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The Market in the Heart of the City

With one eager inhalation, she fills her halls with the first round of customers. Still stiff with the sleep of night, this first breath draws quickening life into groggy corridors. A stretch and a yawn from wide, creaking, opening doorways invite another small crowd. The City Market had been stirring for some hours, and now with the sun hanging in the sky above bird and building, she is ready to rise. The shining warmth of well-settled dawn massages her outer walls and breaks through the high glass augers frightening away chilly night air.

Charleston City Market Entrance
The Market Entrance Widens on Inhalation

City Market Season Begins

This was not just any day on Meeting Street. It was mid-April. Spring break was underway. The tenacious chill of winter reluctantly gave way to heat and blossoms. Pockets of tourists and residents alike jingled with money from refunds. This promised to be a busy day for the market, who was still setting her intentions for the day with each blow of her nostrils. She was not caught by surprise. This time comes every year without fail, and she had decorated herself for the occasion.

Dressed in gorgeous flags and signs she sought to compete with the colorful bouquet of spring petals. Just as attractive as the bloom to the bee, she spun and danced and attracted many wandering eyes. Several incoming hadn’t visited for over a year and others arrived whom she met for the first time. She loved to be admired. Not simply for herself, but this was her duty. Her neighboring friend, the Farmers Market, had just returned from his winter vacation. It was both of their jobs to sustain the thriving commerce and activity of the city and she couldn’t wait to gloat. All in good fun, of course. They had a mutual respect of one another and were earnest old friends.

An Honest Dollar

One more deep breath. The street was a pulsing current of life, flowing with waves of curious meandering and late appointments. It has been hours since the morning and the rush has officially begun. In just a few months the same amount of labor will leave sweat dripping from air-conditioned pipes. Not yet, however. Fresh, cool Spring keeps the air moderate inside and outside of the market’s several open edifices. Regardless, the work is laborious. She hyperventilates with the ingress and egress of customers and gawkers. Her sides seem to bulge painfully from the bustling within her walls. Ever so slightly she settles and stretches her aged bricks to make room for the commerces within her.

She didn’t mind. This was a job she had come to love. These first days always excite her, but today particularly she housed new art. Several entered the City Market just for this alone, but today she was extra proud and wanted everyone to enjoy the colors and canvases leaning upon her booths. She flaunted them joyfully, beamed at every exclamation of how pretty they were, how talented the artists, how well that depiction of a docked boat would look over the sofa. This is what she lived for. Each transaction was life-blood, each paused and engaged shopper a heartbeat. And nothing brought her more pleasure, except maybe on occasion an exceptional street performance. There was very little that didn’t energize her bones. Little she didn’t enjoy. But there was one thing.

And Dishonest, Too

The word “commerce” deconstructed means “merciful together.” It pays a slight nod to an archaic idea of mercy, one many may be unfamiliar with nowadays. In long forgotten times if you killed a poor man’s cattle, you have destroyed his livelihood and he must pursue strict justice. Kill the cattle of a king or queen, however, and it was simply one of many. To demonstrate their power and abundance they could show mercy because they could afford to. The market was the symbol of being merciful together. Of commerce. She was a dance of abundance. In her bosom all were welcome. The wealthy, the peasant, the harlot, and even the tax collector on their tax season vacation. Regardless, what she couldn’t stand was a thief.

Theft disrupted the very soul the market embodied. With theft comes distrust. With theft comes guarded and unfriendly displays. Theft brings unfriendliness, and that is why she can’t forgive it. Without togetherness there an be no mercy, there can be no free flowing trade within her cavernous halls. It makes her ill and she hates it. Today, deep in her belly a woman tried to steal a fragrance from a booth as the vendor turned. Another spied her before she could get away. The upset turned the market’s stomach and she regurgitated the thief with a shudder. The market can’t excuse theft. One can busk, or panhandle if you’re brave. But never disrupt the spirit of the system.

The Busy Day is Done

The evening approaches soon, but the Sun still hangs fairly high overhead. What was once shoulder to shoulder congestion has hummed down to empty tables and some stragglers entranced in conversations. The City Market’s brick walls and cement floors are sore from today’s activities. While it has been splendid, she is glad to relax and recover for the night. Her art sold, and baskets packed up for tomorrow, she’s proud and has earned her rest. Slowly, one-by-one large doors and gates slide to a close.

Tomorrow promises a new day of wares and wanderers. Tonight the market will sleep and dream. City Market season has begun. She’ll need her quiet night’s slumber. Morning isn’t far away and soon her tables will billow with soaps, fabrics, woven trays, spices, and toys again. Shortly after, she will once again open her nostrils and breathe deeply. The air is cool over her rooftops.