Out there in the city. Out there in the taxonomized and categorized developments of the city, there exist huge buildings. Buildings that, among other characteristics, have few windows and infinite surfaces of epoxy-coated concrete, dotted with massive sigange advertising the merchandise sold inside.
Let's pause for a moment and observe how it all starts here, with the artwork of the backlit signage. The auctioning of feminine beauty, the distribution of womanly fashion. A model stares at you with open mockery. With her splayed legs and impertinent hips. She dares you to step inside. As she had obviously done before. Before when she was on our side, looking haggard and harassed in a humidity-inflicted sweat. She had done it. She had stepped inside before. And here is what happened to her after.
Aren't we all lucky that before always elapsed before the after?
And now we are inside, now we have threaded our way through the inert cooling infernos, also known as cars, and found the automatic sliding doors. Now we are inside. We are the insiders, the privileged. For here is the harem of modern urbanism. Here is the G-spot of metropolitan pleasures. Here is where the bodily transformation began and never ended. Here is where it all happens. Inside. You would never have known by merely looking at the photoshoped adverts. You would never have guessed.
The four-generational carnival begins with the screaming infant in his crib. Ensconced in his stroller and pushed around by the protective mommy. It's probably one of life's most baffling mysteries that kids cry at the malls. You want to step forward and implore the little angel: why, kid? what do you want more? an exact replica of the tropical forests where our ancestor had dwelt before some of them left Africa? a different, state-of-the-art, multi-billion worth climate control system? you want mommy to ditch the thong and go for a real fig leaf instead? cheer up, kid. Be grateful. You are one of the insiders.
Too bad you can't deposit the infants at the play area.
And then we come here, to the play area. Or to be precise, to the area designated as a play area for kids by the adults. Or to be more precise, to the area whose name is designed to make adults feel less infantile about what they do inside. "Hey honey, let's leave the kids at the play area so that we can go and ..hm.. do other things rather than playing." Will you tell the bozo to shut up? Adults undertakings at the mall aren't any more serious or mature than the kids'.
Kids play, adults play.
Men pay, women don't.
So we are left with the strollers, dodging our way through the crowds. The ladies, their prospect for auditioning at a local beauty contest improving the deeper they move inside. The gentlemen, trailing behind. The marble floor turned gleaming clean with the sweep of their dropped jaws. The Asian maids picking up the rear.
But we must not be quick in our judgement. Putting yourself in the shoes of a judge at the beauty contest, applying the talents of your scrutiny, you would start noticing the flaws. You would notice the residue of the life before. The love handles. The birth stretch marks. The wide hips. They all admit themselves to the fashion avenue and fill up the verbal forms to the suited salesperson with the spiked hair and effeminate smile. They then move through the motion, searching, consulting, trying, grimacing, smirking, buying. And they keep coming, as more sore points unearth themselves and demand the attention of a designer product.
And we are obligated, by the virtue of us being judges in the imaginary beauty contest, to check out the outcome. To see the outcome. To smell the outcome. To follow the outcome to the foodcourt. Watch the procession as she dismisses one sign-boarded menu after the other. The head poised upward, the throat looming at us in profile. We watch as she maneuvers the shopping bags and the trays and the hungry, squealing kids and the distressed maid. And orchestrate the eating process that follows. Fussing over details. And the kids, when they are on their best behavior, evoke an image of a violent prison riot. How could they not, when they have a mommy like this? The hungry overalled laborer gazes. The hungry executive ogles. Taking a mental inventory of such a scene is never an easy endeavor.
Commerce concluded for the day, we make our way back where we have come from. We depart the state of inside-ness. We will be back, though. We are the junkies. We have become ensnared in the daily farce of mall worship.
We will be back.