About half past midnight or maybe even later Allie came across a ramshackle store on the edge of town. The moon hid behind a veil of cloud and a shadowy half light lay across the world. Strangely, given the late hour, the store was open. MISC’S EMPORIUM read a faded sign above the door.
Entering, Allie discovered the placed was packed with an unlikely selection of consumer goods from the last hundred years or so. She noticed a selection of Glo-mesh handbags artfully displayed beside some green and orange curtains from the 1970s. Large Victorian jardinieres stood nearby. A network of cobwebs lay over everything.
“Can I help you?” asked a dishevelled woman emerging from deep in the interior.
“You look familiar,” Almurta said. “Have I met you before?”
“Everyone asks me that,” the woman said with a dispirited sigh. “It’s because I’m Misc.”
“Misc? What do you mean? I’m not familiar with that word.”
“Misc is short for miscellaneous,” the woman said with another sigh. She had obviously explained this many times before. “It’s my name. It comes from the label my father scrawled on the jar in his shed where he shoved all the loose bits and pieces he came across whenever he cleaned up. I’m number ten in a family of eleven children. No one had any idea what to call me. All the best names were already taken. I was a bit superfluous really.”
“Oh dear,” Almurta said sympathetically.
“Oh, I was loved and all,” Misc explained. “It was just that I never had a clearly defined role. I was the youngest for a bit but then my little sister arrived. She was unexpected so everyone made a fuss of her and I got overlooked in the crowd. When I grew up I decided to set up this Emporium as a storehouse for discards and rejects. I do a roaring trade. Some people come here searching for items they accidentally misplaced years back. Others come when they seeking out particular items they had always planned to get but somehow never got around to. In a way you could say this place is a repository for forgotten aspects of the self. If you poke around in the stuff here you’re bound to turn up parts of yourself you have discarded or forgotten about.”
Allie began flipping idly through a box of old vinyl records in front of her. ‘Rubber Soul’, she read, ‘The Planets by Holst’, ‘Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition’, ‘Kraftwerk Autobahn’. “These are Avid’s records”, she muttered to herself as read the familiar titles.
Avid – just the name was enough to turn her mind to memories of the time she had rented a room in his house when she was clueless kid just arrived in the city from the southern town of Bland. Avid was an older man. A friend of a friend of a friend. He’d offered her a room for the year while she worked two jobs and saved enough money to go overseas.
She still remembered the evenings she’d spent curled up in an armchair in Avid’s study reading through his library. “Listen to this,” he’d say as he carefully unsheathed a record and placed it on the turntable. He would give her a short lecture explaining where the music she was about to hear fitted into the world of music before filling the room with sounds she had never heard before. On her free weekends they would go to art galleries and art house movies. Over coffee they would discuss what they had seen and heard. She was a bit in love with him but they both dated other people. She got drunk with silly boys while he courted sophisticated older women. Neither of them ever succeeded in developing a lasting relationship. When she’d saved enough money she shouldered her backpack and said goodbye.
Years later she heard from a friend of a friend that Avid had put all his possessions in store and gone travelling himself a few months after she’d left. The news surprised her. He had been so settled and had told her often enough, travel did not interest him.
Many times over the years she’d wondered what it would have been like if things had been different and she and Avid had become a couple. One lonely night she’d searched his name on Facebook. She found others with the same name – football stars, head honchos of corporations and young kids holding up beer bottles in their profile photos but not him.
As for herself she had moved states several times and her name had changed when she married. She hadn’t bothered to change it back after her divorce. It would have been too complicated at work. It would be hard to trace her unless your were a detective. Besides, she reasoned, why would Avid search for her? He had made it clear that sophisticated ladies were more to his tastes.
So many years had gone by now. Avid would be an old man. It was too late to even consider trying to find him. Still as she fingered the old vinyls she wondered why she had stumbled upon them in Misc’s extraordinary store. What discarded aspect of her life did they represent? Whenever she thought of that time she always thought of everything Avid had given her. Now as she stood in that dingy interior it came to her that she had bought something to the equation too. She’d bought a fearlessness and an adventuring spirit. Somewhere over the years she had misplaced that.
“I see you found what you were looking for,” Misc said suddenly reappearing from a dusty alcove. Almurta looked at her in surprise.
“That fearlessness you’ve just discovered,” Misc said by way of explanation. “Grasp that and you’ll find your way forward.”