His view from the high-back chair—last year’s patio stock, wrapped loosely in gold garland—encompasses the mall’s primary corridor.
It’s as empty as it’s been all day, the only motion an occasional patron laser-focused on the errand offering no alternative. No one’s actually closing for another hour, but even at some of the anchors a few resigned managers are pulling steel bars across their brightly lit portals, eager to get on with it.
He’s staring at his white-gloved hands, remembering how it used to be. The line would snake around the entire perimeter, and he’d return home exhausted from sitting. Pictures were with him, not of him. Now he’s the center of a tableau attracting no one. Tufts of white something litter the floor too thinly, encircling him. The arbor from someone’s back yard (transplanted here for the week) guides the way to him, dripping with artificial pines held fast with the wrong color wire ties.
He doesn’t understand why the owners pooled the petty cash to fund this gaudy and half-hearted thing another year.
The most enthusiastic visitor had been a teenager who’d arrived with more complicated camera equipment than was already mounted on the kiosk’s tripod, someone who’d asked his permission to appear on some channel he didn’t recognize. The kid had filmed himself (three times, when the first one didn’t take and the logo on his hoodie was obscured in the second) asking for “all the likes.”
His eyes are closed now, a bit of respite from the flickering fluorescents, and he’s listening to this track from Nuスバル echo across the concrete floor for the hundredth time this year. What should be background muzak is his ever-present soundtrack.
The young woman slouched all day behind the battered Nikon in front of him pops her gum and stares down the atrium at nothing. Nails clacking across the surface of her phone, then running through hair she’s pulled from beneath her cap and across the side of her face, she tilts her head to the most most unnatural angle, snaps a portrait of herself.
Pairs well with: An binder full of washed out holiday Polaroids, yellowed masking tape warping their corners.