Two weeks ago, I went to the mall to get a gift for my boyfriend’s mother. While I was there, I decided to take a look around the building. I was curious. I had not been to the mall since March, back when the stay-at-home order was enacted where I live. And prior to these COVID-19 restrictions, I had visited the local mall fairly regularly. It was a go-to place for me and my friends. (In my defense, it had the nicest movie theater attached to it.)
I live in a teeny tiny town, okay? The mall is the only place to go.
So I took it upon myself to walk through the whole thing once, just to see how things have changed.
It was depressing.
I should have expected it to be a distressing sight. I should have known that changes would have occurred over the seven months I had been sheltering in my home.
But staying at home with my video games, books, puzzles, and pillows blinded me to everything that was going on outside my front door. And given the state of my town, state, country, continent, and world at large, can you blame me for hunkering down and taking enjoyment from stories and distractions?
Walking around that shell of a mall was a rude alarm clock of an awakening.
There were very few people wandering around, and they could be categorized into two types: those who rushed around trying to do their business as quickly as possible and those who lingered at stores trying to act as if nothing had changed.
A quarter of the stores were closed. Others were just gone. The Disney Store, with its Mickey Mouse-shaped entrance, had disappeared entirely. My pretzel place was closed. Ramshackle antibacterial gel stations were placed in front of stores like Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, and Bath & Body Works. Store employees manned these plastic tables, looking desperate to entice scared customers to step inside.
My favorite smoothie place in the whole world was open, but I didn’t buy my usual strawberry-banana smoothie. I was barreling though the place in dismay.
The haircut place was gone. As of this writing, I know of only one local place open where I could potentially get my hair cut.
The GameStop was also gone, windowed walls plastered over. That hurt a bit more than the haircut place.
But what hurt the most was walking into the food court. All the tables and chairs were piled in a mass by the inactive merry-go-round. Only two of the food stalls were open. And unfortunately, the one that sells my all-time favorite noodles was closed. I mean, I know that stir fry on an open stove is not a hot commodity right now. But that was my favorite thing to eat in the whole world. And there is a very real possibility, if that business doesn’t stay afloat, I will never eat them again.
I rushed out of the mall after that with a pit in my stomach.
Social distancing and wearing a mask need to happen. I know and understand that.
But I still feel sad at how much has changed.