written/non-written things by me (from 2005-2008)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Powers of Description

I saw this girl I knew at the mall. I caught up with her to ask her a few questions, Where have you been? We all thought you moved away, like WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? With a side-step, she dodged a man carrying a sausage pizza on a paper plate. Our eyes followed it and re-met. I wedged in. She said hey to me as if we had spent the whole afternoon together, but had decided to split for a minute so she could go to the pet shop and I could go to the ATM. As if, plainly, “Hey. You’re back.” Her heels slumped to the side of her sandals, making the suck sound that sandals do when being dragged along.
“I’ve been home,” she said, stopping in front of a pretzel making display. “I’m just not ‘home’ home because I take a lot of walks.” She asked for a sample. The pretzel girl held out a glistening cube of icing dough impaled on a toothpick. “Thanks, Becca,” she said to her. We turned away. “You know her?” I asked. “Yeah, I met her the last time I was here,” she said before halving the morsel with her front teeth, exposing her gums as a means of not getting the gooeyness on her lips. “When was that,” I asked.

We walked side-by-side for a while not really saying anything more than a “Do you wanna go in here?” followed by a “nah.” I looked at her when we stood in front of vendor carts and store windows and made innocuous comments about the posture of mannequins, or tranquil desktop fountains, or whether movie posters appealed to us or not. She was still clear-complected, I thought; skin like peaches-and-cream, though that description does not suit her expressions; which, if she had any, could just barely escape the ropey face-shield of ashy brown hair that came between us. “You know,” she said picking up a mall map from an informational kiosk, “I haven’t been to movie in whole month.” She opened the map, “Have you ever been to the theater here?” She never looked up when asking questions. “Lots,” I said. Her finger found it on the map. “It’s next to Sears,” she said. “What do you want to see?” I asked.
“I think that one we were looking at looks pretty good.”
“Which one, the Mr. Ed remake or ‘A Stone’s Pitch’?”

“A Stone’s Pitch,” she looked up at me. She still had brown pearls for eyes.
And then I thought of the fairy tell, “Lend me a looking-glass; If that her breath will mist or stain the stone, Why, then she lives.”


We sat down in the right-most wing of the empty theater. She had bought a small vanilla frozen yogurt and a small bag of buttery popcorn, which they had arranged conveniently for her in a cardboard trey that she now had on her lap. The theater was oddly without muzak and was bereft of any Wednesday afternoon movie-goers. It smelled like hot dog buns and musk, and it was very cold.
“I love this place,” I said, Hardly, anyone is ever here.” She sprinkled a few popcorns on her yogurt and then spooned it into her mouth. Malls as far as American institutions go are nearing there mid-life crisis, soon they will be as nostalgic and charming as town-squares. Former air-conditioned, concrete containers of entertainments and diverse consumer activities, but limiting no-less. Now, the entire city is a mall. Besides, there was a 20-theater mega-plex across the street. It guarantees stadium seating with reclinable plush chairs, ample knee-room and spacious cup-holders. Even during weekday matinees, sometimes, the lines were so long that they curled around the sides of the theater. And within a breaths moment of opening the doors all the people dispersed inside the cavernous gallery of concessions and reorganized themselves into smaller lines. I don’t think they sold yogurt there.
“So you like a popcorn-yogurt blend?” She was slow with her treat, crafting each spoonful with a proportional amount of crunchy to smooth, dry to wet, sweet to salty.
“When the two can be bought at the same place.” She said.
“You know I remember when we were little our parents made us front the tables at the neighborhood association’s bake sale.”
“Yeah I remember that.”
“Remember those cookie bars with little green and red jelly cubes in them.”
“Those were gross,” she said recovering from a swallow.
“Yeah,” I looked at her bare knees. “Some combos just shouldn’t exist.”

The lights went down. Then there was a rather hilarious commercial about how to exit the theater in case of an emergency, with an appended moral lesson in courtesy. It involved loud, disruptive teenagers and an elaborate scheme on behalf of everyone else in the theater to trick them into exiting through the exit doors, but then the entire audience-standing outside the theater mischievously crept back inside leaving the two alone and confused and unable to reenter. She smirked.

So there we were, watching a movie together. I saw her last hunched over in the passenger seat of my car, hugging herself. I hadn’t let her in. In fact, she didn’t even know it was my car. That was months ago.

My name is Hannah Pierce-Carlson