I waited outside of the warehouse with a scowl. I had been cooking inside of a sand-colored Suburban for the past hour. The day was so hot that you could've fried green tomatoes on the sidewalk and served them up with grits. In fact, that's how I should've been passing my time. It was too hot even to make out the newspaper story in front of me. Instead, I was panting as hard as the dog chained to the bench across the street. I could not enter the building until someone showed up with a key.
That someone finally arrived with another person in tow. We were there to dress a film set, and I was anxious to get started. Though it was only 10:30 in the morning, the temperature had already hit 98º. Welcome to the heinous summer climate of the American Southeast. Surely the warehouse, with its dank, moldy ways, would be cooler than our cars. I would've bolted out of my car to meet my savior if it weren't for my sluggishness. I sort of seeped onto the sidewalk like century-old sludge released from a dam.
After some chit-chat, my Art department colleagues and I slunk around the side of the building, found an open door, and walked into a maze of industrial nooks and crannies. But the journey is the not reason for this essay. Rather, it was the destination.
As soon as we entered the Room of Things, serious warehouse envy hit me. This was a kingdom of junk, of garbage—a hoarder's paradise, a shrine to retro memorabilia, from restaurant booths to a Pac Man machine. I stumbled into a mouse pad bearing the image of a 1980s Calvin Kleinesque hunk. Another girl found love letters exchanged between a long-distance couple (one partner in Richmond, the other in Washington, D.C.) from the early '90s. A whole counter in the back of the warehouse contained nothing but piles and piles of canvas. One room had become a burial ground for filthy mattresses. Each and every item there held its own history, beckoning your curiosity.
One day, I will own such a warehouse. Interesting people, educated in the various ways of life, will come to store their odds and ends there. Not just anyone may rent space in my warehouse; I must personally invite each individual, first conducting a quick test to determine if such a person would own the right kind of junk. How had this person made his living? How does he make a living now? Where has he traveled? What are his hobbies? What is his passion? Does he live alone or with a spouse or lover? Does he have children?
People may not solicit applications to take this test, either. I must invite them to take the test and if they pass, only then shall I invite them to rent at my warehouse. It shall be a very elitist warehouse indeed. And although elitism normally disgusts me, I would deem it appropriate in this situation given my quest for the perfect junk.
What exactly qualifies as perfect junk is hard to say. But age counts. Having a strange or touching story counts. Rarity counts. Character, however that may be defined, is what counts above all. My warehouse will have character and so will everything in it. The long wait in the car that one summer day proved worth it for developing this odd life goal.