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Thursday, June 25, 2009

American Mall

Giocomma Masteriosso was fed up fiddling with the still controls of the Audi, he cursed the plastic switches and chrome levers and exited the dead car slamming the silver door behind him. “Tomorrow I will live in far less of a technologically reliant bubble and will not succumb to the compromises that so often make me angry and see little red spots”. He pointed to some spot between his eyes and began a nervous operatic whistle walking away from the vehicle. The day was one of those days that’s not really sure of itself. It may have been midweek and that could make it one of the main three, no more no less. Funny how you always know what day it is, unless you are in a coma or very drunk, whatever, somebody will always tell you if you ask but they may suspect you are a time traveller of some sort. Or a lazy calendar user who lives in and communicates with broken sentences.

For Gio leaving the car was a significant event, a bit like losing a limb, he would have to walk now. That meant that the car was more of an arm than a leg otherwise he’d have been hoping or crawling. He questioned the need for the journey one more time and then carried on. He had to buy a gift. The car lay 100 metres behind, not causing any real obstruction, he’d do some thing later with it once he’d prowled around the mall and located the gift like a real hunter gatherer. He estimated that he’d be there in about fifteen minutes and despite the auto irritation gnawing at the corners the walk was potentially a pleasant one.

Now there was some time available to consider the gift. He’d never bought a woman shoes before but he knew that Sara had seen a pair of golden sandals in one of the shops and he wanted to surprise her. The problem was he was unsure of the shop, the exact type of sandal and worse the exact size of Sara’s feet. He thought about her feet a lot, their shape, their feel, the nail polish, the rougher skin around her heels, her white toes, they’d be a five or six he was sure. He wished he’d looked into her shoes and read the size but it was more feet than shoes for him so he didn’t ever inspect her inner shoe. Now that was a regret and clearly many missed opportunities to glean the size. There are some things you should know about your fiancĂ© albeit the romance had been short. Obvious things.

His mind moved to foot touching in bed, soap bubbling between wet toes in the shower, games under restaurant tables, on the couch rubbing feet on the stool watching a TV soap. He thought how their size might compare to his bigger, stubby and chunky ex-Italian feet. A six would be best.

He didn’t know the day but the time was apparent from a digital clock hanging over the mall car park entrance, it blinked a yellow 10:24 at him and a 23 degree weather check. Today is a warm day and one that will get warmer thus underlining the need for nice cooling footwear that protects but glamorises the feet in an attractive and appropriate way. For Sara. To the left was a short cut up some concrete steps, through the car park jungle and urine stained walkways and corridors, sunlight playing on idiot graffiti and water salted cracks and marks. Up to the shopping level, briskly through heavy and impractical doors to the bright lights and thin music of the mall. He stopped and took it in and took his bearings and briefly remembered the broken Audi. “I thought they were supposed to be reliable?”

The shops glared back at Gio as the Audi angry briefly abated and he took stock of his situation. A travel agent, a heel and key bar, a ladies fashion handbag shop, a chemist, a cheap gadget and gizmo shop, a stall selling pastries and another selling watch batteries and useless plastic accessories for mobile phones. He would have to move further into the body of the beast to battle and to win.

The mall people were eyeless as if they to had lost track of the days and were hovering, staring at the bright objects but never deciding or buying. They moved in some syncopated shuffle whilst children and old people cut across their paths like herds mingling on the Serengeti unaware of the lions watching from the bush. Bags were dragged, tattoos, caps and midriffs sped buy, faces that seemed familiar but were of a type, some ugly gene that always belonged to other people. The one you never wished for in your family and if you caught sight of it, that glimpse it shook you to the core. People carried cups of coffee, water and soft drink bottles, whatever the day they did not wish to sit and savour the drink, they poured it over their thirst as they walked, as if putting out some transient fire with a handy extinguisher and then quietly starting another once at a safe distance. Food and drink should not be consumed whilst on the move. That image was an indicator of a society in straight decline, at odds with itself and with no appreciation for the finer things or no perception of even what they might be.

