It’s an uneasiness that shares dread’s border with which I break your threshold, but an invitation has left me no choice. Not yours, of course, as darkening your doorways requires no such thing.
Regardless of procuring cause, whenever my path crosses any of your many, it’s a lamentable occasion, indeed, or so I’m reminded the moment I feel your cool breath and begin to negotiate your well trodden, marble walkways.
You’re like a spider, what with your many legs, each capped by its appropriated anchor. I’m uncertain of which, exactly, I find myself traversing, the simple path turned confusing by the eerie sameness of the vertigo-inducing glass facades that line either side of this undesirable and heavily trafficked highway.
In your median, a man standing next to a leather-upholstered contraption complete with doughnut-shaped crown fights amongst the other center-dwellers for attention by engaging the passersby like a bad circus barker to little if any effect.
He sees me considering him and I wonder if he feels judged till I realize he’s mistaken my curiosity for interest, an inescapable conclusion his recalibrated concentration has forced upon me, his oft-repeated question no longer posed to the masses, but instead directly to me, far more aggressively than before, all dressed up in the cloak of demand and delivered with a sternness which belies the defeated eyes that would look more at home underneath a red-light-district doorway than inside this man’s patron-less kiosk.
Though, then again, perhaps they’re one in the same.
I divert my gaze and quicken my pace, as if footsteps, alone, can break the speed of sound that continues to beckon to the point, perhaps, of derision, and as I do, I fully appreciate the sheer volume of your inhabitants for the first time that day. I’m also taken by the mediocrity and wonder whether this collection of society skews that way or if, perhaps, it’s your essence which casts such a pall.
I pass the lowermost perimeter of your gluttonous circle where many will deliberate between dozens of options, each sharing walls and a common aim of getting its fair share. An obese man emerges and picks his grimy tee shirt from one of the many folds in his swollen belly, an act I witness as the scooter which barely accommodates him turns onto my path, then passes me at a speed just beyond that of my natural gait, which leads me to believe each is probably doing just that. Getting its share, that is. Likely more. Which is why the names that adorn the fixed carousel of consumption remain, in large part, unchanged, month after month, year after year.
I approach the germ-ridden rectangle that stands before the terminus of this particular leg, a rectangle which houses a collection of brightly colored and smudged plastic as well as the fussy toddlers who fight for priority in partaking in one of the many activities thereupon, activities which won’t hold their interest for as long as the weary adults who rest upon the padded benches that line the inside of its perimeter would like. Or perhaps longer. It’s hard to tell, you know, and their glum faces give no clues.
Are they as unhappy as they look? And what about me? Do I look unhappy, too?
I enter the anchor and it feels like all your others. Because it is like all your others, I decide, from the initial and invasive wave of manufactured fragrances to the hapless denizens therein who pretend they’re not sleepwalking through their days, but who really are, I’m quite certain, despite the appearance their cheery dispositions and helpful demeanors is intended to lend. The generalists who represent all the many entities which both compete against and reside alongside one another inside such anchors.
The people who forget I ever existed the moment I turn to leave.
Having accomplished my mission, I retrace my steps, albeit on the other side of your marble-paved concourse and though there’s no mandate to do such, most everyone follows that same protocol, which is what makes those who go against the grain stand out all the more.
The majority of these contrarians are much younger than the overall demographic, walking and talking with a brazen cocksureness that concurrently dares and begs any and all to take notice, a cockiness which life, itself, will one day beat out of them, though their loud, jargon-littered speech serves effective notice that they believe no such thing could ever possibly happen. Not to them, at least.
Their empty hands suggest they’ve come into your bowels with no agenda, aside, I suppose, from whatever might accompany the act of fraternizing with the likeminded which is precisely what they’ll do until someone comes to retrieve them at a pre-appointed time.
Which, on at least one level, makes you akin to the germ-ridden rectangle, albeit on a graduated basis.
I ponder not that concept, but the original one which brought you to life. The marriage of common sense, common container and convenience, but nowadays, those with common sense know damn well that the Internet is the common container that provides the most convenience, yet you and the masses you attract are both alive and well, and always will be, I suspect, and though I’m not sure exactly why, I’m convinced the reason lies within some obscure crevasse of human nature.
Only I’m not sure what I mean by that.
Two older women pass me just a few feet from the exit which I’m excited to reach. They’re pumping their arms as they turn left just short of the door, before continuing down the opposite side, passing me again only this time while facing me. I’m certain their white tennis shoes emit a squeak the den of your inhabitants will not permit me to hear, a thought I take outside with me, where I’m immediately reminded of how hot it is.
I have quite a walk before I’ll be able to access any air that might cool me, but I really don’t care—I’d walk five times that length if that’s what it took to escape your clutches.
Besides, it’s comforting to know that with each successive step I distance myself further and further from the half hour we just spent together.
Good bye, West Town Mall.
My goodness, what a miserable fucking place you are.