Friday, 19 July 2013

A Good Hard Shopping by Keon Woong Lee

Read by Keon Woong Lee

Sale. Big Sale. Warehouse sale. Buy one get one free. 70 percent off. These words, printed in big, bold red, electrify the skin and send the endorphins racing. Your fingers twitch and your feet inch closer. This is the sign you’ve been waiting for. The words you’ve been wanting to read as you pass by all the other gleaming, shiny stores that strut out its wares.

You’ve strolled in there many times before. Don’t lie. You’ve watched. Sometimes from afar. Sometimes you’ve even wandered in. You’ve touched their goods. Run your hands over the material, massaging it, making sure it’s real. Genuine leather. Genuine ITALIAN leather. You’ve wanted to take it home, let the material rub against your body and let everybody know, yes, I OWN this. It’s all over me. It’s mine.

But. It’s not yours. You’ve just been holding on to it a bit too long. And others are starting to stare. Mostly it’s the posse. The gate keepers. The ones that all dress alike, asking “can I help you” but they don’t really help you. You were having such a good time, touching and caressing and they interrupt you with that big, fake smile. The name tag posse stand and walk around, eyeing you, threatening you. Go ahead. I dare you. Complete the transaction.

You rarely do. You wanted to, of course you do. The amount of time you’ve spent watching through windows, your eyes poring over small images on the internet ... it’s enough to make you go blind. Watching through windows is bad enough but watching through the internet? At home, clicking and selecting items in the digital shopping trolley, adding them to an ever growing wishlist ... it’s sterile. It’s sad. Nobody wants to see you shop in your pajamas.

You’re reluctant of course to finish the deal and you know the reason why. It’s because your numbers, your digits are not big enough. The cold hard cash you need to make the right bulge in the right places. Instead of being enticing, there’s a lack. A flatness. It’s never been enough to satisfy anyone, least of all yourself.

Sure you could go down to the local markets. You know, the accessible malls with their friendly smiles and free samples. You know, affordable. And the thing is, you have tried. You’ve really, really tried. But a little too frequently you notice somebody else with it on. Somebody else has already held it in their hands, draped around their body, worn it around their finger. You don’t want to be one of a dozen, wearing mass market. You want more than that. You deserve more than that.

So. You walk past the high end shops which are always strutting their stuff. And they always change just enough to keep you coming back. New arrivals to keep you excited. You love new arrivals, always showing off, perky, unsoiled. Untouched. Unpacked.

You’ve been so good. So good. You’ve used your imagination. You’ve even tried going to Shenzhen and holding a copy, but it’s just not the same. Something will always be a little off. Something will always be out of place. There’s no allure. No danger. No finesse.

Then the moment comes. The signs are up. You’ve caught the shops at a moment of weakness. Of insecurity. They’re feeling cheap and demanding to be handled. They want transactions. They want complete transactions. They want your hard cash. They want you to pull out your hard, plastic card and swipe it in. They want the sound of the credit card machine whirring and buzzing. They want the white receipts spitting out of the hot printer. You catch the white receipts in your hands. Change trickles between fingers. The goods weigh heavily in crisp paper bags.

You walk out of the store, dizzy. Shaky. Your wallet feels spent. You look in the bag. You got what you wanted. You’re saddled with it. Oh God, what have you done? You’ve committed yourself to something that’s going to take up space in your tiny, shoebox apartment. It was on sale, its value dropped. No one else wanted it, so why did you?

You try to convince yourself that it looked lonely, it would fit in nicely at home, it looked gorgeous. It wanted to be taken. But now that you’ve got it ... it just looks ... like every other thing that you ever had.

Your walk of shame is littered with moments of instant recognition and regret of other shops with other baubles. Your eyes flit from one new arrival to another, each perfectly lit and perched coyly on a velvet pedestal. Other shoppers gleefully brush past you, entering and exiting with their new, exciting purchases.

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