!”
As I walked away with my new chintzy bangle, I shielded my eyes from its blazing shine and elbowed Henry in the side. “Did you see what I did back there? Knocking her down to a cheaper price? That’s called bartering, Henry. I learned how to do that in Morocco.” Because I loooove reminding Henry that I had already traveled half the world by the time I was 13 while he was busy coloring his collar blue.
“Didn’t you hear what she said? You could have got three for $5, so wipe the smirk off your face–you were still taken.”
And then there we were, back to the table that housed the diamond in the rough. “Look at it,” I purred. “If that’s not the most beautiful—”
“Do you honestly want it?” I imagine Henry thought I was joking until he saw that my eyes were tearing up. And so he asked the seller how much it was going for and suddenly, I felt a rush of blood to my head, and the sound of crashing drums filled my ears. I braced myself for the ugly truth, willing to wager that my masterpiece was going to be too steep for Henry’s meager salary. I could hear Henry talking, but it sounded long and drawn out, like a record playing on slow speed.
I’ll tell you what, I thought my eyes deceived me, like an oasis in the desert illusion, when I saw him hand over two dollar bills. TWO DOLLARS FOR THIS PIECE OF EYE CANDY.
It’s like three feet long!
“I can’t believe someone bought this the first time,” Henry said disgustedly as he thrust the beauty into my greedy hands. I stared at it in awe. What a dangerous item to be placed into the care of someone as sacrilegious as myself. My mind began to whirl as I imagined all the things I could do with it. Chase Marcy around the house; slice Henry’s wrists and splatter his blood over it; use it as a TV dinner tray.
There was a brief window of fear as I wondered if the picture was so cheap because it was haunted. Like, I don’t know, maybe by the Holy Ghost? I made a mental note of hanging the picture below my devil clock; let him keep an eye out, you know?
Generally, I make Henry carry all the bags when we go shopping, but yesterday, I stingily hoarded them all for myself. Feeling my last supper picture slap against my thigh as I walked caused me great delight.
I’m hoping to shop at the flea market all the time now.
“Hey big spender, do you think it would be alright if I bought myself a hot dog?”
You know what, Henry, go and have that hot dog; I think that’ll be just fine.
[Note from the future: I was reminded me of this when I saw a similar piece to the Last Supper at Flower Child last weekend. It was the same size and made from the same material, except that instead of Jesus & Co., it was fruit and FORTY DOLLARS.]