The alarm's going off as she steps out of Aerie,
just a gentle bing bing like an airplane bell, one time,
two times, maybe three, you are now free to move
about the cabin. There's a sweaty man in a pea jacket
standing one foot in the store one foot in the mall and he
keeps his thin cracking lips apart while he glances
at her legs. I look too. Look what I got, she says.
She fixes her socks because they slip down in
the scuffed chalky boots she stole from her brother's ex.
I look for Segways when we start walking.
The shoppers cluster like ants. I don't see security.
Every couple has a huge red paper bag or a thick
plastic pink bag, a sloganed bag shoved over
a gripped wrist or two, smiling and stuffed.
I have gloved red fingertips. I have two striped
bags with pinky-length string handles; a faceful
of vanilla body spray; the edge of someone's dirty
hail-wet scarf catching on my zipper. She has fingerfuls
of fake gold rings; a broken ring finger that catches
when she lifts her sweatshirt waist. She scrapes all the rings off
into one of the little striped bags. White lacy
thongs stick out of her pockets, wrinkled like tissues.
She stops at a bench, pulls them out
one by one, and molds them into my glove like a pile of snow.
So look what I got, she says again, and she drags
her sweatshirt over her head so her hair stands up stiff
then flops back down like burnt macaroni, dark brown and black
and orange where the edges were stripped by bleach.
There are half a dozen necklines stretched over her chest, mismatched,
different styles. She takes the shirts off carefully: red, white, gold,
black, and I let her fold them over my elbow. Five
dollars, I think, Eight dollars. It would have been a steal anyway.
When she gets down to an aqua camisole, three different bra
straps cutting into her shoulder, she stops and twists to rip a tag
out from under her armpit. I can smell her deodorant
and it mingles with the smell of Lindt chocolate carrying
from the next store over. The whole mall smells
like citrus and peppermint anyway, sugary and spiced. She takes
the shirts back one by one and settles back into them: black, gold,
white, red, then the grey sweatshirt. We move again, slow, wading,
and she lingers in front of Yankee Candle. She likes the display
and we make out because our mouths are cold and wordless.
I think she probably stole the lip gloss. I wipe my mouth
with a gloved thumb and the gloss sticks wet to the fibers.
A little boy points up at us and his mother grabs his hand,
crushing his little pink fingers. I roll my eyes back
and in her grey sweatshirt she has her eyes closed
and her eyelashes are shaking. Without her knit hat
her hair is wild. She inhales and slides her hand into a mitten, then opens
her eyes wide and points the hand at the display. She says she wants
one of the gingerbread candles; I wait for her by the entrance.