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Friday, February 13, 2015

To Travel Lightly

Columbia Heights, a neighborhood with a definite working-class bent, was teeming with garage sales.

Friday afternoon’s take? One black leather jacket, which fit me perfectly: $1. One Depression-era curly-edged iridescent glass bowl for $11. One plum, velvet jacket: $3. A Bad Plus CD, and two albums (Herman’s Hermits and Peter Gabriel): $2.

Generally speaking, garage sales are fun, even if they are selling paperbacks for three bucks apiece.

For the record, paperbacks are not $3 at a garage sale. They are 50 cents.

Please pass that along.

But I have been to sales that have been something other than fun.

I went to one last year in an apartment. The guy was selling everything he owned, from his ratty couch to rolls of toilet paper to the cans of soup in his kitchen cupboards (50 cents a can).

“A fresh start?” I asked, smiling.

“An end,” he said.

“An end?”

“I have pancreatic cancer. I’ve got, like, four months. I’m going back to California to die at my mom’s house.”

And suddenly, I could see how sick he was; and the smile melted off my face.

I bought all his soup, a hammer, and a stack of High Times magazines.

And I cried in the car.


Sometimes other people’s stuff is not the only thing you take home from garage sales. Sometimes you take home their stories as well.

26 comments:

Shelly said...

My heart is squeezed...I'm so glad you were there to bring his story to us.

Delores said...

I have no words.....this is just painful.

Camille said...

Everyone has a story and we all tend to forget that as we plow through life. Thanks for the reminder Pearl. Well done. X

vanilla said...

Our Pearl has a heart for people. Thanks for sharing this story.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Not many would have asked with the listening intent you have Pearl; you contributed to easing his way. Now we have shared in his memory. All positive things. YAM xx

Joanne Noragon said...

Thanks for helping him home, Pearl.

DeniseinVA said...

Such a poignant story. You did good Pearl, you have heart.

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

Wow. So much power in so few words. Love it.

jenny_o said...

Oh. My. Was not expecting that.

It must have been hard on your spirit to use what you bought, and yet ... a reminder of our mortality can be a positive thing, too.

Very moving, Pearl.

chickensconsigliere said...

Wow, that's sad. And his poor mom! Makes me stop for a second and thank the universe for my children's health.

Jono said...

Last fall I helped clean out an estate. The owner had been dead for six years, but when I saw his driver's license I remembered who he was. Over the hours and days I got to know him better and cursed myself for not getting to know him better when he was alive.

Linda O'Connell said...

I was grooving on the purple jacket, and rooting for the half buck soup and then wham, I felt as you probably did when he said those words to you. You are a good person.

Ray Denzel said...

another side to a sad story

Gigi said...

Oh wow. How heartbreaking.

maurcheen said...

Wow. Xxx

Sioux said...

Pearl--I think you could write up that story--the bits of humor about your finds along with the guy setting up his "end"--and send it to a magazine for pay. It's a tear-jerker...

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oh man. That was a punch in my gut. And I'm kind of teared up, too.

Geo. said...

There's a lot of people who identify with this difficult thing you've written. Those who cry in the car and those of us who just head home and cuss the plaque off the back of our teeth. You've done everybody who's had some blows in life a service. My compliments and admiration.

River said...

Very sad Pearl, I hope his end was peaceful.

Rose L said...

I would have done the same and paid more than he asked.

Daisy said...

Oh my. So sad.

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

Pearl you are amazing.............

Shoshanah Lee Marohn said...



I went to one once, a long time ago, where this guy was selling everything his wife had owned. "She loved these," he said, looking at some dishes. He went on and on about this and that and what she used to do with it. And then his wife walked up, from across the street. "Oh, there she is now!" he said. I never did figure out what he was selling all of her stuff and speaking of her in the past tense. Cleaning house, I guess?

So sorry about the man selling everything. You just want to do something, and you can't. But you did do something. At least you bought his things.

The Jules said...

An organised and hopefully peaceful end.

Not surprised you cried. x

Launna said...

Oh my goodness Pearl... that was sad... I too would have bought a lot of things from him... and never forgot his story xox

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Oh, Pearl. What a heart-breaking post and a reminder about how unimportant all our stuff turns out to be when faced with life's fragility.