He moved through the people and remained detached and for the purpose of his own position in the tribe pretended that he owned a working car as they all surely did. The neon and oddly yellow shop fronts opened before him like the mouths of dental patents starved of regular consultation and flossing. Each trader becoming less interesting than the next, there were of course shoes, boots, sandals and accessories stacked in racks and pushing against the inside glass of the windows but none were right. Gio was confused and exasperated and more than half way around the mall. Then he saw a sign peeking out from a brace of fast food booths and artificial flower vendors. “Casey’s Shoes”.

Casey’s held a selection of summer pumps, beach and deck shoes and sandals up and down in the window, shoes hung there like cooked meats on hooks and ribbons, some on bright coloured boxes others sat in the fat belly of a stripped deck chair. An assistant was finishing her work on preparing the display, fussing with a few models and sweeping some cuttings that had fallen onto the floor. Over on a tall pedestal by the door were a selection of glitzy, golden sandals. Flat and shiny, gold sinews of straps and braids, some with beads and little jewels all clean and new and tagged up to sell. The assistant approached Gio carefully avoiding eye contact and admiring to herself the work she’d just completed in the window. “Can I help?” Gio shrugged and swallowed and gestured towards the display of sandals and picked up a gold shoe from the top of the stack. “In a size six?” the girl took the shoe away and disappeared into that mysterious space that exists behind all shoe shops, a great dark storehouse where no one other than those in the trade ever go. A portal into a world of boxes and lefts and rights and the ones that come in half sizes or strange widths, all shielded by a curtain that covers this dark and unexplored world.

After a few moments the girl returned with a navy blue box stuffed with white tissue, the lid upside down under the bottom and the sandals brightly shining side by side in their paper bed. “$45.99” she said offering them to Gio like a sacrifice and without having been asked the question, “but only in a six and a half”. Gio looked over them and ran a finger across the strap and single buckle of the left shoe and allowed the box to drop a little. The assistant was still looking away, this time watching a young man trying on pale tennis shoes on the other side of the store. “Fine” said Gio and ambled to the cash desk where he handed over a small bundle of notes as the till beeped. The blue box was slipped into a glossy carrier and handed over, the receipt stuffed carelessly inside along with a summer sale flyer.

Gio swung the bag casually and walked back into the two way and restless traffic of fat bottomed shoppers and retired and silver haired masses killing their remaining time before it kills them. He followed a pastel draped shuffling posse into a coffee shop and thoughtlessly ordered a latte and lemon muffin from the teenage Asian assistant. It came wrapped in corrugated cardboard that reminded him of South American shanty town roofs. The muffin was in an unnecessary brown paper bag smattered with green messages, there was also a wooden stirring stick and a bleached napkin. “Four Dollar ninety cos of special offer” said the young man. There was a empty though not particularly clean table available with some unforgiving wooden seats close to the door , he occupied the space and looked over at Casey’s Shoes.

Going home would be the next problem, the mechanical mass and sterile lump of Audi needed attention and recovery. He fiddled with his phone and considered the need to call and then wander back through the mall and car parks to the spot where it lay by the kerb. By now it would hot outside and the waiting and the walking seemed unattractive, somehow like the hardest piece of work of the day. The coffee was insipid, the taste and the caffeine effect quietly strangled by the milk and the tepid feel of the liquid. The muffin was blank apart from a central jammy lemon effect and he imagined it had all come from a far away place, some place not quite right or completely clean. He looked deep into the carrier back and saw the box standing on end on the floor, the shoes pointing toe down towards the basement car park and into the earth’s hot centre.

Next to the shoe shop was a large Disney Store that threatened to swallow the walkway with it‘s breadth, green and yellow fairies and pirates were visible, dancing behind the glare of plate glass. He thought of the strange sexual chemistry, jealousy and spark between Wendy, Peter Pan and Tinker Belle and wondered where it would have ultimately led them. Who could have stayed happy in such a trio where so may issues and complexities existed and what would growing up bring them to? Things were never easy for those trapped in a life driven by the needs and wants of flesh and blood. It was at that point he remembered the first time he’d seen Sara’s penis.

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