I’m here at the mall because if I weren’t here, I’d still be in bed. It was one of those deals I made with myself, like, “Just get out of bed, throw on clothes, make it out the door, or else today will be the same as yesterday, a waste. A day where you feel like a sloth, where you do nothing but update your Facebook status and comb through photographs, organizing a digital world no one even sees.” So get out into the world and observe it, even if it means sitting in a chair facing an escalator. Go.
I’m sitting in a mall imagining the opening scene of movies that haven’t yet been made. We open on an ostrich purse, orange, structured, Hermes perhaps, set alone on a black electric massage chair that faces an escalator. In the adjacent chair, an older gentleman waits. He’s sitting, yes, but really, despite the position of his body—asleep, driving, pacing, bathing—all his “ing” verbs are synonyms for “waiting.” He accepts this. At least he did, until today.
Classical music is piped in, teen girls carrying bags from Justice and Claire’s enter a cupcake shop. Like new lovers, two of them share a single set of ear buds. Three speed walking men in ski jackets, sport hats, white sneakers and jeans make what looks like their third loop. A woman with a patchwork cross body bag the size of a Santa ass, holds a packaged yogurt, banana, and steel mug of coffee. It looks as if she’s taken the bus to be here. She’s carrying too much from home to be a spontaneous shopper. The older gentleman sees her but acts as if he’s asleep. She wants to sit. Is she the type to ignore the bag, sit on it, pushing it aside? Or will she ask first, touch the man on the knee when he fails to respond to her question, “Excuse me, is this your purse?”
Should she move it? Is it his? Is he holding the seat for his wife? If he gives it up, will he give up his only hope for a nag-free day of peace? Will he never hear the end of it? Couldn’t he just do this one thing? Is that too much to ask? Or is the purse his granddaughter’s? Or is it not his at all? Is there a security camera, with a monitor looking to reward honest people who attempt to report the bag?
I don’t have the answers. It’s just what my brain does when I’m walking through a mall. All the conversations that could happen here, the little dramas, the promise in a gift, people trying to get a watch repaired, knowing they’re being ripped off because it is, after all, a mall—not just that, they’ll leave feeling as if they should splurge on that new one, the one with the blue face. This will somehow change everything, for a time anyway.
The people who park early, who open the store, who work the makeup counter and unload the newest shipments. It’s gift time. The demanding, penny-pinching, shoppers—the worst kind, who are never in a hurry and cost the associate four sales—are out today. It’s a Tuesday morning.
Then there are the people who dust in the leather coat store, the part of the mall where no one has been since 1984. The workers listen to club music and talk about love. There’s a wealth of material here. It’s a little world. Though I like the world better just after Thanksgiving, when the pressure and biblical music are on.
So, I went. I’m here now. I bought jacks. Not the orange snack, not the apple cereal, but the metal stars with two rubber balls. I went to the concession level and conceded. No, that’s not right. The Concourse level, which should be the “main” level but is instead the creepy lower level where they sell mattress covers and stamps, where dentists and clock stores live. I went in to buy another glue stick for the kids homework, but I saw the jacks there and I thought, “Play! You need to play, more play, you will regret it if you don’t buy them.” So I now have jacks and will remind myself how to play, then I’ll teach the kids. I miss hard wood floors, no tiles or cracks, just smoothed floorboards, like the cabin floors of a camp bunk. I miss having more people around, communal living. I need to make more of an effort with my friendships. I haven’t been trying. And it’s not for lack of people. I’ve met people here that I genuinely like. It just takes so much effort, to set a plan, then not to regret having made a plan when the day comes, and I want, more than anything, to have no plan. Or perhaps I should just keep hanging out in malls so I can meet people in sweatshirts whose facial hair always seems to be between stages.