Something from the Editors Pt 2 - 'In Conversation With' by Tina Parsons
‘Welcome to In Conversation With. I’m Hal Walsh and today I am joined by Alma, for what will be I’m sure, a fascinating insight into the life of one the most sought after of possessions, the designer bag.’
Turning to face Alma, Hal’s eyes fix upon her leather trim.
‘Thank you, I’m pleased to be here.’
Alma’s lack of movement is unsettling, causing Hal to feel quite jittery. His left leg is shaking like he’s upset a nerve and he places both feet firmly on the floor before continuing.
‘The topic of today’s conversation is The One, and I’m interested to hear your views. But first Alma I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about yourself?’
‘Sure. But before I do, may I just say that I am no more or less a possession than everything else around here, including you. I am a being in my own right. If nothing else, let’s be clear of that.’
Hal feels the colour rising in his cheeks. There is a pause, he crosses his legs, feels the shake return, uncrosses them.
‘Of course, my apologies.’
Hal’s eyes struggle to find a focal point. It is proving much more difficult than he had anticipated and he’s afraid of messing up. He begins again, softening his voice a little, desperately trying to restore his position of welcoming host.
‘Please, do go on.’
‘Thank you. Like you said in your introduction, my name is Alma, but I am not just a designer bag, I am a Louis Vuitton handbag.’
‘And may I say it is a pleasure to have you with us. My wife has long been a fan.’
‘Thank you, that means a lot.’
It is difficult to read Alma’s tone. Hal is used to relying on the facial expressions and body language of his guests for clues. Alma is giving absolutely nothing away.
‘What exactly would you like to know about me?’
‘I guess what we… err… I would really like to know is, what’s it like being you?’
Aware of his slight stutter, Hal tries to keep a check of himself.
‘Ah okay. Well, first of all, what you need to understand is that all things for want of a better word, are alive, they have a life, not just a use.’
‘Can you explain what you mean?’
‘Sure. I’ll be glad to.’
There is a pause, a second or two of silence when Alma seems to be taking a deciding breath. Hal shuffles the papers in front of him, reaches for his coffee, takes a sip.
‘From what I have seen of most humans, you tend to view the life of things in terms of their use, when we are in fact not so very different from you. We are conceived, born, and the way we realise our destiny is left largely to chance in much the same way as it is for you.’
‘Go on,’ Hal leans forward.
‘Well, just as you didn’t choose your parents, I didn’t choose where I came from. My origins in that respect are as complex as yours. I am a fusion, part canvas from the cotton fields, part brass from the depths of the earth and part hide from the finest cows. Like you, my heritage can be traced back through time and is as multi-faceted as any you might come across.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘I’m sure you think about the traits you’ve inherited, wonder about the lives of those who went before you and how their experiences have affected you?’
‘Yes, when you put it like that, I’m sure we’ve all had those thoughts from time to time.’
‘I could have become anything, a shoe, a saddle, or even a tent. The list is endless, and yet the fact that I am here now in this form never ceases to amaze me. I think the phrase you use is nurture versus nature, and it is as relevant to me as it is to you.’
‘Now that really is food for thought.’
Hal is beginning to enjoy himself; he imagines the listeners sitting up and taking notice.
‘Once I was destined to become a bag, there were various stages I needed to pass through to become myself. Much of my early life was directed for me. As I say, just like yours.’
‘So, am I right in thinking that what you are saying is that your being made into a bag is similar to our experiences of childhood?’ Hal asks tentatively, afraid to offend.
‘Fascinating. Please, do go on.’
‘Of course. Once my basic components were fully developed, I was purchased as part of a batch, and then in much the same way as you go to school, or like puppies are taken away from their mothers, I was separated and moulded into shape.’
Hal’s eyes fix on Alma.
Alma laughs, ‘I’m guessing you never thought of it like that?’
Hal shakes his head.
‘Take a look at your shoes,’ Alma says and waits for Hal to move before continuing. Hal bends over his knees to look.
‘See the way they are moulded, that didn’t just happen, not only does it take skill, but think of the pain. Blood, sweat, and tears are not exclusive to you humans, it’s just that we have a different way of experiencing them.’
Alma is gaining pace, and Hal senses that she is enjoying the sound of her voice.
‘At my graduation, I got to wear the iconic LV logo and was decorated with the leather and brass accoutrements you see before you. It was the best day of my life.’
‘Yes, very nice. Impressive. This is fascinating. What happened next?’
Hal notices the technicians are not just listening but taking off their headsets, craning to get a better view. He visualises the ratings and feels his pulse quickening.
