Beginning of My Book (very, very rough and needs a lot of work)
Amidst it all, she felt inexplicably with all she was and all she was supposed to be, that there was one thing that she could accredit her life to. The power of the past; the force in which drives the universe into full gear, and pushes people past the mundane into the future. Nostalgia is to be defined as, “a sentiment of longing or affection for the past with a personal association.” What if there was no association to a sentiment of longing? What explains how you can miss something in which you have never fully experienced? How do you try to associate with a time period that derived from before you were born? These seemed to be all the ambiguous questions she asked herself every time she looked at an old photograph or heard her grandmother's old Andy Williams record. Sometimes she wondered if there was a fluke in the universe and somehow she got dropped off a few decades late. But this is where she really began to indefinitely wonder about the semantics of her affinity, because the universe does not make any mistakes. The universe has a reason for everything, and she has yet to find hers.
The bell to the store jingled with a quiet sense of nostalgia every time it hit your ears. Right after the moment that the door opened you could hear the creaky-sound the door makes. This was the result of the struggle to fit a 1920s velvet sofa into the shop. Unfortunately, the sofa didn't end up making it through the door, but not without salvaging the velvet material of the sofa. Then, the velvet was brought to a woman who owns a sewing shop and turned them into drapery that they sold in the shop. Along with the creak in the door of the shop, there were spots on the walls where the wallpaper had faded, peeled, and turned from its usual bright yellow to a lackluster shade of brown. The flaws that adorned the walls and lived underneath the floorboards were what breathed life into the shop. Making up different memories with each dent in the wall or scratch in the paint, it told a story. This store was called “I Remember When” and it had some of the most unique vintage pieces; most of which had been collected by the owner over the many years of his life.
The Russian storeowner was a kind and genuine man, with a slight exhibitionist side to him. He goes by the name of Aleksei Petrukin. The pride and joy of his life, he held his most special memories over the years from his travels in the forms of objects from pendants and stamps to old artisan carpets and paintings. All of the items he has kept and collected since he was a young boy. Alek was one of those people; the ones who collected even the smallest of things, even movie stubs or notes addressed to 10 year old Alek from a classmate that made him obscenely lovesick.
Collections of old photographs covered the walls of the rustic shop. It was almost as if you could breathe in the historical serendipity of the shop and be transported to someplace and sometime anew. What with the old sofa from decades ago, antique plates from the 60s, and a strange parrot that made a loud chirp every time a customer walked in, it made for the ultimate vintage fairytale. The rustic antiques beheld a unique story attached to each one. They represented different periods of Alek's life and the adventures he undertook. Evelyn admired him because of his adventurous and soulful spirit. They found that they had a lot in common, because of Evelyn's affinity for the past, like the 20s or the 60s. Alek and Evelyn would always find a day in the week to listen to old Louis Armstrong or Buddy Waters records on Alek's old 1956 Magnavox record player.
Evelyn was a young girl of 20, that had a difficult upbringing. There was always pressure put on her to be perfect. She struggled with this because her life was anything but perfect. With a difficult upbringing and past that was tainted with trouble, Evelyn didn't have many people she could lean on. Until Aleksei showed up. He showed her the utmost kindness that she was not used to. She struggled in her life to find someone to show kindness to her. She found that in her life she was always giving her all to people, and receiving nothing in return. So she stopped giving. She stopped caring. Then Alek showed her what it is to show and receive kindness. You have to find the right people, the good people, and then the kindness that you showed to those that took it for granted, will be all worth it.
Alek was a good man, despite his theatrics and short fuse. He was indeed a genuine man despite what he went through as a child. Growing up in Reichskommisoriat Ostland, Russia, his family had experienced the holocaust and he lost his family which left him alone to fend for himself. He lost his mother, father, little brother Matvey, and his livelihood. He comforted Evelyn even throughout her troubles when she felt as if she was spiraling and falling into a dark, bleak hole. Throughout her hard times, Alek proved these words to be endlessly true, “You may go through hell, and stay a sinner or you may leave a saint.” Alek spoke these words often in the times when Evelyn felt her worst.
