2 Aug 2013


There’s a pawnbrokers on Beaumont Street I walk past quite often. I can’t help thinking of two things when I see it: Raskolnikov killing the money-lender in “Crime and punishment” and American TV crime shows. The same way the Romans used to say that all paths led to Rome it seems like all paths in cops shows lead to pawnbrokers. Inevitably my imagination starts to work. Who would be the person who used to own that gold ring? Why did she feel in need to pawn it? Is it a family piece of jewellery? Will she ever get it back? For some reason the gold jewellery exhibited in the window at the pawn shop is less shiny than the gold in the jeweller’s window a bit further down the road. Perhaps the staff at the pawnbrokers don’t devote too much time at looking after their stock, or their lighting isn’t the best, or maybe it’s just the depressing air of the shop that takes over. Some objects radiate more sadness than others. Old looking jewellery looks the saddest to me. Electric guitars in vibrant colours are less dramatic. They make me think of young people who miscalculated how much they could afford to pay for their dream instrument or find it hard to keep up the payments of both their guitar and their new car.

Some of my childhood friends had stamp and coin collections their parents had bought for them, as an investment for the future. They could sell those if at some point they needed extra cash. Perhaps even pawn them. You would think this showed incredible foresight but it didn’t show half as much as that of the parents of my high school friend, who bought her a gravestone in the local cemetery.

I think in some cultures, women wear as much gold jewellery as they can, as a way of carrying their wealth with them all the time. A kind of nomadic attitude to life, where you can pack and go very easily. Someone told me about some European migrants coming to Australia with their valuable jewels sewed to their clothes. Creative and practical. In any case the seller would probably never make as much money as they would like. They definitely wouldn’t get that much at the pawn shop, that’s the way these things work.

I don’t think I would ever be able to take something to a pawnbroker. I would probably get a crappy deal, end up forgetting I had left whatever object there or be too busy rewriting a short story no one will ever buy to go back and retrieve it. I never saw a pawn shop in Guadalajara, my hometown, when I was growing up.

Now red and yellow signs reading “Compro oro” (I buy gold) seem to be popping up everywhere.