I’m walking into a posh mall in a thinks-it’s-posh part of town, and yes, there’s mall-zombies everywhere and I’m doubting my decision to come, but dammit I need some stockings. I weave and duck through the dawdling crowds and others do the same – making writhing trails through the slow-moving tsunami: sheep dogs herding, birds finding zip trails.
A young black woman, all trendy leather and bright nails, stops and turns to a trio of old-ish people – actually one is proper old, the mother-in-law I presume. I think she’s turned to apologise for the shoulder-bumping she just gave the oldest biddy, but she yells, with theatrical force, “if you’re going to be that slow get the FUCK out of the way!”
There’s no escalation, it’s full battle zone straight away, and I wonder how her day’s going.
It seems to be over, but then oldish biddy chases after, nabs her by the shoulder, faces off, squats slightly at the knees, tilts forward, and brings her accusatory finger up to mirror miss young thing’s combat pose. They go at it like they’re high school enemies, and Mrs White-middle-class’s face darkens to an unflattering puce. I’m sure Miss Thing is reddening too, but her lovely mahongany hue hides the ugly undertow.
I want to tell them to breathe as their temperatures and volumes skyrocket. They assault each other with words and waggled fingertips, one sharp and cheerfully orange, the other blunt and pale. Spittle flecks and they flinch at this incursion, which offends more than men’s fists. At home this would be unacceptable, call-the-police, get the straight-jackets ready behaviour. Here the tide flows around their unreasonable island, with only smirks or the complete ignorance of earphones.
It ends with a storming off and Miss Thing thinks she’s won, it seems. Mrs White-middle-class stands all shaking head and bewilderment and surrounded by pats on the back. She thinks she’s the victim, and she was unfairly assailed, I know, but I shake my head at her as well, at the explosion as her more practised facade fell away just as eaily and violently as that angry young woman.