There aren’t many “things” in the world that get me too excited. I hate shopping. I hate spending money on “stuff.” I’m much more of the “build memories” with experiences, rather than items I can display. I like what I have to serve a purpose in my life.
There are exceptions, of course. Ever heard of Funko Pops? I’ve got a few of those, gifts from my boyfriend mostly — he likes to build my strong female character collection. But for the most part, I’m not a fan of anything that doesn’t have a function other than to be looked at and admired.
I went to a market in Atlanta over a year ago, and I was having an okay time. It was shopping, and it was outside, and it was crowded, so I was well out of my element. There were some practical things to buy, like clothes and older books, but most of the booths and stands sold home decor items — things I neither wanted or needed.
Then I passed a booth, with its typical display of dusty and rusty artifacts, and sitting on an ancient desk was a typewriter. It was a huge thing, iron and looking exactly how one would picture a typewriter. It was filthy, covered in dirt and stuck through with pine straw. Some of the keys were broken and there seemed no hope of ever actually using it.
As I was looking, the booth keeper wandered over. “Interested?” she urged.
I shrugged. “How much you asking?”
She thought a moment. “A hundred.”
I touched the cash in my pocket. Sixty dollars. I hadn’t planned on going over that limit, but would it be fair to talk it down that low?
“Eighty,” she said, seeing my hesitation.
I considered. “Look, I have fifty dollars I’m willing to spend.”
She shook her head, and I nodded.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Seventy-five,” she called as I walked away. “Seventy!”
“Thanks.” I smiled. “I’ll think about it.”
My boyfriend applauded my bartering, but all the exchange left me was a feeling of dread. Had I really just tried to buy that beautiful, broken, magnificent, rusted, wonderful typewriter for only fifty dollars? It had to date back to the nineteenth century, at least, and I was treating it like some common flower vase. There were other typewriters at the market — some with tags listing prices much lower than a hundred dollars — but I didn’t care to argue over them. When I see something I want, I have a single track mind.
We walked through all the booths twice, and at the end of the day I insisted we go back to the typewriter. There it was, still sitting exactly as it had been. No sold sticker in sight.
“You came back.” The booth keeper had wandered over again. “I can sell it to you for sixty.”
I had fifty dollars now, after buying a headwrap at another booth. I knew I could probably get another ten bucks off her offer; she didn’t want to lug the thing home. But she’d already knocked so much off, and spending sixty on it had been my original plan, and I really didn’t want to think about where my life would go from that point on if I didn’t buy it.
With a combination of cash and card, I bought the typewriter, and happily I skipped over to claim it. I tried to lift it from the desk.
It barely shifted.
I’ve never held the thing between my hands, but according to my boyfriend, his brother, and his father, who did lug it back to our cars, it was a hefty load.
“But it’s so beautiful!” I insisted.
They didn’t see the beauty.
Now that typewriter sits in my bedroom, as dirty and useless as the day I bought it. I’m still finding pine straw, and I’m waiting for the day that a nest of spiders hatches from under one of the keys and I have to burn my house down. I’ve thought about getting it refurbished, but I wonder what that would do to the character I love so much about it. So for now, I just look and admire.
It has no purpose in my writing life; I can’t wear it, I can’t use it, I probably couldn’t sell it for enough to feed me if I ever became a true starving artist. But it’s the best thing I’ve ever bought for myself. Maybe everything in my life doesn’t have to have a use. Maybe it’s enough that it inspires something more in me, just by existing within my sight.