The mall had slowly rotted away from the inside, it was not a physical rot mind you but an economic one. The stories had trickled out of it bit by bit, when the small chain stores disappeared that was one thing, when certain stories went away it could be seen as a sign of changing trends and fashions.
But when the McDonalds has to close down? That means it's all over but the liquidation sales. I was at one of those liquidation sales, it was for a big box electronics store that had been placed there in hopes of reviving customer traffic. The plan had failed and now this store was the last one left. Everything else was empty storefronts and boarded up windows.
Now this store it had a main door in the front and a second doorway that led to the interior of the mall itself. The liquidators kept that inner door open so they could bring in more merchandise and equipment from the loading area. It was easy enough for me to slip past those doors and wander into The mall's darkened interior.
Where there had once been music and voices there was not nothing but the click of my footsteps, I could see the empty spaces that had been a Woolworth's, a restaurant and a Spencer's gifts. As a teenager how many hours and dollars had I frittered away in this mall and the three or four others on the main bus route?
At 36 it made me feel old just thinking about it but I walked on. The mall's fountain had dried up long ago, the water turned off the pennies and nickels snatched away. There was dirt and dust everywhere as well as scraps of old paper and rat droppings dried and fresh. The newspapers said that as soon as they electronics store was emptied this mall would be knocked down and a much more eye pleasing shopping plaza would rise up from its wreckage. There were even hushed and reverent whispers that a Target store would soon be there.
Well they could do that if they wanted to, they could do whatever they wanted. I just needed to get one last thing before they tore the place to its foundations.
Despite the dark and the grime and the passage of almost two decades I found the spot easily. It was just an ordinary everyday bench, I remember it faced a women's clothing store. The bench was chipped and lopsided so I sat down on it comfortably. I stayed on the left side of the bench because I remembered she had sat to my right. Then I closed my eyes. It all came back to me in a heartbeat.
The sounds were first, the murmur of voices the empty din of the piped-in music. I saw myself sixteen years old and awkward with self-doubt, never feeling quite good enough always feeling like I had just missed out on the joke. Finally I saw her, I could tell you that she was as cute as a button but that would be a lie because there wasn't a button made in the 1980's that could have held a candle to her. I remember the white winter jacket she wore and that when I drew close I caught a whiff of the perfume it was soft, gentle and unique just like her. We were talking, joking around and when she landed that first kiss on me, that first real kiss ever, well nothing was ever the same again.
And then I open my eyes again and I'm sitting alone in the faux-deco tomb the mall has become. I'm older, more mature and maybe a little wiser. I have a wife, daughter and appalling number of pets waiting for me back home.
Still though I linger a moment longer, savoring the memory and when I get up to leave I bring it with me. No one will mind one less ghost in a place like this.
Admittedly I'd write these things even if there was no internet, even if I had to take random hostages and force them to read my stories before having them fill out a questionnaire and letting them go...
Oh wait... I just got into a whole weird area didn't I?
Let me try this again...
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