Luggage and the Infinite Tapestry

 

Luggage, luggage, luggage. I step into some old funky thrift shop on 5th avenue in Park slope and look for luggage. Why was I looking for luggage? Well, if you slow down a second, I’ll tell you.

Why am I looking for luggage? I’m looking for luggage because I’m a poor planner. A terrible planner, actually. I’m moving out of New York City, back to North Carolina. I’ll be on a flight, headed down south, in less than 24 hours. And yet, the belongings in my apartment still exceed the space in my luggage. And that, my friends, is poor planning.

I dart into the funky thrift shop and take a quick look around. Frilly clothing, old antique clocks, scarves, records, pictures, posters, a pair of groovy roller skates. Searching for a particular item among a thrift shop is almost like trying to find a person in a random city with nothing to go off of but a name.

I look past the piles of randomly assorted books, clocks, and board games to the guy behind the counter. He’s wearing a bright, tight paisley shirt and some pastel orange jeans, also very tight. It’s a thrift shop in Park Slope, what do you expect?

“Do you guys have luggage? Like, suitcases? Pieces of luggage?”

“Oh, yeah, of course.” His words are laced with the smooth curve of a lisp, and he drops the clothes he’s folding and darts toward the first suitcase.

“We have this one here, 24 dollars – really nice. We have a couple more downstairs. For five dollars and some for ten, I mean twelve dollars.” He walks around a rack of clothes.

“We also have these ginormous crates, if you need to put all your belongings and go across the Atlantic. Perfect for that.”

I smile, nod.

“Awesome. Thanks. That’s awesome. I’ll check out downstairs.”

“You really should.”

I have a weakness for thrift shops, honestly. Old typewriters? Dvds for 3 dollars? Damn, they even have a bike helmet just like the one I bought online two weeks ago. Finally, I convince myself that I’m not buying anything else but luggage. I grab a god-ugly suitcase, just for the irony of it. It’s green tweed, and has the texture of an old rug.

It’s silly of me. No, not silly – plain stupid. But it’s true: This is part of why I love New York City. The holes-in-the-walls, the little nooks and secret doors.

I head up the stairs, to the cash register, and plop the ugly green suitcase on the counter.

“This is a cool place. It’s a shame I never found out about it until today, because I’m, uh, actually moving out of the city.” I try to mask the regret, but I’m not very good at it.

“Oh,” The guy says, “That’s what this is for?”

“Yeah.”

He eyes the suitcase.

“This is 12 dollars, but I’ll just give it to you for ten.”

“Oh – Thanks.”

“Well, how far away are you moving?”

“North Carolina.”

“Oh. Yeah, that’s pretty far. What part?”

I hand him my credit card.

“Raleigh.”

His eyes light up and the effeminate crack in his voice starts to split open.

“No way – Really? One of my best friends in the whole wide world moved to Raleigh and I haven’t seen her in, like, two years. I text her, like, every day.”

“Really?” I say, trying to seem enthused. “That’s cool. What does she do there?”

He hands me my credit card and my receipt and sighs.

“Probably nothing. I don’t even know.”

He laughs and I contribute a small chuckle. He hands me the suitcase.

“If you ever see a girl who’s blond, kinda short, and looks –“

He pauses-

“…sleepy, just ask her if she’s Caroline Cliff.”

“Alright – there you go.” I play along. “I’ll tell her I met you- What’s your name?”

“Joe.”

“Alright – I’ll tell her I met Joe.”

I nod, smile, and head for the door.

“Just remember – Caroline Cliff – A movie star name. Caroline Cliff.”

I step out of the shop, and look down the street.

Anyone else might just see a street. They might just see a busy sidewalk with trash on the ground and grumpy people walking past you.

But for some reason, that’s not what I see. For some reason, I see something else.

I see energy, brewing and building. I see an old man on bicycle, riding like there’s no tomorrow. I see a loving mom, slowly pushing her kid on a stroller. I see some kids, running ahead of their daddy, hopping across the cracks on the sidewalk like a chasm on Everest. I see a network of people, like threads, all interweaving and intertwining, like some kind of infinite tapestry.

How much would it cost?

I calculate.

The flight was $250, the luggage was $10, the extra checked bag was $25. The bike I had just shipped was a total of $94. Damn, what was I thinking? The company was covering it. But what if I didn’t work for this company?

I walk down 5th avenue, and make up my mind.

I’ll never get a chance to meet Caroline Cliff. I’ll save 25 dollars, because I won’t be checking this bag on that flight, because I won’t even be on that flight. But if I want my bike shipped back to New York, that’ll be another 94 dollars. Maybe I can call and tell them not to pack it in time and they’ll give me a refund.

I won’t be on that flight to North Carolina.

No, I’ll never find Caroline Cliff.

Because I’m staying here.