First of all, remember malls?
If you don’t, let me give you a quick tutorial, since this blog takes place in a mall. Not any specific mall, mind you, but a composite of many malls I’ve visited over many years that, in my mind, have all morphed and merged together into my memory of the place we all call “MALL”.
They were big in the ’80s, ’90s and, to a lesser extent also pretty ubiquitous in the early 2000s. An indoor complex (there are outdoor malls, I know, but that’s not how my memory chooses to see them) filled with stores like The Gap, Borders Books & Music (Oh, how the times change, Borders. I miss you so much. Barnes And Noble will never compare for book selection, and you can’t get lost on a website the way you could get lost in your expanse of awesome, but your music prices were crazy! Don’t charge me twenty bucks for a CD and call it a sale when I could get the same exact album for twelve bucks at Fred Meyer. While we’re on the subject, CDs, you were cool, unless you skipped on the one good song on an album, in which case you sucked and were pretty much useless, and made us wish for something called Itunes we didn’t even know was coming. I still buy you, CDs, but then I’m realizing how not hip I can be sometimes. Back to my list of stores.), Orange Julius, the food court, Sharper Image, Macy’s, Sears; my grandma, who loved movies, couldn’t go to the mall without a trip to Suncoast Video, and on and on I could go. Good times!
A trip with my mom and my siblings to the mall was a treat. If we cleaned our rooms, we might get to go to the mall today!” Mom said!” This was not an uncommon shout from my brother. That meant: everyone needs to pitch in and do their part. I see a new book in my future(!), maybe lunch at the in-mall Pizza Hut with the kids, while mom tries on running shoes or lets some guy squirt different perfume samples at her and calls it his job.
It also meant a long day for me, but I was always willing to suffer the consequences that too much walking brought upon my palsied body (that’s cerebral palsy, to be exact) if we got to get out of the house, away from my no-one-else-can-have-any-fun-today-or-ever-because-I-say-so-and-that’s-that step-dad. And I was even willing to let people I’d never met, and would never see again, toss me looks. You know the kind. They ran the gambit from confused to curious to repulsed. Or there was the quick head-swivel that happens when two people are together, walking the mall, or eating somewhere, and one of them gives that swivel, the one that says: I’m going to look over there, but I’m not gonna let him see that I’m looking because that would be… To this swivel, I can’t help but glare. It’s ingrained in me. Oh, crap, he saw me looking! Pretend we were talking about something else this whole time!
The fact is there’s nothing more embarrassing or personally hurtful to me in a quick second than getting the I-feel-sorry-for-him look. I’d much rather someone come up to me and ask, “Why do you walk like that?” or: “What does legally blind mean? What can you see?” than have them look and wonder to themselves. Trust me, I can tell by your tone (or the opening few lines in a comment) if yours is a serious inquiry or a chance to guffaw at my expense.
And trust me again when I say I love telling stories, so I don’t mind talking about my own with you. I have a feeling, after much personal research on this exact topic, that when we’re afraid of something or someone different from us, it’s often because we don’t know their life, their struggles, their triumphs. We can’t relate as yet. We can’t put a face, or a pen, to what someone else is going through and say, “That reminds me of…” We can’t relate.
In showing you how it used to feel for me to walk through a mall (sometimes it still feels that way, though the malls have gotten fewer and farther between; you just never know what the day will bring), I hope I’ve demonstrated to you, with a splash of humor thrown in, that we are more alike than different, that it is my pleasure to have you visit me here, and that, no matter who we are, we are all alike in two very important facets.
We are all human. We all know what it’s like to feel.
And to think I sat down to write this note to you guys, and I was gonna write a short story for you, and this whole thing just came tumbling out. (I really like the free-form nature of blogging.)
Come back and see me again soon!