Destiny can be found just about anywhere, but who would think you could find it at the Salvation Army? He never saw it coming. He would find new meaning in his life. He would find his inner voice. He would be able to feel at ease with himself. If you told him that the section along the back wall had held the key to self discovery, he would turn and say with his usual wry wit, “Get a life.”
It was a cold, sunny afternoon. The kind where from indoors you could wear a long-sleeved t-shirt and your jeans with rips in the knees, but once outside, you realize that walking without a hooded sweatshirt is not the best game plan. Jerome, Brian, Susan and Jill were all bored that day and needed something to do. The usual fare for a sunny Friday would be to take over the main quad and toss the disc for several hours. They usually got out class early enough to beat the meatheads who played football there. However, that was out due to the winter wind that was picking up. Driving out to enjoy a frosty brew was out for the time being as well. Jill was on some medication for something she probably didn’t have and drinking was out. For some reason, they worked as a hive mind when it came to activities. The four were always together and if someone couldn’t do something, be it due to an injury or Jill’s hypochondria, they’d opt for something to include everyone. The Four Horsemen of the Post Apocalypse. That is what they named themselves. The girls battled for Four Horsepeople, but Jerome and Brian said people would think they wanted to be centaurs. They knew how to stick together and how to survive. It seemed odd to some people, but college is about organizations of friends. Be it Greek life, the radio station or the philosophy club, people do it to be around friends. Why not have an extra-extra-curricular group? It was Jerome who had suggested Friday’s activity.
“Why don’t we go to the Salvation Army.” Jerome loved finding diamonds in the rough. Grabbing an old sweatshirt, a vintage t-shirt or a jacket from ages past was something he held close to his heart. You could tell by his ragged corduroy pants and his grey pleather coat with a Teamsters patch on the sleeve.
“What’s so great about the Salvation Army?” Susan wasn’t fond of Jerome’s obsession with old things, mainly due to her allergy to moth-balls, but she was a penny pincher so the idea wasn’t totally out of her mind. “I mean, I guess if that’s all anyone can think of.”
“I’m not sure. Today is so nice. Why should we be cooped up inside a musty, old building?” Brian never appreciated the things of old either. In fact, he was totally opposed to the Salvation Army, mainly the Santas who would come out and beg for change around Christmas time.
“Come on, guys! We could get some really great stuff! Weren’t you going to be looking for new jacket anyway, Susan?”
“The key word there is new. But I guess I could check out what they have.”
“I don’t care. If everyone else wants to go, let’s do it!” Jill never could make up her own mind.
“Alright, fine. Let’s go.” Brian shrugged it off and finally let Jerome get a shot at the days events.
“I’m driving. I made this new mix tape. You guys are going to love it.” Jerome was always anxious to show off his underappreciated ability to make a mix tape.
“Do we, have to take the Pillager?” Susan was referring to Jerome’s old Mercury Villager.
“Yeah, man. I could drive my car and we could hook up my iPod.” Brian was always eager to drive his new Scion.
“Come on, man. iPod? You can’t get any more anti-social than that.”
“Just because you revel in that old technology doesn’t mean we have to like it too. But fine. You’re right. I drive a lot. Gas costs too much these days. You can waste your money this time.” They hoped into the Pillager and headed towards the good old Salvation Army.
The Salvo, as Jerome would call it, stood atop a hill, and as the van approached, it seemed to be a beacon. That day had some sort of weird air about it. One of these horsemen would find providence entrapped inside a gray case. Jerome rolled into the parking space and it seemed as if this premium spot was saved for the Pillager. As they slide the door open, the crisp December air sent a chill down their spines. The doors of the Salvation Army were painted red and as they approached, it seemed more like a building meant for religion than a building with random items, used jean jackets and a musty scent.
“I don’t even know where to begin.” Brian was the type to wear all the new fashions. Thrifting seemed ridiculous to him. “I guess I’ll look at the t-shirts.”
“I’m coming with you. The kids section is right next to the t-shirts.” This was a typical decision of Jill. She preferred the kids section since she had the figure of a sewing needle.
“What will it be for you, Jerome?” Susan wanted company to the jackets and figured that’s what Jerome would want to look at.
“I think I will check out the jackets first.” Jerome knew exactly what he wanted to find.
“Good. You can help me pick out a nice jacket for the winter. You have an eye for vintage.”
The four horseman split up going to totally opposite ends of the large warehouse expanse of the Salvo. Jerome and Susan headed towards the back wall where the coats were. It was the wall of coats. It was colorized and broken in two—women’s coats and men’s coats. Once there, they split up and set out for their coat hunt. This was where Jerome would find his fate piled along with the random bric-a-brac across from the coats.
