The morning wind in the California high desert sends little slices of ice through your pores. A ruby red taffeta mini skirt dips and dives on the oak hanger.
“Hi sweetie-the wind blows everything around here” a voice spills out from behind the red fabric of the storefront.
A green faux fur hat perches atop her head and thinning shoulder-length grey hair darts out. Her turquoise eyes crystalize onto mine. I smile, stepping backwards towards my car feeling strangely, undeniable seen by this woman. Like she has known me and we are old friends.
Thirty minutes later, I duck under the twirling skits and enter Richochet Vintage. She is on the phone engaged in a brittle conversation with someone who seems to be associated with the store. People enter and exit the door. I shuffle. I motion I need to talk to you. She puts the cell phone against her shoulder and whispers It’s the boss.
I shuffle more quickly, looking anxiously around. Distracted and waiting to ask her my important question. Long minutes start and end and start again.
Finally, she is off the phone and I ask her if I can store my items behind her desk for the day.
“You see my hybrid rental car is busted and I’m not sure when they will get me a new one. I was planning to be out all day exploring Joshua Tree National Park. I have two bags of clothes, three books and assorted personal items with me.” This statement shoots out of me with equal measures of exasperation and urgency. Day one of my solo vacation is off to an erratic start.
“Darling, I will only be open until 4 pm and maybe she will ask me to close earlier-maybe 2 pm I’ve only sold two items today.”
It is now 11:30 am.
I trundle off with my car possessions in tow, committed to a day of shlepping.
Three hours later I return to Richochet Vintage with all my bags and stores of supplies.
“Well, you are back” she greets me.
“Yes, I’m having some trouble.” I explain about my day of hiking and still unresolved replacement car issues- and my love of deserts. The quiet curtain of an old friend closes around me a second time.
“You too? Deserts are so special. I love deserts. I moved here to get away from a soul-crushing city job and I love it.“ Her eyes fold back in her head in reference. Then the wooden walls of the bedroom-sized store shudder.
“Except for the low flying helicopters. I’ve never gotten used to these. Have you been to any other deserts?”
Her eyes land inquisitively on me lit with the anticipation of sharing a special memory.
“There is a desert in the north of China-where the Hans tried to take over, you know like in Tibet-it is the most glorious endless desert. You can hear the silence. There are special cardboard slides that move down the hills and when they move there is a special song sound that accompanies them down. They are called the sing-song hills” she finishes.
Her memory fills the space between us. I can’t move. We hold the moment.
I am waiting for a call back from the rental agent. Finding an available car in Joshua tree has proven challenging. A challenge that will take me through the evening. So I can be here. Here is the only place I belong now.
Eventually, I weave through the tight rooms stuffed with 70’s leather jackets and embossed pink flower button-down shirts. I pick up random items, haphazardly filling the minutes until the phone rings again.
Time ricochets back and forth between the sandy place where two old friends are reunited.