Scenes of Panic in the Op Shop

by Smoko Henderson

I am in a bazaar for things of the dead, lost and forgotten,  for things that no longer qualify, items devices and things that are no longer the best of their sets. I am in an archive of inferiority.

Here the poor are free from well calculated robbery, but they only have freedom to move along familiar channels.

I am looking at years and years of forgotten clothing. Stuck here to each of these pieces were once great walls of resistance attached. These artifacts were kept in cupboards, draws, boxes and vacuum wrap packs throughout multiple spring cleans, throughout multiple garage sales and decluttering sessions. Someone had held up a front against the urge to dispose of each item, at least for a little while, until finally their love for these items broke, and like waste creeping through soil, the supports collapsed into the underbed. The eternal torrent of wear and decay eventually wore down all resistance. Here are microcosms of history that were never lost for they were never even collected.

I am reminded of the stories that humanity does not know. The solutions to wicked problems lost in the disregard of small histories.

I am experiencing laboured breathing, now, for that old designer jacket is going for $6. The levi jeans are going for $4. But do I avoid that bargain because of the presence of an old BBQ sauce stain on the pant leg or do I resolve to secede the folly of perfection? Easier said than done, I don’t know how to be self-assured donned in the stains of meals past dissolved in the stomach acids of a total stranger.

Like dust collecting on the rims of glassware pushed to the back of the homewares shelves – circling the rims of ornate scotch glasses built in an era not yet fashionable – I look around at my fellow op shoppers and I see nose rings and bleached fringes, torn tight jeans and new age tattoos. I hardly see the disadvantaged – the disadvantaged who are actually disadvantaged, and not just disadvantaged by expensive homes. And then I feel guilty – who are we to recycle our own tastes? We are not the poor. We are not the oppressed. We are the young and educated middle class, absconding back into our trash piles to reclaim our second round favourites.

We feel like economic radicals, we feel like sustainable livers, but really we are recycling ourselves.

I am experiencing laboured breathing, now. I peek into the back warehouse and I see towering structures of clothes, packed away in massive bags, sealed bags inside sealed bags, piled high, high high to the awnings, enough to crush you if it fell. I leave the op shop, not knowing if this is how it was meant to be.