by Jen Brubacher
Once upon a time shopping malls were the center of culture in North America, and we worshipped and placed our trust in their halls, and installed works of art to display our appreciation and mark the time we spent there. In Woodgrove Mall there was a clock that was a fountain, with nozzles and spray and little tubs that filled up as the hour went on. Worshippers could throw pennies and try to hit the tubs. Not for charity--for fun. Every hour the clock would chime and the tubs would dump one by one, splash, splash, splash, splash, and the kids would love it and parents would tell them they had to wait another hour to see it again. But they could meet there in another hour because there was a lot to see and a lot to buy and many pennies to throw. Meet at the clock. Everyone knew that.
The motto of the place was, "More more more!" Which was the motto of North America generally in the eighties and nineties.
Around the time I went away to University and became an official adult the world around me changed. It wasn't me, I swear it. I was the same girl who had loved the splash of the clock and the "one more hour" walking from Body Shop to Purdy's and on to The Bay. I always owned at least three pairs of jeans and more t-shirts than would fit in my closet, and once a jean jacket, and once a leather jacket (second hand.) But at University I suddenly wore something other than denim, and stopping buying bras. This wasn't me, it was the world. It paled around me, it dried up. My focus went to Gary Oaks and endless stacks of white paper with blue Bic writing that said x to the second power and y to the third power and Percy Shelley drowned before his 30th birthday.
Now, the shopping malls are still out there, squatting at the center of acres of parking lot, if not the center of North American culture. Some of the malls still have their art installations, awkward and embarrassing as rusting statues outside brick office buildings. A show of wealth and appreciation. Something that was once a good idea, like More more more!, and has too many bolts in the ground to shift.
She drowned before my thirtieth birthday: the girl who loved the splash of the clock, the girl who did her math homework in blue Bic as if it was okay to be permanent even if I was wrong. It was the world that changed. It became enormous. Me, the girl who survived, moved thousands of miles from Woodgrove Mall and wears a bra and buys organic and sometimes doesn't recycle plastic containers, but always turns the tap off when she isn't using the water, because wasting water is wrong. Everyone knows that.
A little creative non-fiction that came after my morning pages. I suspect I'll produce a lot of creative non-fiction while I work through The Artist's Way. I promise not to post it all.
Photo: Water islands by @Doug88888 on flickr