Monday, October 17, 2011

Window shopping

Yesterday it's Cartier, Hugo Boss or Tiffany's. Today it's Myer or Bett's. Tomorrow it will be K-Mart and Target.
A window display provides an opportunistic glance at another world; usually one we cannot afford. We are tempted by our own greed, manipulated by our own self-interest, coerced by our personal desire to be what we are not, to climb the social ladder, look different, be different, be respected and loved for what we want, have and give; to endow ourselves with status in an effort to put ourselves above the statistics of the ordinary person in the street.
The 5mm of glass that separates our world from that of the land of commerce gives a false transparency. It shows nothing of the smokey cloud of delusion that misleads us. Well polished articles with minuscule price tags turned down, glimmering under the purity of a halogen glow, resting in a silken nest or on an outreached hand who's stony sole is hidden by a satin glove. All this cosmetic camouflage provides no clue to the penance we must pay if we enter.
How we are tempted. 'Sale' is the burgeoning catch word, in bold white letters against a blood red background. The Sale is perpetual, feeding its ever hungry bowels with last years stock. A bargain is always in store for those who dare to enter.
But such proportional reduction would only bring the prize within glancing reach. The smiling assistant reaches for her chain of keys and unlocks the lacy fortress. Her movements are slow and purposeful to ensure maximum suspense. The buyer is unaware of the temptress who feeds from the serpent's tree, extending her hand like a viper, sniffing the air for prey. He is dazzled by his own avarice.
I believe this was the item you were interested in, sir.
More than interested, he thinks. Intensely impressed. What rewards he could reap with such a gift? What opportunities await when he wears such apparel? How irresistible he will be?
How better life will be when it is mine? This gem, this jewel buried in gold, this technological perfection, this piece of fine craftsmanship must be mine. I cannot live without it. It is the air I breathe, the water running over my tempered brow, the sustenance that keeps me from the grave, the God that will keep my sole. It is Me.
He reaches out, feeling the alluring pull like a meteor trapped in a spiralling orbit. The treasure touches his skin and he feels the flames within him kindle into life. Little does he realise, the very oxygen that keeps him alive now surges through those flames as the spiral turns to a steep decent, heading for an explosive grave.
The moment of truth has come.
How much is it?
It almost seems crass to have asked. He knows his limits but not his own limitations.
His heart sinks. His dreams are shattered. He pulls his hand back, turning his palm downwards in a gesture that is understood by any aggressive reptile. Submission is his. He has no will. His life has ended. He stands before his demons, lashing out with all his will. There is a final blow from the serpent.
Master Card, perhaps?
She'll know, he thinks. There's no deceit in a receipt. He finds inner strength, spurred on by past experiences. He searches for the words that will end all this. A final blow. A formidable surge of determination that will return him to safe ground. The street awaits his return. He is ready.
I'll give it some thought. Can you hold it for me?
A brusque smile is her reply. She knows him well, this suitor, this charlatan this fraudulent impostor.

Like a one night stand he is gone, tail between his legs and hand on his wallet. As she turns to return her prize to its nest, another face stairs back at her. She is momentarily mirrored in the smoothness and for that instant she is startled.
Am I the prize? She asks. Am I Alice in the Wonderland of glitter. I don't belong here either. This world on the Other Side isn't mine. I too have greed and cannot fulfil it. The world of the window is of itself. There is nothing here but bling. It leaves us hollow and wanting. I am its servant and he is it's slave.
She watches him vanish into the crowd and beckons him to return and take her instead. She offers no pretence and her price is small. Hope and promise is all she asks. He'll not find that in any window.

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