Evelyn began a new journey when she took on the job at Alek's shop. Helping her get back on her feet and bestowing his kindness upon her is something she will always feel indebted to him for. At the point in her life when Evelyn met Alek, approximately 2 years ago, she was running away from her past life and wanting to start a new one when she came across the shop on a walk from her new apartment. Wanting to feel any sense of nostalgia or happiness, she had walked into the shop and soon became entranced with the reminiscence that emulated from the antique jewelry and paintings around the shop. Evelyn soon found herself looking for the owner, when she heard a bang. At the moment, Evelyn turned around and found a man muttering curses under his breath. This was Alek. He was standing on a ladder looking at many pairs of men shoes, some of which on the ground, seeming to be old. Very old. After helping him clean up the mess, Evelyn found herself mustering up her pride and asking him for a job, to which he replied with a thick Russian accent still seeping through his voice, “If that means you will organize this hell that is my shop, young lady, then yes.” He spoke loud and distinctly, waving his hands about for effect. The shop although very gorgeous, was slightly filled in a way that made it look like clutter. “But if you steal a single thing, I will find out. I always do,” he said this as though it was his last words to an evil nemesis in a Bond film. It made Evelyn giggle, because he was a very old, little man. Evelyn could tell that this shop meant the world to him, and she would make sure to treat it as much. It was in this old shop that she felt as if the world was slowly falling into place after falling apart and she knew in due time her heart would heal the same.
Footsteps approaching awakened her from her trance of nostalgia. As Evelyn came back to reality, and glanced up she saw that a customer had walked into the store. She remembered Alek was out of the shop today, running errands.
“Hi, welcome!” She said her usual greeting and glanced up.
In walks one of Alek's more common customers, Mable. Being a rather wealthy lady in her 60s, she always seemed very....astute. This type of personality that she beheld did not mix well with Alek's rather antsy and exhibitionist side. The two were a strange pair and did not get along, even on the good days. Although this did not inhibit Mable from her monthly picks in the store. She was as dedicated to “I Remember When” as she was to her desperate affinity for buying shoes. And this is saying quite a lot. The lady had an obnoxious amount of shoes. Putting her feud with Alek aside, Mable was a very loyal customer, and the profits that Evelyn and Alek have made over the years is quite astounding and most of it is because of her. Evelyn recalls a time when the store was going through a difficult bump in the road, and was not making any profit. Alek was very close to having to sell it. Evelyn remembered that she was packing up some of the jewelry that day, when in walks Mable. They began to converse when Evelyn excused herself to the bathroom and when she returned Mable resumed their conversation and left shortly after. A few minutes later Evelyn saw that someone had put $5,000 dollars in the tip jar. She does not have proof, but strongly believes that it was Mable that day who put the money in the tip jar. Mable helped the store despite her feud with Alek. Evelyn often wished she could behold that kind of effortless thoughtfulness.
Back to present time, Mable saunters across the creaky floorboards in a pair of nice, little kitten heels that gave a thoughtful look to them, it seemed. She had on a black suede, knee-length skirt and blue blouse that looked like it cost more than anything that Alek had in the store. She always walked in a graceful way, as if she were Grace Kelly walking over to Cary Grant.
Mable greets Evelyn with a, “Hello sweetie, how have you been? Do you have any interesting pieces for me to look at this week?”
“Hi Mable, I've been good.” Evelyn responded with a sigh.
She'd felt a bit drained lately but spared the talk that she would get from Mable if she responded otherwise.
Evelyn continued, “Business has been pretty busy these past few days. I think that may have to do with the new carpets that came in the shipment from India. Alek went there a few months ago, and manged to get them for a decent price. They just came in the mail a few weeks ago, and have been a pretty popular item. I can go get a few to show you. We may have one or two left.”
Evelyn went into the back corner of the store where they had house décor items. She grabbed the two Indian rugs and made he way back to the register, where Mable was.
“Alright, so we have this blue and black colored one that has some great patterns going on in it. I think it matches that lamp that you bought from us a few months ago around Christmas time, right?” Evelyn asked.
Mable replied with, “Yes, I think it does. That would look well in the living space of my house.”
Evelyn recalls her home, or mansion rather, briefly. She had been to Mable's home only once, to deliver a shipment of china plates and tea set. It was a fragile and difficult job. The house was very big with a large foyer and “living space” as Mable called it.
“Although, I do like the finesse that the other rug has. It has a certain “je ne sais quoi” about it, doesn't it?” Mable often liked to speak in terms that she believed other people wouldn't understand, as though to make herself seem proper and punctual. The fact of the matter is that Evelyn had been an AP and honors student when she was in school, so she could keep up with said “je ne sais quoi.”
“Okay, I can give it to you for $550. Is that alright?” Evelyn asked.
“Why, of course it is. I'll take it.” Mable handed over the money and continued to make small talk.
“So how is that geezer, Aleksei doing?” Mable asked.
Apparently the two hadn't always hated each other. They used to be friends according to Mable. Until, a tragic event happened; an event that Evelyn hadn't managed to figure out yet. She wanted to desperately, though.
