I was standing in a store in the mall holding a shopping bag. It was a big city mall and miles from the staid atmosphere and displays of the Sears, JC Penney and Bon Ton that I am accustomed to. I was overwhelmed by the intensity of its absence of natural light, pulsating music and slick, faceless mannequins in clothes that looked nothing short of ridiculous to me. I walked quickly past the gaunt, slouching forms outfitted in slick purple and grey fabrics and stepped outside to wait for Sean, foolishly thinking there might be more air in the corridor.
A woman was pacing with a clipboard, stutter-stepping towards people with a hopeful look on her face, “Do you have a few minutes to sign my – -” she trailed off. No one listened, no one stopped. My face flushed as I turned, not wanting to be engaged by this woman, yet suffering for being one more person unwilling to listen to her – Another time, I promise I’ll stop and listen to someone else some other time I vowed silently.
I walked toward the other side of the thoroughfare, breathing a sigh of relief as my feet led me to a patch of mall beneath a burned out lighting strip, the shadows felt as crisp as river water on naked toes. I leaned against the wall and set my bag on the ground beside me. The feel of the concrete wall against my back was cool and hard, I imagined I was at the park, the bow of the boat the girls love climbing pressing against my back. I was almost there, the din of the throngs of people slipping away, when I was assaulted by overflow from the food court. A steamy rush of nachos, Chinese food and greasy pizza swept past me, and I bolted.
Clutching the bag I walked back toward the store, searching for Sean. I didn’t see him and the woman with the clipboard was eying me, so I cut right, behind a staircase and into a vacant storefront. It was dark and cool, no smells and less sounds. I watched passers-by shuffling to and fro, I examined the splashy window displays and I wondered how so many people could be in one place with so many attempts to communicate and yet it felt like the loneliest place on earth. No one looked at each other, save the teenagers mocking each other and the girls desperately seeking attention in their skimpy outfits.
I felt like an outsider and wondered when it had changed. When did the mall become too much for me? When did I start having to turn down the tv to think? Shutting the radio off to drive? I hadn’t realized that at some point I effectively slid off the grid and became rooted in a world that has no contact with the pulse of this super polished commercialism. I was stunned and felt like a flashing beacon of deception. She doesn’t belong here.
And then it happened. The corridor went absolutely silent, the pulse of the music stopped short of where I stood and the harsh lighting faded to nothing before it reached me. Standing there, one hand holding my bag and one hand on my stomach, you came to me. I felt you on my hand, knew you in my soul.
There in the clatter of an Albany mall you came to me. My first awakening of you as somebody. I would have sworn that light poured out of me, that we sent out waves to rival any sound system, but it wasn’t so. Ours was an intimate meeting, shared just between the two of us. Shivers ran up and down my spine as your declaration of being rang through my body. I will never forget how you took hold of me and I cannot wait to get to know you.
Welcome home to mama, sweet one.