Several rows of handbags are arranged according to colour along a wall. Some are blingy with weighty chains, studs and clasps or magnetised fasteners. Others are fringed or quilted. There's one in straw with embroidered flowers. Browns, blacks, taupes, faux animal skins, occasional leather amidst more common 'pleather'. Unknown 'designers' tag bags.
Amidst all this a tomatoey-red leather satchel catches her eye.
Our shopper's heart rate increases, just a tad. She's wary of another customer, over whom she's just tripped. A potential rival, another woman of a certain age. At first she hadn't seen her sitting at the end of a rack of Plus Size Women's After Five on a little stool. The 'competition' is preoccupied by a lemon sling-back with six inch heels. Still, our shopper turns slightly to conceal her 'find'. She's conscious of a frisson, reminiscent of adolescence and smiles inwardly. Her face remains nonchalant as she pops the strap over her shoulder to see how her red leather friend feels.
Cue non-stop inner monologue. See, she must have a little conversation with herself before proceeding. Capacious, she thinks, good given the load she carries everywhere. Fifteen dollars though? Bit steep for donated goods. Some of these places are getting a bit above themselves, she reckons. Hardly a bargain, is it? Seems new though. And leather. Yeah, but you could get a brand new one at Vic Market for a few bucks more. Oh go on. Splurge. What else do you spend money on? It is for charity, after all.
Still with bag over shoulder, she heads for bric-a-brac. Almost wets herself over a 1960s Arcopal of France baking dish. Picks it up. Only $6.25! Salivates. Turns dish over in her hands; hugs it to chest having been unable to conceal excitement. You don't need this, she tells herself sternly. Remember clearing out your mother's house, she warns. You don't want to do that to your own children, do you? Do you? Well, why not? They'll inherit the whole lot. Why shouldn't they clear out a bit of stuff? They can sell it on Gumtree. Nah, replaces item carefully on shelf.
Meanwhile, she keeps her face impassive as she dawdles amongst shelves groaning under glassware, china, silverware, all of which tells stories of exuberant hopeful homemaking, unwanted wedding gifts, downsizing; relentless consumerism and the inevitable passing of time. So much exquisite pottery, handcrafted, delicately painted, skilfully turned. She went mad over that stuff some time between the late 70s and early 80s, she remembers. Now it's a ticking clock breeding on op shop shelves.
Her $15 bag sits comfortably on her shoulder. Looks okay, she thinks, checking her reflection in a series of old mirrors in the furniture section. She wends her way through to - heart skips a beat - second hand books. Is there any better value? she considers happily. Well, the public library of course. But then you have to return or renew books by a certain date. Irritating. Unless of course one borrows from one's school library. Now there's something she misses about her previous life: the freedom of the library, albeit a little heavy on the Young Adult fiction. Fair enough, she supposes. It was, after all, a secondary school library. She kept some of those books out for nigh on seventeen years, finally returning them when she quit her job. Smiles to herself; scans the titles. Eyes off the 'light' fiction section; selects an as new old Marian Keyes' page turner. Good for a laugh and a think at the same time. Thrilled with herself, imagining several hours of reading pleasure for $3.95, she strides back to the bag section and frugally replaces the satchel amongst its red fellows.
Reduce, reuse, recycle? Reduce wins. Hands two two-dollar coins to the man on the cash register. Keep the change, she says, magnanimously.