It is a tiny and historic little cove of storefronts, a post office, a locksmith, a few empty buildings. Each one is petite, nestled in with its neighbors like the residents of a home for the elderly snuggled together on one faded couch. Plaster has chipped away from the walls revealing red bricks, dust has gathered thickly in window corners, paint is wrinkling and peeling from doorways. Each one has its own distinct character. A few have aged better than others. Well cared for, they smile with cheerful dignity and the wisdom of their age, wearing newer coats of paint on the architecture of bygone eras.
At the very center of this horseshoe gathering, at the end of the cove, one building seems imbued with the enchantments of immortality. Its white columns set it apart in style from its cronies, lending it a classical elegance. Its front door is hidden just five or six little accordion steps below street level, like the pouty lips of a sophisticated woman veiled by a fan. Delicate lace curtains hang like down turned eye lashes in the tall lean rectangular windows that flank the door. Inside, shelves are littered with an array of antiques and ruffled niceties. Crystal platters lay among potpourri sachets tied with bronze colored satin ribbons. Fluted flower vases display little pink rosebuds with thread frayed edges and sprays of tiny acrylic pearls. Most prevalent however are the crowded rows of fine china dolls, forced together like schoolgirls for a class picture. They are lined up together on shelves high and low. Shiny little ringlets of amber, gold, and chestnut hang out from under sailors caps and bonnets and around smiling cherub faces. Red lips, pink lips, peach lips, perfect little noses, and dimpled cheeks, creamy unmarred complexions, all of these features complement their merrily sparkling glass eyes. Blue, green, brown, and even violet, they look out from under thick dark eyelashes, unblinking and unperturbed, frozen in an eternal moment of mirth.
Many clean little dresses hang from racks upon the walls. They are of various sizes and styles, all handmade of satin, crepe, lace, and cotton, accented with little satin rosebuds and bows. A small counter built of panels of white wood plays hostess to a cash register set on top of an over sized crochet doily. The dolls wait expectantly along the walls throughout the store, but those behind the register seem especially demanding of adoration. They are piled upon tiers of shelving behind the little white counter, legs dangling from under luxurious little petticoats.
There are boxes on the floor filled with older dolls of less refinement and worth. Cabbage patch dolls with rubber faces and hair of yellow or orange yarn lie face down among an endless supply of grinning Troll dolls with their tanned pot bellies and tufts of neon hair. An old broken rocking horse is hidden in one corner, lost among the new white wicker carriages designed for carrying elegant dolls. A rusty blue and yellow aluminum top keeps it company, as well as an old tin lunch box turned so that its face can’t be seen. The space itself is very narrow and all of the antiques and toys, seem almost invisible crowded as they are, each stealing the others thunder. The overall effect is an atmosphere of clutter. Only the china dolls behind the register can contend with the silent clamor, drawing attention to themselves through their sameness and unity of perfection.
A powder blue door leads into a small back room another two steps down. In here there are more boxes filled with things that wouldn’t fit or fetch a high price. The majority of the space is occupied by a large, neatly made brass bed attended by an armoire and a petite dresser with an oval mirror. There is a window behind the bed with a sheer white curtain hung over it. Light breathes in through the gossamer fabric, and the shadows of greenery on the other side can be seen pressing upon the glass. Another door opens into a bathroom no bigger than a closet. Within, the porcelain is white and clean and the golden fixtures are polished to gleaming brightness. The floor however, reveals its age in the form of cracked tiles and yellowed grout.