“He's been doing well. A little bit more archaic than usual, but what more do you expect from Alek?” Evelyn replied with a laugh.
“Well, no I wouldn't. That man has such short temper and such a fast tendency for the dramatics. Always has, always will,” Mable said.
“Mable, may I ask you a question? About Alek?”
“Well that entirely depends on what that questions is, but go ahead and ask.” Mable said.
“Well, I guess I wanted to ask you how Alek was, in the past,” Evelyn asked.
“I'd like to tell you he wasn't cranky or dramatic like he is now, but that's not necessarily the case. He was a lesser version of himself now, but he was a kind man, depending on the person, I suppose. To me, he was extremely nice and chivalrous for a while. We knew each other back in college. We had a few classes together in Cambridge but bonded when we applied for the same job after graduation.”
Mable recalled the past with a wistful tone, yet not giving away too much emotion. She was one of those type of people.
“Oh so is that what started the feud between you two?” Evelyn asked.
“What? Oh no, dear, we both ended up getting hired. It was for an internship at a local newspaper over the summer. We got to know each other well over the summer, and I suppose he wasn't always this way, at least not to this intensity,” said Mable.
Evelyn replied, “Okay, so if you don't mind me asking, did you two have a thing for each other?”
“Well, no of course not. We were actually quite good friends for a while. But something tragic ended up happening to Alek's girlfriend. A tragic accident happened to his girlfriend I won't mention much more, because you should really hear it from Aleksei. After a while, he didn't talk to anyone. He ignored and shut everyone out, including me. It was hard for me also, because Alana, his girlfriend, was my friend too.I shouldn't really be discussing this though,” Mable said.
It was rather peculiar, the way Mable was speaking of this. Evelyn could see Mable wringing her hands, a sign of anxiousness for what Evelyn's next question would be. This made Evelyn want to investigate further but what prevented herself from doing so, was a nagging feeling that it wasn't the right time.
Evelyn followed this with, “ Well, maybe you can save the rest of that story for another time.” She could tell that this made Mable sigh with relief.
“Yes, I suppose that would be a good idea. Well it has been lovely seeing you, and I can't wait to come back next time, to see what you will have for me.”
With that, Mable took her newly purchased, Indian rug and sauntered out of the store. She left many unanswered and strange questions hanging in the air. Evelyn often wondered if Mable created an aroma of mystery around her on purpose, or if she really was an extroverted, secretive person. 'Bit of an oxymoron' Eve thought to herself. Maybe Mable wondered this also, because sometimes she had a look on her face as if she hadn't ever truly found herself.
Evelyn got back to work, which consisted of organizing the store and it's many storage units in the back. Aleksei was an avid hoarder and never got rid of anything, unless he had an unpleasant memory attached to it. Opening the door to a storage room she had been working on for some time, Evelyn went to it. She began, starting with the boxes she had organized that were stacked on the right, as though to make room for her to walk through. Opening them and looking through the contents of each box, she began to organize the items. Inside she found old camera parts from when Aleksei was studying film, to old lamps and pens. She always found this part of her day the most interesting. Evelyn felt more at home in the midst of boxes containing pieces from a time she had never lived, than she ever did before in her life.
An hour or so had passed when Evelyn had done enough organizing for the day, when Alek waltzed in the shop, just a tad late.
“You know, it only took you about 4 hours to get that part for the camera?” Evelyn asked sarcastically.
She was inquiring about the piece that was needed for a new 35mm camera that Alek had found at an old flea market a few years back.
“Oh don't be like that, you don't got a leg to stand on in this one.” She was used to his sayings like these. He continued, “I was going to get the part when I came across an old chair that someone was giving away, and thought it would be a great piece. You could paint a design on it, and it will look stunning!”
Alek knew of Evelyn's fondness for painting and always wanted to encourage it. He had only seen one of her pieces but said that he knew she had talent and has been rooting for her to continue it ever since.
“Yeah that sounds great but I don't know if it'd be right for the store. I mean, are you sure?”
“I couldn't be surer if I tried,” he said.
“Alright, then I guess I'll get started on it tonight. Well, it'll probably be Wednesday, now that I have to go get that part, because you forgot,” Evelyn said to Alek.
“Yes, I'm so sorry that I forgot to retrieve that camera thing for you. My dearest apologies. I'll remember every single item on that darned list of yours next time. Just wait until tomorrow to get that part. It's late, okay? I don't want some weird old git to come get you on your way home. Agreed?”
