When we were younger, with red and black socks pulled over knees and packet dyed hair swept over an eye, we would be told off for loitering in the fridge department in Myers.
The store manager was close to getting a broom and steering us to the door. Instead, he would yell, the veins on his forehead convulsing like blue snakes. We eventually moved on, to Hungry Jacks or some other place with neon signs and apathetic take-away workers who didn’t care what you did in the store – Just don’t steal the chairs, alright?
When I moved interstate I found that shopping departments had a new way to deter the vermin with their overloaded school bags. Outside the local haunts a high pitched frequency was played that only people aged under thirty could only hear. High frequencies are used as a torture device, a ‘Sonic Weapon’ in Guantanamo Bay forcing the truth out of terrorists. Box Hill had a lower, but still unbearable sound squealing through a megaphone outside the supermarket.
Loaded with groceries for the week I would leave the shopping centre and would squeeze my eyes shut from the feeling, like a worm crawling inside my ear, squirming.
These days I can’t hear it.
I kind of miss the worm.
Stacey and I go shopping at Knox and the lady in the shoe shop smiles so hard she looks like she’s a contestant in an American beauty pageant. She bustles around the shop finding the right size of the diamanté-studded wedge heel for Stacey and calls us darlings.
How does that feel darling?
Busy day darling?
You have gorgeous feet darling.
I bite my lip to stop myself from snorting but one escapes and echoes around the shop like a pig in a pen. Stacey’s face squishes like she’s eaten a lemon. It’s still January, too early for her to break her New Year’s Resolution. She’s given up the ciggies again and taken up permanent bitch face. I’m looking forward to February.
After twisting her feet back and forth and admiring them in the mirror Stacey decides to buy the shoes.
In the food court Stacey choses a quinoa salad and a bottle of water, I get the same. The neon signs blink and smile at me, I force the grain down my throat. It’s overcooked and gluggy. But it’s a super food so it doesn’t matter, it’s still super.
Hey, remember when we used to hang out at Hungry Jacks? I ask.
With all those losers? Stacey groans.
It was fun.
We were diluted and gross. I had a fringe!
James and Scully weren’t all that bad. I hear James is an engineer now.
Do you remember when we played Frisbee with the trays and Scully hit in an old lady in the head? I laugh, remember how quickly Scully ran out the store. His bony legs, his prized Nike’s slapping the pavement as he bolted.
No, Stacey shook her head, I don’t remember irrelevant things.
We focus on our salad and the low humming noise of the shopping centre seems to smother us a blanket. Stacey talks about work, her house and her new carpet, her new organic diet and whether or not she should get Botox.
Just on the side of the eyes. I don’t want to go all Joan Rivers or anything.
They’re smile lines, I say, your eyes are smiling.
She raises her eyebrows, Oh fuck off.
Stacey drops me home, in her new Jeep. It’s totally out her way but she would go out of her way for me because that’s what people who know each other since 7th grade do for one another.
I thank her. I can feel the disc in my wrist moving as I wave.