The Cedarville Review 2024

26 CREATIVE NONFICTION a dying JCPenney and its mother mall, you can’t help but mourn for the impending moment when you’re going to have to leave. With clammy fi ngers, you trace the stitch that runs down the front of the folded top you’d plucked from one of the many sale racks here in the store. There’s no point staying here. You forgot how soon the place closed for the day. There’s no time to even check out, let alone try anything on. You kick yourself for it, always letting time slip through the cracks. You don’t want to admit the truth to anyone, especially not to yourself. You didn’t come here for the clothes. The clothes were an excuse for you to bask in the empty quiet. There’s something about it that draws you back every time. Could it be the nostalgia? The solitude? The eerie hush that gives you just enough thrill to trigger a dopamine hit? Malls are places that never seem to change. You were here before, as a tiny thing, when you were small enough to fi t into every plastic cubby of the play area in the north wing. Your mamma would buy you a cookie at the end of the day, if you were good. You close your eyes and listen to the white murmur of moving air. If you let yourself dream, you can still hear the distant shouts of children on that indoor playground, clasping hands with their siblings, giggling in that scripted way that they do. You shouldn’t be here anymore. Who are you? Twenty years old, spaced out in an old mall doing absolutely nothing? You have things to do, responsibilities, school, a relationship. The past has come and gone. You would never give up your independence to be a child again.