Yasmin and I took the kids to the Shopping Mall on Saturday after our workout. We promised Adam to buy him the latest Blox constructible. It was still morning; the food court scuffled with cuckoos and stirred with the stale stench of the dying; but my gut moaned and the family agreed; lunch must come early.
We sat at a small circular table with the double stroller parked in place of the fourth seat, with Yasmin, Adam, and I in the other three, laughing, and playing our way through lunch. Even little Mikey had awakened to nibble the husk of his corn dog and join in some of the festivities. Sissy, on the other hand, would have none of our tomfoolery and slept through yet another meal.
All consumed, not only were the wife and I dressed in gym rags and sweating pyramids down our backs; we were splotched in bright mustard and ketchup stains; whole globs of fried beans rested on my left shoulder, a bit of blueberry pie smiled across my chest. She missed the worst of it, but still wore a dainty crown of noodles, à la me, paired with designer bean-cuffs.
“All right you little monkeys,” said Yasmin with a sigh, standing and brushing dry beans and chip flakes from her lap, “let’s get you cleaned up.” I grinned involuntarily as I watched Yasmin gather up the kids, including the sleeping Sissy, and cart them off to the restrooms. My heart filled with pride and I relaxed into my chair. I watched until Yasmin’s back was about to turn behind the tiled corridor of Guest Services, when in swung a huge black figure, blocking my wife and the rest of the food court from view.
This person stood so close, I had to slide my chair back several feet just to give my knees a chance enough to stand up, but can you believe this man, this beast? When I did slide my chair back almost three feet; the brute stepped the three feet with me! So I slid the chair back again. And he follow me again! I slid again, he followed again! I slid agai—but my chair had reached a cemented pillar and would slide no further.
The figure’s heated stench gripped me in on all sides; I couldn’t move.
Slowly, I looked up to see my attacker’s face, to know what death looked like; but was surprised to find the portrait of serenity and kindliness there instead. He was a broad, thick-necked gentleman, with a full-deck underbite, dark-red skin and a long pear-shaped nose. His hair was short and well trimmed; laid smooth against his tiny skull and shone pleasant, white stripes against the fluorescent food court lighting.
When I saw the man’s face I was able to speak and I said in a shaking voice, “You’re in my way.” It was ruder than I meant, but not ruder than I thought my wife would have liked, so I didn’t retract it.
The hulking man just smiled on; invading my knees and my nose and not saying a word for several minutes. Then, he suddenly pushed out his rear, stooped to push his swollen nose to my nose, looked me eye to eye with his foggy, jade-colored eyes, tickled my chin with his fore-finger or thumb, and said, “You know my secret.” Then, quick as he had stooped, he snapped up straight, then returned to the small circular table where we had met, pulled up a chair, and sat looking in my direction; lips pursed and wrinkles at the corners of each eye.
I’d like to mention here, that it was now that I noticed that every time I looked around for help; looked around at the faces of the couples, the elderly or young, or any of the new shoppers that filed in by the dozen now; they all acted completely oblivious—not just to my existence, but seemingly to the existence of the entire dimension that held not only me and this insane gorilla man, but also this small area that we somehow dislocated from the rest of the food court. But that is neither here nor there.
I looked in vain towards the empty restroom corridor for my wife, then crossed the court to the table, and took my place across from the strange man. “You know my secret,” repeated the man, grinning to one side with his great coconut mandible. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about, and I surely didn’t know his secret. I glanced toward the restrooms. The man laughed. The sound warmed my skin from the toes up. He reached out a greasy hand and covered mine on the table. I could not remove it. “Love,” he whispered.
“Love?” I asked in a whisper. Why was I whispering? I withdrew my hand. “Love? That’s it? I actually thought you might have something to say.”
“Love is something to say,” said the man, rubbing his hands and raising his shoulders.
“Yeah,” I said, “when you’re tired of taking her on dates!” I laughed and took a drink of my liqueur.
The man watched me through a furrowed brow. “What is that you’re drinking?”
“Musakkar,” I said.
“Is it good?” asked the man.
I checked the man’s eyes and lips to see if he was playing at something. “It’s good,” I said. “Haven’t you ever had liqueur before?”
“No,” said the man.
The man and I talked while I finished the last few drinks of my liqueur. I learned his name was Noor. He was an out of work immigrant living with his mother in Sijin. I asked about his oddities, but he was quick to avoid them. I found him checking over his shoulder more often than I. The next minute I found out why. The most incorrigible woman I’ve ever met in my life approached our table and touched us both on the shoulder.
“Excuse me sirs,” said the incorrigible woman. “Are you two ready to go then? Twelve o’clock okay then? Time to round up okay then? Oh my goodness, you haven’t been drinking then, have you? Sir? Oh my goodness, Noor, have you been drinking then, Sir? Where are you supposed to be, Sir? Sir, who are you sir, you are a mess you really must come with me,” at which point she produced a small black brick that she began requesting backup from, “where did you get the liqueur sir? Which establishment served you this liqueur—”
I waved my hand in front of her face, but using only two fingers, she took my hand, removed it from her face—without giving it so much as a look—and continued her line of questioning. “Just a second now!” I said.
“Sir!” Said the incorrigible woman. “We are going to have to find a place for you immediately.” I told her I would find a place for her, but she would not hear me. Besides, she then realized Noor was no longer next to her. “Noor?” she called. Apparently Noor had not appreciated the incorrigible woman’s interruption to our secret meeting on love and disappeared into the thickening crowd of the food court. “Noor!” She called again. “You stay here sir,” she said, pointing to me. I held my hands up and nodded, and the woman was off to find the strange beast, Noor.
When the she was gone, I laughed to my self at the thought of such a ridiculous conversation, and the idiocy of that mall woman mistaking me for a loose cuckoo, just because of—well… The gym clothes didn’t help. The food stains, the sweat, the hair, the grease; where the heck were Yasmin and the kids?
I suddenly felt chilled with sweat, like I had a fever, and I looked to the people sitting at the tables nearby—in the other dimension—who were so blind to my food court just minutes before. But now I see a young couple staring directly at me from the next table over. They look away and start chatting when I see them. And the table beyond them; the grandpa holding his two grandkids, looking over his glasses at me; he meets my look and his eyes are full of bold indifference… And the table beyond him; the best generation of high school boys, too scared to stare directly, but still too cool not to smirk a little and nod my way; and beyond and beyond—and oh! I felt such isolation then. Such penetration from just those few seconds passing. I gripped my ears and my stomach ached and I tasted acid in my mouth and I—
“You ready dad?!” This was Adam’s voice beside me. I looked up to see my family smiling to see me. “Blox store dad! Come’on! You ready?”
I look back to the food court; not a face, not an eye, everyone is minding their food and their families, and their friends, and their phones.
I twist in my seat in time to see a group of drunken adults stumbling out the glass doors. At the back, the black shirt and slick hair of Noor. He turns and his underbite is full and real against the sunlight. I took a deep breath, tickled my boy and stretched my back. “Yup,” I said. “Let’s go buddy. I’m ready.”
Hello you! I hope you enjoyed this quick scene sketch. I put this together for you this morning, I apologize in advance for any errors, I write and post these in the same morning, but I try to do my best with advanced editing software, my own eye, and family! Thank you all for reading; I am working hard on bringing you full length professional grade projects for next year!