A long time ago, on a beach, sometime when I was young and has fewer thoughts in my head, I wanted badly to find a shell. It didn't matter that the odds were low, that the ground with every square inch covered by a footprint meant that anybody else looking for any semblance of a shell would have found them already. There are only so many shells and too many people. I stepped on something sharp. I looked down. Concealed under a thin layer of sand was a shell. I picked it up. It wasn't spectacular or anything, but it was a shell nonetheless.
I showed it to my parents. I tried finding another shell, but to no avail. So they took me to a gift shop. There they bought me a similar-sized shell. It was glazed, shiny, colourful. The inside was coated with a pearly substance. It looked very realistic. On the shelf behind a display case were a hundred or so shells exactly like it. I knew then it was synthetic.
I held both shells in each hand as we went home from the beach. On one, I had a majestic-looking idealization of a shell that had hundreds, probably thousands, like it. All probably produced by the same company. On another, I had a dull lackluster half-cracked piece of shit whose meaning in finding it was ruined by knowing that if I ever wanted a shell, I could just have one made.