The Mall (A Short Story, from just before Halloween)
February 23, 2010
We went in through the bookstore, which is maybe why it didn’t hit me at first. I’ve been in quite a few bookstores lately, so, even though they bother me sometimes, I’m relatively used to it. Before long, though, we were heading out of the bookstore and into the heart of the shopping mall.
I was just following, day-dreaming, at first. The next stop was a jewelry store, or an accessory store, targeted at women. I’m biased, I know, but jewelry–at least store-bought–seems pointless to me. Homemade trinkets have history–creativity; but this stuff is hollow. I step outside for some air.
I’m trapped. Down the wide, marble hall is a cell-phone booth–the ever hastening chase for the latest mobile technology, at the expense of the African child-soldiers that fight over the materials we need to make them. Across from me is Baby Gap, so even your baby can wear trendy, overpriced, labor-exploited clothes. Buy him whole closets full; the other babies will think he’s cool.
Pictures of sexy women are everywhere. Store signs light up the hallways.
I’m freaking out. Materialism surrounds me. Image pressures smother me. I go back in.
The makeup section is an armory in the Beauty War. I like our real faces better. Racks and racks of earrings, bracelets, trinkets line the walls.
“Oh! I like this one.”
“This one would look good!”
I’m judging them. Oh, I wish I weren’t, but I am, and I’m so sorry. All I can think is “How much does it cost?” and “Do you really need it?”. They’re buying stuff for Halloween costumes. For one day. I’m a hypocrite for thinking it, but it’s there.
They can tell something’s wrong, and I hate that, because I can’t say it. It’s too mean. But the meanness is in the thought, and now I’m being mean for hiding it.
Dillards. Clothing hangs around me in every direction. I notice some that my friends wear, like their shed cicada shells, hanging from the racks. What are they like underneath? I’m one to talk–I hide behind my clothes too. I don’t even know what I look like underneath, except maybe a crazy person. I shouldn’t think like this, but I can’t stop thinking it. I have to stop thinking.
We learned a meditation technique in class the other day–I’ll try it.
I’m wringing my hand around my wrist, over and over, and I know that I’m doing it. Now I’m analyzing my behavior. It’s a sensory thing. I do something repetitive that sets off the nerves in my skin, and it distracts me. I’ve never been this bad before, but I’m still aware of it, which I kind of hate, because now I’m not sure if I’m doing it on purpose or not. I’ll try to stop.
Hot Topic–I used to go here. ‘Social trends suck! Rebel! Don’t let the world define your image! Use our image instead’–wait. Acting just to rebel to social pressure is still acting under the influence of social pressure, especially when there’s a social force telling you how to do it. I hate this, but I’m noticing that most of the people I see in each of these stores fit the image of the store itself.
It’s too much. This can’t be reality. This has to be some dream–a caricature of our social stupidity. Why do we buy this crap?
Our Halloween costume quest is taking us all over the mall. We’re searching for wigs, earrings, and I don’t even know what else. I’m completely lost from what’s going on.
In Claire’s there are big posters of kids in costumes. We don’t really have holidays anymore, just giant marketing schemes. Do we really think about what we’re supposed to be celebrating on Halloween? Or are we so caught up in the costumes and candy and spooks to take pause and reflect upon the relationship between life and death, or to consider the departed?
And do we really think about what we’re dressing up as? Would people smile at me if I went trick-or-treating as a rapist? No. But we like pirates, and pirates rape people.
I’m so negative when I’m like this. I could spoil anything. Halloween is about fun, it brings people together. It let’s us be silly and dress up like things. I can’t stop thinking it, though, and in this mall I’m surrounded by it.
I give up on meditating, officially now, though I haven’t remembered to do it in quite a while. I roll my knuckles over and over until the muscles are tight and hold their position even after I relax my hand.
We pass another jewelry store, and I notice one of the workers, standing at the counter. She probably stands there eight hours a day. Is it her passion? Maybe, but probably not. Perhaps a moral drive? No, I know I’m biased, but I could hardly see how it would be. The money. Yes. We all must have money to live, and we must work to earn money, and, more than likely, the work that we do won’t be enjoyable. It won’t have a point, other than fueling some petty corporation. But, that’s life. Take it in stride. Try and forget that we’re selling nearly a fourth of our time away (Assuming we only have to work full-time, and not more than that).
But what can we do about it? There it is, my crucial question. What good is pointing out a flaw and offering no solution? That’s my problem. I can’t think of a solution. I can’t even talk to my friends about it without being a jerk! I’m trapped. We’re trapped. The whole world is trapped in it’s stupid self. I want out so bad. I’m losing my mind.
My friends have found everything they came for. We head back through the bookstore and out into the rain. I’m glad it’s raining, I needed to feel Nature. I’m cold, and the puddles in the parking lot soak right through my canvas shoes. I’m glad for it, though. Anything to take my mind off things.
In the car, I am overcome with exhaustion, and I sleep on the way back.
Tonight is a Halloween party. I’ve spoiled Halloween for myself, though, so I’m not feeling up to it anymore. But in my room I am alone with my troubles. I don’t have anywhere to go; I hate to be alone while I am unhappy, but I see in all my friends the very woes that cause my unhappiness.