Stuck in a suburban mall with two hours to kill. I look around the exterior of the place for somewhere green to walk, or perhaps some interesting side street. No. Only broad streets leading to freeway on-ramps, no pedestrians in sight. Concrete and wires in every direction.
I go inside and look with desperation at the directory, scanning through the categories of available stores for something that might offer respite. A small woman pushing with a broom handle a bucket on wheels comes up beside me, helpfully, and asks “Is there something I can help you find, sir?”
“Where is the book store?” I ask.
“Ohh.. I’m so sorry. There is no book store.”
“I see.” I’m a bit perplexed. Hopelessly, I ask (not even knowing what kind of answer I expect), “Well, what is the closest thing to a book store in this mall?”
She is silent for a moment, almost thoughtful, then laughs apologetically. “No… I’m sorry. There is nothing.”
There is nothing, indeed.
I buy a cup of black coffee from a chain where a “small” is 12 ounces. Outside I sit on a cement divider and look at the sky. Everywhere around me at ground level are cars, more concrete, more wires, reflective paint. People come and go, mostly teenagers, almost none of them looking anything like me or the people I am related to.
The sun has just set. There are streaks and sheets of pink and salmon clouds in the sky. Seagulls passing south and west to the sea move overhead. I sit back, cradling my paper cup of coffee with its plastic lid and watch the birds pass in disorganized clumps. They are beautiful in their way, and the bright colors fade from the sky, leaving lavender, indigo, grey and then black.
I feel I am never home these days, and yet, I am always home.