Marcia and I are thinking of getting a new rug for the living room, our ten-year-old, four-hundred-dollar Cost Plus rug from India badly frayed from constant heavy use. Marcia has begun shopping around online and I am reminded of my last search for a rug twenty-six years ago.
I moved to Berkeley from Sacramento in 1995. Recently divorced and hoping to revive my writing career and my emotional life, too, I was off to a good start with the sale of my novel Ruby & Spear and a movie option on my novel Forgotten Impulses.
Having a little jingle in my pocket for the first time in many years, I thought I’d buy a beautiful rug for the living room of the house I was renting on Evelyn Avenue. To that end, I enlisted my friend Mindy to accompany me to a Persian Rug store on Solano Avenue, a store I’d walked by countless times, the rugs displayed in the window ever-changing and always enticing.
A handsome Persian fellow sitting at a desk at the back of the shop looked up as we entered. “May I help you?” he asked, and I said Yes. When he joined us, I informed him I was looking for a six-foot by eight-foot rug in the thousand-dollar range.
He smiled faintly and led us to a stack of rugs. With the help of an assistant he removed the top rug to show us the next one down and so forth until he came to a rug that elicited an interested Hmm from me.
“How much for this one?” I asked hopefully.
“Nineteen hundred dollars,” he said, smiling politely.
Ah,” I said, the sum petrifying. “I was thinking of something closer to a thousand.”
“I’m very sorry to tell you this, sir,” he said, no longer smiling, “but our store is not for you unless you are looking for a much smaller rug.”
This piqued me and I decided I could spend as much as fifteen hundred if he showed me something I really loved. I told him so and he sighed. “I have a few flawed rugs I can show you, but they are only four by six or three by five. I don’t think you’ll like them.”
At which moment another handsome Persian fellow emerged from the back of the store, he and the first fellow had a brief conversation in Farsi, the second fellow gave me a penetrating look and asked, “Are you an artist?”
I said I was a writer and a musician.
He nodded graciously and beckoned us to follow him to another stack of rugs, much finer rugs than those in the first stack. He and the assistant slowly removed the top rug, allowed us a few moments to contemplate the newly exposed rug, and so on until four rugs down they uncovered the most beautiful rug I’d ever seen. Or I should say they uncovered a rug that sang to me, “I’m the one, baby. You know I am.”
“You were meant to have this rug,” said the salesman, gazing at me knowingly. “This rug was made for you.”
“How much?” I asked breathlessly.
“Because I very much want you to have this rug,” he said, pausing momentously, “I will give it to you for 3400 dollars.”
“That’s way beyond what I can spare,” I said, which was true in one sense, but in another sense – the spiritual truth – I could have spared that much.
“You need to buy this rug,” he said, gazing intently at me. “It will change your life. This rug has been waiting for you.”
I did not buy the rug and my fortunes quickly waned. A year later my savings were gone and I was barely making enough to cover my rent and pay for groceries. And every time I walked by that rug shop on Solano Avenue I would think about my beautiful rug and regret I hadn’t been brave enough to take the beauty home with me.