All I Had Ever Wanted

Submitted into Contest #122 in response to: Write about a character who’s stuck in a shopping mall.... view prompt


American Fiction Sad

I tried to scream. “Help me! Help me get out of here!” A young couple walked by, holding hands. They didn’t even see me. “No, wait! Come back!” I pleaded, but they didn’t stop.

I wanted to cry, but tears wouldn’t come. They never came.

I had no idea how long I had been there. The lights came on. The lights went off. Days came and days went. Seasons changed. I might have been there for years. I knew I was at the Mega Mall of the South in one of Atlanta’s suburbs.

I wanted to leave. It was all I had ever wanted.

I was in the Women’s Department at Gracey’s Department Store.  I looked fabulous in some of the latest fashions.  The clothing fit my body as if it had been tailored to me, which, in a way, it was. It had taken quite a while to choose the right outfit from the racks of expensive clothing that surrounded me. I had my choice of color and accessories and shoes. 

The store was busy. Christmas decorations hung from the ceiling. Customers were everywhere, but none of them even saw me. It hurt. I just needed a glance. I needed to make eye contact with someone, anyone. But I might as well have been invisible. 

“Please, somebody, help me. Notice me. Look at me,” I whined. 

The lights went off. The lights came on. Every day was like every other day, until it wasn’t.

A salesperson walked by, stopped, and actually looked at me! I was thrilled! But she was frowning. “I haven’t done anything. What did I do? Please tell me!”

She began removing my clothing. “I’ll be naked! There are people in the store. Please stop! I just want to leave.” I tried to struggle but I couldn’t break free and I didn’t know why. The salesperson was just a skinny little thing. “Don’t do this,” I sobbed. I was humiliated but she didn’t care. 

She took my hand and led me across the aisle to the Lingerie Department. I was grateful when she wrapped a silky kimono around me. She tied the belt a little too tightly for comfort and left me there. I stared longingly across the aisle at the Women’s Department.  I didn’t necessarily like that department better, but it was closer to the doors.

“Please help me,” I begged an older woman as she walked by. She glanced in my general direction, shook her head at all of the skimpy “unmentionables” behind me and ambled away.

I was cold. There was a draft coming up the open bottom of the kimono.

A woman walked by with two small boys. She stopped to look at some merchandise. The boys looked squarely at me. Maybe small help was better than no help at all…?

To my horror, the two small boys lifted up the kimono and looked under it. They snickered loudly. One of them pulled on my belt and the silky kimono came loose. They laughed. I was mortified. The woman turned around and saw what the boys were doing. She grabbed their arms and dragged them out the door. I shivered. She hadn’t closed my kimono.

The lights came on. The lights went off. The heat went off and the air conditioning came on for the long Georgia summer. 

I moved to the Men’s Department. I was closer to the mall entrance now and further from the doors to the parking lot, but at least I had clothes on. I was ready to step out onto the golf course. I even had golf shoes on my feet. If only I could get someone to help me leave. I had never been in the Men’s Department before. Maybe men would be more observant than women. Surely some gentleman would make eye contact with me and help me leave.

After a day, I groused “Men are less observant than women.” How was that even possible? I could barely get women to glance at me. Men came into the store, picked out a shirt or a pair of khakis, paid for it and left. I was standing right next to the register and yet I was completely invisible. What gives? Would no one help me?

The Georgia heat taxed the air conditioning to the max. I should be sweating, but I wasn’t. Sweat, like tears, wouldn’t come. I longed to feel the hot sun on my skin. I could only imagine how good that would feel.

The lights went off. The lights came on. The air conditioning wasn’t laboring as much now. I noticed that the merchandise in the store had shifted from the bright colors of summer to the oranges and browns of fall. 

I moved to the Women’s Department again. I seemed to have better luck getting attention there.

An elderly couple walked by slowly. The woman was leading the old man by the hand. She removed her hand from his and stopped to look at some merchandise.  I could tell that his eyesight was bad, but he was looking right at me. Could it be that today was the day I would get to leave the mall? It was all I had ever wanted. 

“Ethyl?” the old man called. 

“I’m right here, Henry.” She was distracted, still looking at the merchandise.

The old man took my hand. His hand was soft. My pulse quickened. Was this my chance? “Ethyl, I’m ready to go home now.”

“In a minute, Henry. I’m looking,” she said without looking at him.

The old man began to pull my hand. 

“Let’s go, Ethyl,” he said and pulled harder. 

“I’m not done looking,” she snapped. 

He pulled harder on my hand. I wanted to weep for joy. “Yes! I’m ready to go. I’m coming!”

“Ethyl, let’s go. You don’t need any of that stuff. I want to go home.”

The old woman marched over to the old man and snatched his hand out of mine. “Henry, you old fool. I don’t know why I bring you shopping with me. Let’s go.” She pulled him towards the doors.

“No! Wait! I need to go, too! Don’t leave me here! Please don’t leave me here! Come back!” I wanted to cry again, but once again, the tears wouldn’t come. I had been so close to getting out of there. Why would no one listen to me?

The lights came on. The lights went off. I remember the heat coming on again and the store associates put up the Christmas decorations. I was depressed. I didn’t even feel like trying to get anyone’s attention. My dream of leaving the mall had been shattered. No one paid any attention me. I didn’t understand. 

I stayed in the Women’s Department and I changed clothes, even though my heart wasn’t in it. Now I was wearing one of those tacky ugly Christmas sweaters. But it didn’t matter. No one would notice me anyway. I could be naked again and no one would notice me – been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

After Christmas, Gracey’s began renovating the store. Merchandise was moved around. I went from the front of the Women’s Department to the back, then over to the Lingerie Department. I went to the stockroom once, but I didn’t like it back there. It was cold and dark, and even though I was lost in my own funk, I was relieved when I finally went back to the Women’s Department.

I was staring at the floor but not seeing it. And then I realized that someone was standing directly in front of me. Two someones. I looked up to see a woman and a man standing there, looking directly at me. 

The woman nodded and pointed to the doors. I perked up. The man nodded and picked me up. “I’m perfectly capable of walking,” I said. He didn’t listen, but he was carrying me to the door. The end justifies the means, I guess, so I let him carry me. I wanted to cry for joy as we got closer to the door. The woman opened the door for us.

It was cold outside, but I barely noticed. I was finally free! I was finally out of the mall. It was wonderful! My heart wanted to sing. My feet wanted to dance.

“These old androgynous mannequins are so yesterday.  Nobody even looks at them nowadays. I’m glad they’re going away,” the woman said. The man just grunted. 

Wait. What? There must be some mistake...

The man heaved me up and into the waiting dumpster. I crashed down onto a dozen other souls just like me. 

“This can’t be happening!” I wailed. “I don’t understand. I did my job. I modeled your designer clothing. I did everything you asked me to. I don’t understand.” I began to sob.

“Face it, we’re old news,” one of the other mannequins growled. “You wanted to leave the mall. Heck, we all wanted to leave the mall. Now we’ve left the mall. We got what we wanted.”

But I wanted to go back into the mall.  It was all I had ever wanted…

December 04, 2021 02:54

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