Monday, May 31, 2010
Gary and I were standing outside the department store sitting at one end of the mall.
“Dude! You know that these make-up chicks are hot!” Gary affirmed as he slapped me on the shoulder.
“I really don’t know man. Besides, I think I’m allergic to all of that toxic shit. My eyes always start burning whenever I’m near that section,” I responded, looking for excuses not to give this a try.
“We gotta do it. Who else has tapped this market? Just think of all those lovely ladies, who have been lonely all these years, because only other ladies talk with them. No dudes in their right mind would ever trudge in there!” Gary shouted as he grabbed my hand to encourage me. “I’m telling you, this is cash!”
We locked our fists and I accepted this sinister logic as gospel before we turned toward the store’s entrance.
The department store was a generic one in a generic mall. It was built in the 70s, remodeled in the 80s and retouched in the 90s. The mall’s lighting was a combination of soft fluorescents and giant distant skylights. The image of actual daylight, along with the faux little stick trees in pots lining the walkways attempted to give the image that maybe this is as close we may come to nature sometime in the future. The smell of cinnamon rolls, caramel corn and an overwhelming feeling of sterility attacked my senses. Inside the store, the illusion of daylight was snuffed out by strategically directed spotlights and phony wood walkways that split into two directions, framing the make-up counters. Behind this mysterious unknown land were the dual escalators, women’s shoes and purses. Gary and I stood agape, taking in the densely packed silver and glass counters that formed a daunting maze for us to maneuver.
“Let’s do this,” I grunted through my clenched teeth. We each headed into the maze, uncertain of what we would find, or how we might deal with it. He went to the left side and me to the right. Our goal, apparently, was to spot hot women working in the section and find a way to communicate with them.
My mind raced as I navigated my way aimlessly around the pathways. I didn’t know if I should pretend to be shopping for a girlfriend, or, NO! Not a girlfriend. Need to be on the market. I don’t care what Gary says, women are not more attracted to taken men (or are they?). I didn’t know what to do. I decided I was shopping for a sister’s graduation. Now that that issue was settled, I simply needed the nerve. The smells of thousands of perfumes, lotions, soaps and war paints dominated the stifling atmosphere of the store. The odors had choked the air out of my lungs and I began to wonder how women could breathe in such an environment. Estee Lauder, Avon, Obsession…so many names…with posters hinting at nudity and yet, everything looked the same. The only signs of life I could make out were employees wearing white lab coats, along with a quiet indecipherable chatter floating amongst the waves of powerful smells. My eyes were beginning to itch and sting and water. My nostrils were flooded with congestion, so I began gasping for air through my mouth. I staggered close to a young woman who was having blush applied to her cheeks by one of the white coats. They spoke to each other simultaneously using some form of advanced communication. My eyes glazed over, so my vision was like a camera lens completely covered with Vaseline. I started to think of what I had always heard about near-death experiences. Maybe this foggy light was what everyone was reaching for. I stumbled and swerved with my hands over my burning eyes, listening for voices to avoid. The conversations that I passed by continued unbroken, telling me that they were oblivious to my ragged presence. The tile floor beneath my feet felt slippery due to the constant misting of sample bottles of nasal nuances glazing the smooth surface. I removed the hands from my eyes and looked ahead through the haze to find an escape route. I spotted a hint of darkness beyond the gleaming and sparkling glares in the foreground. I lunged forward with no regard to any potential bystanders hoping to reach the other side of the make-up section. Sweat was running down my face and my back as my body temperature reached unbearable levels. I could hear the faint tickle of piano keys tempt my ears. I knew this was the piano on the other side. I was almost free! As I approached to exit of this strange hell, my eyes cleared for a moment. Beside the piano was a wooden bench and some potted plastic shrub and what looked like real dried out lichen wrapped around its base. I fell to my knees and stretched out to the bench, sitting at the base of the escalator, in a failed attempt at a dive. I cried out in agony due to the unforgiving surface on the floor crushing my knees. The piano continued its soothing tones. Already on the bench, breathing heavily, was Gary. His gasps split each word he said, as I dragged myself up onto the seat next to him: “How…did…you…fair?” I couldn’t answer. Tears were striping my cheeks as they tried to cleanse my scorched eyes. “Now that we’ve scouted out what we’re up against, we can go in with a set plan of action,” Gary blurted with renewed intent.
My back slid down the slats of the bench and I exhaled and began coughing out the toxins. This was not happening again.