From Jester To King CIII
By Simon Barget
The mall has everything, everything you’ll ever need. It has your house inside it, but it has every place you’ve lived in in fact, every memory as a boy, it has your old-man-neighbour’s back garden’s greenhouse, the scrap-heap by the shed, or the moss garden in your grandparent’s place; the mall has every snippet and flashback, every image that ever came into your mind.
In the mall you rub shoulders with people you know and people you don’t, where the people you don’t bear a striking similarity to those that you do, so that you can’t be absolutely certain that they are not really these people. And there are so many floors to the mall, but most of the time, you come in at the same place, from the same lifts, out onto the concourse on the first floor, and the first thing that strikes you is the black marble, black marble everywhere, on the floors and the walls, glinting, making the place look a bit futuristic.
And the thing about the mall is that everything comes at you at once and as if from nowhere; all the people you haven’t seen just popping up into view, all the places you can go to, the bars, the brasseries, the cafés, the cinematheques, the bowling allies, the indoor football pitches, the holiday destinations, all the places you have been to are in the mall, all conjuring up that magical atmosphere that you once experienced when you were in them, and sometimes the places are indistinguishable and curled in on themselves so that you have the feeling of being in all the places at once, the lights and the dazzle and the frissons and the sex and the tension and the deafening music and the disco lights of every night club you’ve been in occurring in one space, and the feeling is incomparable and overwhelming, and you feel ever so slightly stunned all the time as you walk through the mall, ever so slightly taken aback that all these things are there, and the good things keep coming and you wonder perhaps will it ever end, will you be able to live out your days in this perfection? Because everything that comes is an addition, an extra thing to have, like when you cradled your favourite toy as a child at all times, everything is like another toy, a surplus to your satisfied feeling, to your fulfilment, every next thing makes the balloon swell a bit more, and you cannot imagine feeling any happier, any more contented, you cannot imagine wanting to be any place different.
And the mall has sex. It has every person you lusted after, in all sorts of forms, and it has them with their tight perfect bodies, and just when you expect them to move past, to ignore you, they’re moving towards you, suggestive, not just offering themselves on a plate, but just at the moment when you thought they’d reject you, they come back to soothe you. And the girls -- or at least some of them – are Russian and plastic, platinum blondes, uncompromising, hair tied back tight, and when they reveal their bodies you can’t quite believe that this flesh is yours for the taking since you’re not fully convinced that they’ll give you something for nothing, you’re not convinced that you’ve earned it, but the mall makes it all easy.
And then you brush shoulders with people. And sometimes the people ignore you, sometimes they meet your gaze. But this is the thing. For all the things in the mall, all its places and treasures, all the animals and pets lining the walkways, an acknowledgment is worth a thousand of these things, and not that you’d know it, but just bumping into an old university acquaintance and being recognised and seen by them can lift your spirits more than any of the myriad amenities in the mall, and when people see you in the mall, they really see you, they show you a part of your soul, and it makes sense because you remember then how this person has held a tiny piece of you, perhaps just a fragment, and on seeing you again after all these years they’re there to return it, to say thank you for giving it, to thank you for just being you.
And this is why the other day in the mall I came up out of that lift into the marble and I felt so empty, and I couldn’t fathom why I felt so empty, so empty I was almost devastated, and even with all the new cats I could have picked up and taken care of, I hadn’t seen anyone for so long, and when I had seen people they had just walked past and ignored me. And initially I had thought this was just normal, that people ignore you. And the only thing I had to soothe me was my mother and I wanted to tell her that the mall was actually lacking, I wondered would she understand or whether she’d put the blame back on me, but I was so clear in my heart that you need this sincerity between people, you need this exchange, that when I went to my mother I felt the realisation alone was going to change something for me, that there was a way, a technique, to renew the exchanges with people you loved, the people that kept walking by.