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  • Felice Cohen

Follow the yellow brick road…

…or at least West 47th Street, otherwise known as the Diamond District in Manhattan. Gold watches, diamond rings and necklaces, oh my! The bling was blinding. Men waving fliers in my face say, “Cash for gold” as I pass, their eyes on me. I’m used to be sized-up on the street, but now their gazes land on my jewelry. I feel like a mark at the circus.

It’s amazing how much testosterone is on this one block. Men of all ages, sizes and nationalities

At 30 West, a young Asian man escorts me up the elevator. “For protection,” I’m told. We’re buzzed in. Chris, the man I spoke with on the phone, tells me to take a seat on a cushy bench across from his desk. He sits and his baldhead caught the florescent lights and shines. The office is like any one of those small white-walled offices in Manhattan with unmemorable art usually hung too high. I hand him my Ziplocs, one with gold, the other silver. He sorts though my earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. “Each item is tested for its value,” he explains, scraping the edge of a necklace against a black stone. Then he applies a special liquid and wipes it off, testing to see if it’s real. He creates piles: 10K, 14K, sterling silver and other. The other is either fake or not worth much. I will bring it next week to a woman who buys and sells costume jewelry.

When Chris is done, he puts the gold on a scale. Then his thick fingers dance on a calculator. He does the same with the silver. He writes nothing down. He turns to me and says, “I’ll give you six hundred for the whole lot.” I ask for a breakdown. He tells me the weight of the silver and its value of $300, and $300 for the gold. I think about the men on the sidewalk and wonder if one of their stores will give me more. But do I really want to have to deal with them? There are two silver bracelets with gold ends, practically new, that would make nice gifts. I ask if I take them back how much for the stuff. He says “Five-fifty.”

“Deal,” I say. He asks for my license to make a photocopy, then hands it back with a receipt and $550. Cash. I’m not expecting cash.

“Cash?” I blurt out.

“Is cash not good?” Chris says.

“No,” I say, “cash is fine.” The cash feels sinister to me, but what did I think? All the fliers claim “Cash for gold.” I shake Chris’s hand and leave. Unescorted. Is gold more valuable than cash?

Back on the sidewalk it’s raining. The street is now quiet, the animals with their fliers have fled for cover and I’m free to walk without needing to feed them.  I exhale and put my hand over my bag for protection, and head to the bank.

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