You must have your own Holy Grail, some infinitely unattainable object, surely imbued with the power to change your life. Mine was pure linen bedsheets. I didn't even know what it'd be like to sleep on fine linen, but I sure liked the idea. My quest was nearing 20 years. Finding linen sheets secondhand was unlikely, but the impossibility of the search sustained me and made every new thrift threshold a hopeful one. Gotta check the sheets.
Not too long ago, weary from a day of thrifting, I was shuffling down the bedding aisle at Unique, one hand distractedly trailing along the usual pilly selection of 50/50 sheets, when my fingertips grazed a stiff and slippery mass. I grabbed the fabric with both hands, squeezed and inspected, marveling at the fresh creases I'd made and the sheen and heft of the material. I unfolded the bundle there in the aisle, checking that it wasn't just raw yardage or a large tablecloth. Not one but two sheets cascaded from my arms. Huge, white, pristine--they were the sheets of my dreams.
They were expensive for thrift sheets ($5 each) but I knew that meant they were virgins--never even used! I bunched them up and plopped them into my cart. Slightly dazed at my success, I continued down the bedding aisle, then proceeded halfheartedly on through the rest of the store.
My hunt was ended. The flame that had sustained me, that comforting glow of hope and desire, had been extinguished. I trudged toward the register, trying to shake off a creeping sensation of malaise. It will be swell to brag about these sheets, even better to luxuriate in their lineny perfection, but was that enough to live for?
Maybe, but if not, there was always that elusive cashmere blanket...
Store quirk: Look down. The store has fabulous 50s linoleum floor of patterned black-and-green "marble."
UNIQUE THRIFT STORE
4112 N. Lincoln
Hours: Monday 9 to 6:45, Tuesday through Saturday 9 to 7:15, Sunday 10 to 5:45.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Dorothy Perry.