‘As bags go, I was one of the lucky ones. Being part of the Louis Vuitton family meant that I did not get thrown out into the world of retail, left to fight it out on the shelves of department stores or worse, market stalls. Instead, my education, if I may call it that, was extended and I got to experience what you might refer to as a type of finishing school. All Louis Vuitton bags get sent to one of the prestigious salons, we don’t call them shops, that can be found in the major cities of the world.’
Alma pauses. Hal smiles, raises his eyebrows, and gestures with his hand.
‘And you? Where did you go?’
‘I was sent to London’s Bond Street.’
Hal lets out a low whistle.
‘For sure. It was there that I got to know about the lives of others not as fortunate as myself.’
‘Well, they’d come in on the arms of the customers. Of course, there were lots like me, with similar pedigrees, but there were also those that pretended to be like us. We learnt very quickly how to spot them.’
‘Do you mean the fakes?’
‘Yes, you’ve got it. Perhaps you know the ones?’
Hal hides his belt with his hands.
‘It was from those bags that I learned many of life’s lessons, them, and the customers of course.’
‘Ah, the customers, I’m keen to know a bit more about your experiences with them. I know only too well, that buying a handbag isn’t as easy as it might seem, my wife is insistent that there is much more to a bag than meets the eye. I don’t get it myself.’
‘I mean no offence of course.’
Alma laughs politely but Hal feels the slight tension.
‘But then I’m only a man, what do I know?’
He hopes he’s got away with it.
‘Well first of all, your wife is right, and secondly you might be surprised at the amount of men who do get it.’
Hal can see the technicians gesturing to him. He clears his throat.
‘I guess what I’m trying to say is, how does a person know when they’ve found the One and is it the same for you?’
‘That’s a great question and I’m happy to at last have the opportunity to tell you what very few people are aware of. You see, this goes back to what I was saying earlier about all things being alive. You’ll agree that life is made up of a set of experiences that shapes each individual?’
Hal nods at the lift in Alma’s voice.
‘But what you might not realise is that whilst we, and by we, I mean things like me, this chair, your fake belt etc., contribute to those experiences, we also share them.’
Alma pauses and the technicians laugh behind their hands in the background.
‘Shall I go on?’ she asks.
Hal is beginning to realise that he’s met his match.
‘Meeting the One as you put it, is really about the difference between greed and joy or to put it another way, between wanting and loving. Things know that, even when you don’t.’
‘So, are you telling me that things can feel like humans feel?’
‘No Hal, what I’m actually saying is that we can feel because of you.’
Hal realises that this is just what he’d wanted when he’d pitched the idea to his boss, but this unchartered territory is feeling a bit alien. He is trying desperately to keep the right tone.
‘Can you explain?’
‘Absolutely, but are you sure you’re ready?’
Hal senses Alma teasing him. Without waiting for his answer, Alma continues.
‘The point is, when you choose a bag, indeed any thing, be under no illusion, the real choice does not lie with you.’
Hal goes to speak but Alma cuts in.
‘Or your wife,’ she laughs.
‘The choice lies with us, and I know you will find this hard to believe, but we know when it’s right and we certainly know when it’s not,’ Alma continues.
‘But how?’ Hal has a good feeling; her words feel ground-breaking.
‘The best way I can describe it, is what you humans feel when two strangers lock eyes in a crowded room, we just know. We are like you when it comes to love.’
‘I don’t quite follow.’
‘You see Hal, there is no place to hide from us, not like you hide from yourselves. We know your truths. We catch them in the sleight of hand, the twinkle of an eye, a whisper of breath.’
Hal is suddenly aware of his own breathing.
‘In that way we make our choices. When we feel your joy, your love, then, and only then will we allow ourselves to be The One.’
‘If you think about it, the same applies to all things.’
Hal’s gaze shifts.
‘And I would urge you and your listeners to take a moment to consider those things that bring you the most joy and how each of them might have made themselves The One.’
‘I must admit you’ve certainly given me something to think about.’
‘If I may, I’d like to leave you with one last thought?’
‘Yes of course, what is it?’
‘That next time, I‘d like to tell you and your listeners what we do to make sure you are NOT The One.’
Alma giggles, Hal is unsure whether or not to join in. He picks up his papers and checks the time.
‘Thank you, Alma - a great way to end what has been a most insightful interview.’
‘The pleasure is all mine.’
Hal switches his microphone to OFF and sitting back in his seat stretches and waits for the phones to ring.
All Rights. Tina Parsons.