if you happen to glance under my coffee table, you’ll notice this clear, plastic box with a removable tray and multiple compartments. it is ideal for the storage of tiny art supplies or bits of jewelry and baubles.
i have filled it with treasure from around the city. some might say “with rubbish from the street” but to each his own. most of the things were found on the ground, on the sidewalk or in a tube station. at this point, i think i’ve developed a sixth sense for spotting items on the floor. i once found some pound coins, a credit card, and a set of house keys at canavan’s pool club in peckham, all spread out over the hour and the dance floor. i kept the coins for the cloakroom, but after giving the bartender the keys and credit card on two separate occasions, the next time i approached the bar she chuckled and asked me if i wanted a drink or if i’d found something else.
i try to keep my eyes up while i’m walking to improve my posture which is terrible but it’s a constant struggle. my gaze is naturally drawn to the ground. i suppose i blame it on the years of antique hunting and box perusing at auctions / markets / boot sales. i have physically and forever altered my instinctive line of sight.
i am always looking for something.
little gold rings
about a week ago, i found myself in the throes of chaos otherwise know as leicester square during tourist season.
i moved away from the sound of shutter clicks and general madness towards covent garden, surely just another breed of mayhem. i had no goal in mind that day except to wander. i’d be alright if i found myself in and around seven dials and craving a cup of coffee, i rounded the corner onto upper st. martin’s lane and headed north. crossing west street, i looked down and noticed a tiny gold ring lying in the street. having embarrassed myself countless times by trying to pick up something permanently fastened to the ground, i quickly chose to ignore it and continued walking.
i ignored the second gold ring as well, and the third thinking they were in place as some sort of pavement marker. it wasn’t until the fourth and fifth rings that my pace slowed, my interest peaked at the obvious misplacement of the rings. my curiosity no longer manageable after the sixth and seventh rings, i stopped and leaned down to pick one up.
it was tiny, light, not plastic but certainly not made of anything valuable. looking ahead of me, i noticed that they were everywhere. the little gold rings shone out over the dull grey sidewalk, sparkling in the filtered sunlight. my inner treasure hunter assumed her place in control of my mind and movements and like a parasite taking over a host, she initiated the process of collection. i wanted them all.
bouncing from one to the next and ignoring any stares from around, i soon realized that i wasn’t alone in my desire for the little gold rings. out of the corner of my eye i noticed someone else, a man, picking up and inspecting a circle from the sidewalk. the scene resembled a still from the hobbit. hunched over the earth, coveting my treasure, i was gollum. i glanced up at the man wondering why he had picked up one, then two, and then three of my precious golden rings.
sharing is caring, but i was perplexed, even more so after taking a moment to examine the man. he looked like he’d come straight from the city, shiny black shoes to go with a grey suit and a mobile permanently attached to his earhole. he talked into it as he gathered rings, and that’s when the unexpected happen. he turned his face to me, mouth still moving, emitting a speech that i wasn’t paying any attention to. he casually walked up to me, smiled, and deposited the rings into my open hands.
i lost it.
grinning like a little kid, i began to thank him profusely. my thank you‘s were overpowered by city sounds and his continuous conversation, but i stared at him incredulously and my eyes surely proclaimed “oh my god you beautiful stranger, thank you a million times over.” encouraged by my positive reaction, he continued to help me, gathering rings one or two at a time and then running over to deliver them to me. as he did so, i noticed another man, this one all in black, watching from a distance. all of a sudden, the man in black joined us in the strange forage. while the business man was holding up traffic on west street to pick up rings, his arm waving in front of an irritated cab driver, the man in black picked up as many as he could spot in the distance between our bodies. after dropping his findings into my palm, he smiled at me and made a hand signal that seemed to say “glad i could help, must be off now.” i thanked the man in black as he turned to leave, my face beaming.
the business man returned from the road to hand over another three or four rings. that’s when he stopped and spoke to me, his phone conversation obviously on pause. he asked me what the rings were for. not wanting to tell him about my silly collection box and ruin their sense of grandeur and importance, i spat out a brief falsehood involving an art project. i told him he was very kind, and at this he checked his watch and said he had to go. i wanted to hug him [i hug everyone] but he was on his way before i had the chance. i turned, once again, in the direction of seven dials. my hands carefully and lovingly cradled nearly two dozen little gold rings, nearly two dozen little stories of spontaneous, unprovoked kindness.
it’s only rubbish if you tell yourself it is rubbish. and people are only strangers until they pause their lives to help a girl collect little gold rings off the ground.