Three a.m. I lie awake in my bed staring at the ceiling, trying to fall asleep.

I am still unused to my surroundings. The unfamiliar noises through the walls make it hard to fall asleep.

The first few nights in my new apartment have been marked by bad dreams. The last moments of my dream stick in my mind before slowly receding like a waning tide.

I am walking down the hallway when my eyes begin playing tricks on me. A strange humming sound echoes off the hallway walls, which makes my hair stand on edge.

The hallway seems to breathe with steady contractions and expansions like the lungs of a living creature. I can feel the weight of people’s eyes through the peepholes falling onto my shoulders. I listen to the whispers and other voices from behind their doors.

Inside my apartment it looks like some of the furnishings are breathing on their own and exhaling a growing cloud of smoke into the air that hangs above my head. It slowly descends towards me.

Suddenly there’s is a knock at my door.

“Daryl, are you up yet? We have to get moving if you want to get anything good from the yard sales.”

It’s my upstairs neighbor. We had made plans to go yard sales today.

“Just give me a second I will be right out,” I call as I change out of my pyjamas and into a t-shirt, jeans, and a hat to hide my messy hair.

We pile into the car. My friends Jenny, Vera, and Colin are already waiting for me.

“So, whats the plan?” I ask as I get into the backseat.

“Colin and I already planned out a route. We are going to check out Riverdale and downtown first. Then maybe some of the other places like Porter Creek. After that we will hit the free store.” Jenny announces.

“The free store? What’s that?”

“It’s only the best place to go shopping in town. Even better then the Sally Ann,” Vera says. “After all the yard sales are done, people just bring everything there. It’s great. I’ve furnished most of my apartment with stuff from there.”

“Remember in university, when we would go dumpster diving looking for stuff? I used to find all kinds of cool stuff.” I say, addressing no one in particular.

“We used to do it all the time when we were overseas. But it’s not as celebrated or talked about there as we do up here.” Colin says as he navigates the map looking for the best route to the yard sales.

We drive through town, stopping at every yard sale we find, sifting through the tables of items looking for treasures. The competition is fierce since the weather is nice.

When we arrive at the first sale there are already people circling like carrion birds over the tables, waiting for new items to be placed out so they can be picked clean before anyone else can get their hands on them.

The key to treasure hunting like this is to go early and often, and my friends are avid yard saling veterans.

“See anything that catches your eye?” Vera asks.

“Not really, it’s all just junk.”

“Me either. Let’s move on to the next one,” Jenny says from behind me.

As we walk towards the car Vera asks me, “What is your favourite thing about living up here?”

“Well, I haven’t been here that long, but I like all the open space and fresh air. You don’t get anything like that down in the cities.”

“Tell, me about it.” She said with a smile.

We visit several other sales that morning, biding our time until late in the afternoon when all the sales have begun to die down. That’s when we head for the free store.

To my surprise, we head out the highway and towards the dump. The smell is awful.

The free store is just a shack at the dump with nothing more than a couple of shelves and big boxes for clothes inside of it. There are already several people there, sorting through the shelves.

“What is this place? I thought we were going to the free store. Isn’t this the dump?” I ask.

“The free store is part of the dump. Trust me, digging through the boxes can be time consuming but the rewards are great when you find that one treasure that really makes your day,” Colin says reassuringly.

As I sort through a collection of knick-knacks someone arrives with several boxes of stuff and leaves. As soon as the boxes hit the ground the other people there begin to go through them, taking the best items for themselves.

I move out of the way of the feeding frenzy when I see something that catches my eye. It’s a pair of carved shrunken heads with real human hair. They remind me of Japanese Oni masks. I snag them before anyone else sees what they are.

Returning home with my latest batch of treasures that evening, I feel an immediate difference in my apartment. It’s finally begun to feel like home.

Who knew that treasure hunting at the dump would end up being so rewarding?

Now, whenever people ask me what I love most about living here, I say treasure hunting at the free store.