I want a house so that I can ensoul it with the glossy shards of history that line the Belém Feira da Ladra (Thief’s Fair or flea market): silver espresso spoons with jewel-set handles; green and white dishes galloping with horses and wild vines; blue and white 18th century tiles lush with frosty lilies and one watchful lion with a smiling eye; and leather-bound books to turn the library into a dusty church of words. I buy only old postcards. The paper is dyed gold with decades, but the Lisboa in the pastel photograph hasn’t aged a day.

I wander into a dark antique shop because the velvet-black Labrador in the doorway looks like he needs an admirer. The midday heat taxidermies him; too hot to move, he becomes Chief Trophy in the shop of stilted time. Like cryogenic chambers, the glass display cases freeze time between their green wooden frames: ink wells, folding cameras, and a doll in a horse drawn carriage enjoy a cool immortality in the vitrine, untouched by electric light.


The dog lumbers over to his mistress behind the counter, breaking the spell. This shop is Lisbon beneath glass, a scrumptiously eclectic potpourri of treasures snatched from time’s dirty fingers. And wherever I walk, I am followed by a hundred eyes. Dolls of all sizes and eras watch from every window. They live secret, outrageous lives behind dusty glass. With my floral dress and the spray of scavenged periwinkle-blue blossoms tucked through my hatband, I am almost one of them.



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