He walked into the large shopping mall, looking behind him as he was about to let go of the door. There was someone behind him at that awkward distance. Should he pause and wait a few seconds to keep the door open? Surely he’s far enough that he can keep walking… He paused. The man behind him was on the mobile phone. He glanced at the open door and kept his slow pace.
Letting go of the door a second earlier than he should have, he moved on, trying to dismiss the ingrate behind him. He stopped for a second, looking upwards as he tried to picture where the store he wanted to visit was located. He’d not been in this mall in yonks. Moving on he looked around. Luggage store. Beauty products. Fashionable clothing. Mobile phones. He walked past weary parents, well-packaged teenage girls, overly-packaged older women, elderly people who looked lost, couples blocking everyone’s path as they talked about inane things that put visible stress on their relationships. Mall janitorial staff slipped through crowds as though they were ghosts unnoticed by shoppers, security guards walked with a veil of confidence, polished as the local community theatre’s Hamlet is, desperately trying to be noticed. Store staff walked passed, some proudly, some awkwardly.
Stores vied for his attention. Some with bright lights, others shocking colours. Some displayed plastic breasts prominently. Some played loud music. Some emitted strong scents of synthetic flowers and perfume. All held the promise of a good deal, of making him a better person, of enhancing his life, of increasing his sense belonging. They all reminded him of a 1980’s used car salesman with slicked back hair, Cheshire Car grin and awful plaid suit. Store staff poked about the stores sullenly. They are the disenchanted sausage makers. They know what goes into it. The veneer is gone, the magic but a cheap artifice. Affable smiles aimed at customers, interest driven by the promise of a commission, of meeting targets, of being at the top of the list on the white board in the back room.
He walked into his destination and located the stand that held shoelaces. There were no short brown shoelaces on the display rack. The black ones wouldn’t do. He shifted his weight from the balls of his feet to his heels as he tried to think which other store in the mall might have shoelaces. He let out a deep breath that he didn’t even notice. He walked around the mall a little more. He walked into a shoe store. He quickly learnt that they carry shoes, not shoelaces. He was tired.
He walked passed countless people who all expertly avoided eye contact. He stopped to grab a coffee and sat down at a table in the food court, staring at the cup. This whole place felt wrong. He got up and left, sipping on the coffee as he walked, exiting the mall. He didn’t look behind him as he walked through the door and exited into the parking lot.