Monday, October 29, 2012

The Warehouse: an allegory

For reasons unknown to us, we had come in possession of a thrift store.  Still dazed with the shock of the news, we turned the lock to the warehouse and stepped into a massive collection of dust coated castaways.  Rows and rows of shelves stocked full of items, once in use and demand.  Stacks of beautiful doors leaned against concrete walls, telling of weathering paint and finger-print stained windows.  Large vases housed strange dusty imitation leaves, ferns, and blossoms.  Wire baskets filled with a myriad of random.

Beyond that I could not say what filled the store, because dreams are always tinted with a blur and if you try looking closer the blur increases.  Am I alone in this?  How certain details of dreams, the ones that you especially want to understand are impossible to see? 

We had just begun to take stock of this place, when customers walked in, the sign read open.  It frustrated me that we couldn’t close for just a while to make sense of the madness, but alas, the doors continued to open and close to sound of an old bell and the questions.

“How much for this?”

“I don’t believe this is worth the price listed, it is broken here and here.”

“Can you tell me where to find what I’m looking for?”

We weren’t sure how the cash register worked, the line swelled with angry, impatient people. We did the best we could, after a few tries we were learning and the anger diffused.  That’s when the authorities came.

“I am Mr.Wiles, Deputy Inspector of Regulations and Restrictions, I’m here to issue this notice that demands you close down shop.  You are in violation of five codes and the city is revoking your license.” 

He wore an ill-fitting suit with a bowler that no longer resembled any current fashion.  His eyes were dark and I could find no sign of a sparkle in them. I tried to make him understand, that we were new and we didn’t know all the details.  I tried to explain that we had received a letter and a key and how not even an hour earlier we walked in those doors for the first time. 

“Well, then you won’t mind surrendering your papers and key,” he answered in a monotone, borderline non-human way. 

I trembled, but with conviction responded, “I’m sorry, but we can’t do that just yet.  I know that we can do something with this place, I know that we can turn it into something really great.  This place is full of treasures yet to be discovered, but we haven’t had enough time. We need time to search through the junk and the dust to find them. We need time to wash away the dirt. You must understand sir, it takes time and we have only just arrived.  Give us an extension and you will see.

He bit the side of his lips and his eyes shifted back and forth, he was pretending to consider my request.  And before he could reject, a lady with tight wrinkles above her nose and a sour expression on her face approached. She wore a perfectly tailored midnight blue suit, a scarf of the same color tied meticulously around her neck.   Each side of the scarf extended the same amount down in either direction.

“Ms. Withers, ma’am of the Department of System Interiors.  It has come to our attention that we have not received your last monthly filings. I am here to collect articles A through G immediately. If you can not hand them over, we have the right to take into our possession this dusty collection of junk.  As you can see, it can not be of any use to you, these piles of waste.  It is nonsense and garbage and we will happily take it off your hands and put them to more practical uses.”

I looked to see Mr. Wiles standing silently, he too was waiting for my resignation.

More passionately than the first time, I took a deep breath and replied,

“Ms. Withers,  just today, we walked into the building for the first time. We don’t know why it has been given to us or anything else, all I can tell you is that from the few moments I have had to explore, I am certain that this nonsense and garbage as you call it has the potential to be turned into something beautiful.  It may look filthy and pointless, but I know that with time and care, you won’t even recognize this place. I don’t know why the last owner stopped seeing that, I don’t know why he gave up.  I don’t have those files for you, but we am here now and from this point on we will be happy to fill out your forms…”

“But protocol requires those documents, I must have those exact forms. This is my job and without those forms, we cannot continue, the system requires it,” Ms. Withers interrupted, her voice trembled at the idea of not obtaining those forms.

“And I must add, that the list of code violations is damning, you simply cannot do what you say.  This place is nothing and can be nothing and you will be better off turning over your papers and keys,” Mr. Wiles said as echoes of the last statement bounces off the walls.

I surveyed the room, the gray concrete walls hovering high above me. I saw the rows that housed shelves of dusty forlorn items, dismissed and cast aside. The dust so thick that the original color was tinted a dismal gray.  I saw areas of furniture gathered according to type, dented and scratched.  The vases filled with flowers that never lived, but even now were dying.  All around me, I saw a society of wood, plastic, textiles, and glass under the rule of the dust and despair so strong that the colors were no longer visible to the human eye.  The air was thick and a heaviness wafted above our heads.

To my left Mr.Wiles in his haphazard black from head to toe and Ms. Withers in her midnight blue.

For a moment, I believe them.  I thought of the time and work that would change this place. I imagined the exhaustion and the piles of junk we’d have to sort through to find the treasures.  I felt the weight of the emotional journey that would come from washing away the layers that hid the beautiful.  The case seemed overwhelming, until I saw it in the corner of my eye.  A large industrial wire basket under a table, filled with empty picture frames and pieces of wood, and curiously, one wool blanket, a soft shade of cream, like sweet butter, with stripes of red, yellow, and blue.  The colors as vibrant as an artist’s palette, a tiny palette of color in world of dull.

And I knew they were wrong. 

“I’m sorry, but you must leave. I can not give you what you want, but you must leave now. We have work to do.”

I said it with certainty and authority, looking them in the eye.  The two of them shook their heads, casting unsure glances at each other.  This breech of protocol left them shaking in their well polished shoes. Ms. Withers raised her hand from the piles of paper in her hands in objection, she began to speak.

“I’m sorry, but you must leave. I will not give you want you want.  We have work to do.”

I interjected, halting the speech from her mouth.  I ushered them towards the door, they protested all the way through and once the doors closed, they stood outside pounding the metal.

But I would not listen and I turned to my husband, our eyes searched each other’s deeply and with a shake of our heads, we pushed up our sleeves and walked towards the world tinted of grey.

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