Impressions of the food court in Orland Square Mall

Throughout the week, I write down moments out of the day about fascinating details of the environment and the people around me. I’ll be posting them here every Monday.

The tall, middle-aged man with the childlike haircut and pudgy face points in the direction of a Taco Bell as he watches his elderly mother shuffle her way up the ramp to the food court.

A young girl goes to the Starbucks counter just as the counter girl pulls from a shelf below her a grey woolen scarf. The young girl clutches her scarf and hugs the counter girl. The young girl’s friend looks on in amazement.

At the other end of the Starbucks kiosk, an audience of nineteen wait for their drinks with anxious attention. There is a lot of hair pulling, phone watching, blank staring, and feet teetering.

A sushi kiosk (say that out loud) gets more attention than I thought.

A young girl wears her red-and-pink scarf like a babushka as she rocks on her chair like an elderly woman. Who is trying to be? Does she know she is trying to be someone or is this impression completely subconscious? The black man next to her makes her laugh again, and so, yes, I’m guessing its subconscious. She is nervously flirting.

The food court mall smells like a food court mall. I can’t give you any more than that. It’s an experiential thing. I could rattle off the different department stores and restaurant kiosks with their own unique items of food and clothing and jewelry that would make this particular smell, but all that would do it confuse you. If I kidnapped you, bound and gagged you, plugged up your ears and cover your eyes, leaving only your sense of smell, and dropped you right where I am sitting now, your first thought as soon as you inhaled a breath would be, “Jesus, why am I in a mall?”. If you’ve never been to a mall, you’d think, “Jesus, what is that smell?”.

Girls looking too young to be having furious arguments are doing so on escalators and hallways leading to bathrooms, in full volume, at their phones on speaker.

Torn jeans are apparently never going out of style.

The every available walking space flows like unblocked arteries opened suddenly by an operation. And the escalators did flow.

The bubble of normalcy breaks as I smell a man much too young to be homeless sit across from me at the long table. He is talking to himself as he gobbles his sushi within moments of getting it. His stench is old and long-reaching. When he leaves, I feel the strain of his presence leave as well, and I realize the appeal that the suburbs have for most of those who live here—they are safe from the atrocities of the city. This mall, like so many others, is dug out far enough away from the trenches of westside or southside Chicago, so they’re afforded the many pauses that one would need to believe in comfort, safety, and predictability.

Dear god, who is worse off—the suburban ignorant or the urban numb?

Closing my eyes to take a breath, I feel their staring eyes suddenly prick at me, making me feel worried and self-defensive.

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