Jerome tried on a pale blue windbreaker that had a firing range patch on the breast pocket. As he turned, he noticed the shelving of random items that always eluded him. He noticed a Connect Four and Monopoly intermingled with a dollhouse and some wine glasses. It seemed like the island of misfit thrift items. Something then caught his eye halfway down the shelving unit. Jerome, still wearing the somewhat baggy shooters windbreaker, headed towards the grey lump of casing with a dazed look in his eye. He never could explain it, but something about the case intrigued him. Once there, he reached for the handle and picked it up. Thinking it was an odd-looking luggage piece, he figured it to be weightless. Much to his surprise, it weighed much more than empty luggage should. Almost dropping it, he grabbed it with his other hand and noticed an icon imprinted on the front. It said: Smith-Corona. Thinking it to be a rival brand of Samsonite, he placed it on the ground and sat Indian style in front of it. Slowly, like if he was opening the Arc of the Covenant, he reached for the push buttons found on either side of the handle and snapped open the treasure he had found.
“What the hell is that?” Susan came by to show off her red-leather long coat to Jerome to find him gazing into a grey case.
“It’s a typewriter.” Jerome stated with a pitch of boyish-happiness in his voice.
“Why is it in a suitcase?”
“It’s a carrying case.”
“You’re not getting it, are you?” Susan obviously thought in the age of computers that a typewriter would no longer even exist. “I mean, that’s a waste of money no matter how much it costs.”
“There is no way I’m leaving here without it.” Jerome slammed the top shut and picked it up. He headed back towards the coats to put back the gun jacket back where he found it.
Jerome met up with the rest of the horseman at the checkout. Brian was empty handed, Jill found a YMCA Basketball T-Shirt and Susan was still awestruck at the fact Jerome wanted to purchase such a worthless piece of crap.
“What in God’s name is that, Jerome?” Brian looked dumfounded as well.
“It’s my typewriter.”
“You’re kidding, right? Who in their right mind would buy a typewriter?”
“I would. I love this kind of stuff.”
“Dude, you have a computer!”
“I know. But this comes with no distractions. The pure aesthetic of it is worth the six bucks!”
“I think it’s neat.” Jill spoke out against the grain for once. “I mean, think about Jerome. He has records, mix tapes and refuses to listen to commercial radio. It fits him. He lives in the past.”
“Thanks, Jill.” Jerome never got respect from the horsemen before on his love of the vintage. A Luddite among those who needed to keep up with the trends and fashions of the world. It was an odd match up, but somehow the friendship worked. He checked out with his treasure and from that moment forward, things would be different.
His first use of the typewriter was a sort-of stream of conscious journal. He wrote about his heavy listening of David Bowie’s LP Low and how the songs mirrored his feelings—the first half bright and goofy and the second half dark, brooding and ethereal. The typewriter banged out his minds thoughts and it was the only piece of machinery that felt like an extension of his body. His mind was the paper, his thoughts were the letters individually imprinting their marks on the page. Finally, Jerome could find solace in his own thoughts. It wasn’t that he didn’t love the horseman. They just didn’t understand him. He was sick of getting sidestepped and feeling like he wasn’t with it. He loved the things of the past. He took a while away from the horseman. He wrote many stories and started publishing them in his schools magazine. He started meeting more like minded folk who enjoyed writing and all things vintage. It was weeks before he heard from any of the horseman and this came from the only thing that he had that was new was his cellphone. It began to ring and Jerome was broken away from his new friend. The phone said “Pestilence.” Brian was calling the first time in a few days.
“Hey, man” Jerome was nervous to talk to one of the horseman.
“Yo. It’s Brian. What’s goin’ on, man?”
There was a few seconds of silence here. The awkward tension was that of a high school talent show.
“So, what are you up to?” Brian continued, breaking the silence. “I mean, it seems like we never hear from you anymore.”
“Yeah. I’ve been writing a lot lately. You know, it’s been a real release for me.”
“Well, don’t let it take you away from us! We miss you out here. My dad got me this stereo system that has a record player attached to it and I have nothing for it. I need your help to inform me of this kind of stuff. I mean, I know you care a lot about it and all. I feel like an idiot when it comes to this old stuff. I’m trying to understand it though.”
Jerome was filled with a sense of some sort of triumph. He was confident that his discovery of a typewriter and his story writing was actually impacting his friends. He figured Brian read the things he published about being left out of the loop by his closest friends in one of his stories. It was a triumph for himself that he never saw coming. Jerome knew that this typewriter—this thing that was deemed obsolete—had a new purpose. It gave more meaning to his life than he ever could have expected. A channel for his thoughts and a new avenue in having his closest friends finally understand his love for the things of the past. He ended his conversation with Brian by planning the next four horseman trip. This time, it would be to a record store in Princeton. A long trip, but the Pillager could take it. The hive mind finally was complete. All aspects of their friendship were understood by the other four parts. It would be a sweet reunion. The old, the new and the ideas of the future were finally brought together to make something beautiful—the now.