Always the sarcastic one. It was starting to rub off on Evelyn.
“Fine, alright. I'll wait until tomorrow,” She said even though she knew she would have to get it.
“Alright, well goodnight Ev. Get some sleep tonight, okay? And don't get that part tonight okay? Just don't worry about it. You have to learn to not be so obsessive compulsive.” He said as though he knew what she was thinking.
“Yeah, okay Alec,” she mumbled and shrugged, not really meaning what she was saying.
He informed her that she needs to go to the library, to a back room where they stored the old camera and film parts, but to wait til tomorrow comes. The local library used to be attached to an old theatre, where they screened movies decades ago. Evelyn made her way over to the library, and as she began walking past the mass of books, she pictured herself in each one that she had read before. Firstly, she imagined herself inside the dazzling age of the 20s, it was “The Great Gatsby”; a classic of hers that she loved. Dancing away the vision of her current life, she danced to jazz amongst the people and lights of New York City. The “American Dream” not running through her mind at all. Then she went further back in time, only this time she was in “Gone With the Wind.” Evelyn could see herself running amidst fire and war. As Georgia soon faded, like all the others, she was in Ithica. Now on the island of Circe, she could faintly see the sight of Odysseus and Circe, as she held him captive and prevented his escape. “The Odyssey” melted away into a blackish sky, and Evelyn snapped back to reality.
Walking into the backroom, Evelyn was aware of how the atmosphere seemed to change around her. Looking around at all the projectors and camera parts to find the one she needed. Then, shining in the light of a barely lit fluorescent tinted room, she saw something shining in the corner of her eye. Always looking for mischief and mystery, Evelyn made her way to the object that caught her eye. Making her way back through the mountain of boxes holding vintage clutter. She saw it was a box of rolls of film. Wondrous curiosity came upon Evelyn at this moment. She used a Canon AE-1 35 mm camera, but never could completely understand it. She had taken at least 4 rolls worth of pictures, only to find that the exposure of the film was too high so they never developed correctly. This frustrated her to no end, so to find this film, it launched her passion for photography to a new extent. The unknown anonymity of what the film held was a rush of excitement, and she couldn't wait to find out.
There was a rustic, old film slider that projected the film onto a wall; she had seen amongst the clutter when she came in. She'd seen Alek mess with one of these before, so she thought that maybe she could get the hang of it. The alternative was that she could quite possibly destroy someone else's property. Always one for bending the rules, Evelyn continued setting up the camera, her curiosity overpowering any guilt she felt at that moment. This old roll of film was Evelyn's chance. Her chance to bring back her old self, the one that laughed, and laughed a lot. The one that found happiness in a 50s song that made her reminisce about her favorite movie. The girl that thought she had lived another life in the past but was somehow reincarnated to this time and self by mistake.
Even at a young age, she could never connect with kids her age because she was too stuck in old movies and the fantasy of life in the 20s with magical writing like Fitzgerald and Hemmingway or magical people like Clark Gable, Cary Grant, or Sophia Loren and Barbara Steinwick. They had an aroma or air around them that seemed as if they were made of some kind of cosmic mass. Although, she read books on Hemmingway's life, and as it turns out, his writing was one of the only good things about him. Everything seemed to have a symbolic meaning back in those days, and Evelyn wanted that. She wanted the days when silly things like seeing a movie were considered romanticized and lovely. She didn't want all the cell phones and social media. This wasn't to say that she didn't like the progressive way in which technology has developed, she did, she appreciated it. It's just all the capitalism and commercialism aspects she wasn't very fond of. She wanted travel and extravagant life and love. Now was Evelyn's time to be her.
So she finished setting up the camera and the projector. She put it on the back wall. One that was cream but had a few holes and screamed of history and stories. She wondered about all the things that used to happen in this place. To be a fly on the wall back when this was a movie theatre would be amazing. Evelyn turned the lights off, and with a spin on the projector it began to work. Breathing life into the building, she found her self entranced by the images that were on the walls. The style of clothing were breathtaking. There were long colorful dresses that looked to be from the 20s. The girls were all dolled up with makeup and glamorous hair and makeup. Evelyn couldn't seem to believe how things and times have changed, as she looked at her ratty skirt and flats. It was strange to think how different the world can be with time.
Evelyn made her way over to the camera boxes that held that part that Alek needed, and made her way to the door. She did not realize that with every step she took, a new dimension to a past time was forming. That somehow a door was being opened and the past was coming back. Back to life, once again. She pushed the door open and left. With past things on her mind, she didn't realize just what she had left behind