It was Dillard’s, I think, or maybe Macy’s, but that’s not important now. We only need to know we’re in the mall. It might help if we say the mall is somewhere in Rochester, though something else must come first. This is not the mall you’d expect to find, or maybe want to find, in a story like this. There’s no irony here, no commentary. We’re not in the mall to wink at the folks in it. No, we’re here to tell a love story, one that happens to have happened in a mall, and the love story is so true that you’ll see how it could happen in a mall, how in fact, the mall could make it more true, more tender, just because it happens in the mall, a mall as brightly lit and clean as any mall you’ve ever been in.

And it’s not Christmas time either, when even a cynical poet like me gets seduced by music, when he hopes to find a gift to show his beloved how beloved she is. Instead, our story will take place on a perfect summer day, a day when blue sky and sunlight become the colors of memory, when they’d be insulted by any comparison to the buzzing washed-out lights of a mall.

Naturally, we’ll need other people for the scene because they are always in the mall. Perhaps a youngish mother pushing one child in a stroller and kind of dragging another. One of them surely would be crying by now. You can choose which one. Add in a runny nose if you’d like. I’m thinking a Band-Aid, too. We’d surely find some old folks here, socializing. Give that one coffee in a paper cup. Rubber-soled walkers for another. Let them all wear light-weight windbreakers. Put a few teenage girls in lab coats at the makeup counter, where the climax occurs. They should be smiling, in a cacophony of perfumes and mirrors, lots of mirrors. Since it’s the early 1980’s, you’ll need a guy in a tank top with a mullet. He’d be frustrated with the wife as she rattles on to the perfume girls. If you want, let him eye the others slyly as he waits.

Over to the right, at the Clinique counter, let’s put a brunette. No, let’s make her a blond, a dirty blond, because that’s what she was, although I always told her it was closer to green than any color I could actually name. She’d be wearing her glasses at this point. We’ll want to make her a young woman, because this is going to be a first-love love story, because we all have first loves, loves we don’t forget, when love is something we want but don’t understand, except how bad it makes us want, how good it makes us feel, love that makes us come to the mall on a day like today, and makes us glad we came.

The Clinique matters too, because that’s what she wore. And to this day, I know it, and when I smell it. I think Anne. And you, reader, should have that moment of your own, where you find something from your past, from your first love, something you’ll always recognize, that you know, that makes you remember the beloved no matter how long ago it might have been, so that when you read Clinique in my story, you’ll know why I named it. And now, we won’t mourn the lost beloved, we’ll just live a moment with that bad burning desire, as if it’s all new again.

ED TATO lives, for the moment, in Coburg, Australia. His two poetry collections are available online. Some poems abide there, as well, or in various print journals. His was born at the time of the final flight of airship ZPG-2, which terminated the Navy’s lighter-than-air dirigible program and the conception of Felix The Cat and Friends hummed across the airwaves one last time, and pitcher Mutt Wilson died, leaving me mourning ever since.

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