Location: The Mount Pleasant Towne Centre Shopping Mall. Date: Saturday 16th September 2006 Time: Between 7.10 and 7.25pm – as the sun is setting.
I’m sat on a concrete window ledge, outside the Gap store. It’s one of the those ledges where as you turn to sit your bum on it, you think “Is it deep enough for it to be comfortable?” and for someone with a skinny arse like me, it is – just.
Leigh is in another shop. A girly shop. Doing girly things. So I’m taking the opportunity to sit and watch the world go by, people watching, all the under the watchful eye of the character in Gaps latest commercial, who towers above me in their fixed window display.
There’s an old guy in his fifties about 5 metres away from me sitting in his car, smoking a cigaratte and wearing a cap. He catches me looking at him and nods a ‘hello’, but doesn’t speak.
To my right, a girl – about 16? – walks down with a younger kid – her brother? – in tow. He’s carrying a camera. He holds the camera up and takes a picture of the cars in the lot. Or the lamp post perhaps? No … actually … I think it’s me.
“Excuse me … do you mind if we take your picture?” asks the girl. “Not at all!” I say. “What’s it for?”.
Her name is Chloe, it’s for school project she’s working on – a photo montage of some description. I try to get her to chat more and ask about her camera but she gets a bit shy, and doesn’t enagage in further conversation.
A woman pushing her child in a pram (stroller) comes from my left to right. The kid is cute. She catches me looking, and I smile. “Hello” she says. “Good evening” I offer back.
To my right – some noise. Three black girls, being loud – but nice loud, just being all girly and having some fun amongst themselves, being jocular and taking the piss – except for a boy – with them, but again – perhaps a younger brother who looks embarassed because they’re being so noisy. He too catches me looking, and he gives me a dispairing shrug and raised eyebrows as if to say “I don’t want to be hanging out with them, please save me”, and I chuckle slightly, give him a supportive grin, and they wander by.
There are quite a lot of school kids everywhere … it’s a Saturday night and like me they’ve probably been shopping all afternoon, have gotten something to eat, and are perhaps heading for the Palmetto Grand cinema (movie theatre). Saturday night at the movies – ace.
I quite like this period of the day – the twilight zone, the no mans land inbetween the hectic shopping of daytime, and the vivacious activity of the evening and nighttime.
The light is still fading – pleasantly, and it’s still warm. I check to the shop to the right for Leigh, and she’s still in there. I’m enjoying just being perched here.
Two skater dudes stroll past, boards under arms. One of them is smoking. The other is wearing a t-shirt that has seen better days, but it’s probably his favourite t-shirt in the whole world. He’s got various piercings in his face, he catches me staring. “Hey man” he says nodding. “Hey man”, I say, nodding back. Like you do. They walk past.
“So who are you waiting for?” says a voice. Who’s that? Oh – it’s the guy in the big black SUV parked just across from me, still wearing his cap, and this time he’s made eye contact and is talking to me.
“Girlfriend” I say, smiling – nodding towards the shop that Leigh is in. “You?”. “Wife” he says, nodding towards the same shop. Figures.
To my left, Chloe and her younger brother appear in my peripheral vision. They get closer. And are about to walk past me again. So this time, I stop them, ask about her camera – get her to show me a couple of pictures she’s taken already and ask what school she goes to. But she’s still shy, and that’s all I can get out of her. “Have a good night”, I say. She smiles. Her brother looks blanky at me, and they wander off again.
Leigh comes out of the shop, bag in hand – clutching her items.
And thus another fifteen minutes of my life in America is passed.