I’m too old to be hanging around the mall so often. But it’s conveniently located on my way home from work, and everything I need is easily found in this one place.
By everything, I mean the girls. So many of them, herded into one building like sleek cattle. It can be quite dizzying to try and take them all in. I live in a city full of beautiful women and the sight of so much of it can overstimulate the senses, crowding out everything else, pushing the rest of the world to the peripheries. Sometimes I just stand in the centre of the mall in quiet awe, dazzled and sated but overeager.
I come to this mall in particular- there is a girl here, one that I always look in on when I make my rounds. She works in a jewellery store, the kind where you buy charms for a chain or bracelet. By her blonde hair and the angles of her face I judge her to be eastern European. She is a girl who wears her feelings on her face- her moods, her inner life, her circumstances, all dictate the way her face looks. Today she is looking haggard, her hair dyed a strangely unflattering colour. I always try to work out these moods of hers. A fight with her boyfriend? No, more likely to be a break-up. Women change their hair when they go through break-ups.
She can be truly stunning, which was why I took notice of her in the first place. I must have caught her on a good day, because when I saw her the first time, that face of hers stopped me dead. She radiated. It was Real Beauty, the kind you can’t buy from a surgeon, the kind that is bone-deep. The thing about girls-and beautiful ones in particular- is that you can’t truly understand their beauty until you see it up close. These are the days of filters and makeup tutorials and winged liner and girls wearing lashes like spider’s legs and it’s all so distracting. You need to get real close, to make sure, you need to know that you aren’t being sold a false bill of goods. You walk by the girl that first time, and the first pass tells you that she might be the real thing. You need a pretext to circle back around, come close enough to make sure, it’s very important to be sure. I have been disappointed more times than I care to count.
Some girls get suspicious. They notice you watching. Their mothers and fathers and teachers and principles have been telling them forever to be wary, that strangers are not friends, that a girl cannot trust what she does not know, and perhaps not even what she does know. There is some leeway here for me, you’d never think it to look at me, aren’t we all in some kind of unspoken sisterhood, all of us girls?
I look at their legs too. I like to imagine how hard they could kick.
There are girls that are easily watched, at least for me. Their attention is only for men, and to them I am completely invisible. My girl in the jewellery shop is one of these girls. She is distracted easily by shiny things, like a crow. Would she be as easy to woo into a cage?
It takes longer than you think to find beauty, even in a city of beautiful women, even in a sea of girls with the infallibility of youth on their side. And when you find it, you aren’t so much an observer of it, but its slavish devotee. An invisible chain ties you to the object of your desire, and that chain pulls you forward to some place where you are locked together for better or worse. The only difference between her and I is that I know it, and she doesn’t. She is my white rabbit.
Tag, you’re it.