My sister Renee and I have the habit of going to malls early so we could get the best parking lots. People, as we have noticed are a lot earlier these days, all fighting for the best slots they can ram their cars into. I never understood what their excitement was and they could will themselves to rise from comfortably warm and fuzzy beds to take a shower and get dressed to be first at the mall parking lot but what I can’t understand is why people want to go to malls in the first place, especially this one. It’s been fifteen years since its erection and aside from a few minor changes and shop additions, not to mention bookstore subtractions, nothing’s changed in it. Still the same paint job only made brighter, still the same smell of fast food proliferating in the food courts with oil growing rancid and its pungency proof. Even some of the salespeople are the same. Nothing’s changed, only me I guess. I guess I outgrew the excitement of going to malls and being in a huge, vast building, the same mall I’ve been going to since I was six years old and now twenty two, my sister and I still drove to it every Sunday. Nine am and there were already hoards waiting in eager anticipation for the mall to open, flooding it like a deluge once the automatic doors slide apart.
“Let’s not go out right away. Let’s stay in for a while. Place doesn’t open til ten and it’s only nine. We have an hour to kill in here.” I told her. Renee and I were opposites, she was the punctual, snappy kind while I was more laid back and relaxed.
“I see your face is growing uptight again. Chillax, Ren. We won’t have to struggle to find a spot anymore. We’re already here.”
“Yeah but just remind me of the time, okay.” Renee reminded me because she knew I would chat her on and on til the time escaped from her mind. I was told by our parents that I had a gift of gab, the ability to engage in endless conversations on a variety of topics not necessarily connected. Apart from that I also hold the power to chat incessantly, distracting and derailing people’s thoughts as I immerse them into the topic completely.
“Ye, I’ll remind you don’t worry.” I said reclining the chair all the way back to achieve a lying position while uptight, practical Renee sat upright. The parking lot was covered and dark, the pillars and ceilings built thickly preventing sunlight from permeating through. You can imagine that the limited spots here are up for grabs and fill quickly in the summer heat but since the rainy season was upon us and clouds cover the skies, people were willing to park at the vaster outdoor parking lots.
I stared into the darkness and drank up the silence in our Honda. Renee was my total opposite, that older sister of mine. If I was chatty she was quiet. She thrived and craved solitude and silence, the introverted one of the two. Renee was the kind of person whom you could sit quietly with for hours on end but she wouldn’t make it awkward. She wore silence comfortably like a sweater, unlike me who felt all sorts uneasy and fidgety when not talking. Especially when Renee had something to do, you couldn’t bother to get her to open her mouth.
“I realized something recently.” I told her, once again talking to fill the torturing silence. Renee was a gracious fellow, I’ll tell you. Despite her preference for serenity, if you started talking to her she wouldn’t shut you up or ignore you, rather she would engage in conversation with you and even give you a piece of her mind if you challenged her in a debate. This sister of mine had a formidable intelligence belying her calm façade so I wouldn’t exactly recommend abruptly starting an argument with her. Oh boy she could put you in your place without losing her cool like a wise monk.
“I realized that the first impressions do last. I don’t know how that came up I just thought of it.”
“Of course they do last. That’s why I tell you to watch your words and your actions most of all. Because if you smear your name once you’re marked for life.” That shut me up certainly. I couldn’t say she was wrong, though. I had my fair share of hellraising nonchalance as a kid, doing as I pleased without caring for what other people said or felt. It was good to stand out and not be a dwarf in the tall shadows of others but what I failed to see were my actions while existing in this phase-I failed to see what my brash new aggressive behaviour was doing to others and how others were feeling about it. Upon realization, it made me a pariah, an outcast, the complete opposite of what I was gunning for which was a popular social butterfly. From then on, anything I did was trash in their eyes.
“I know it. Because there’s this girl who’s a real whore, a real loudmouth I say, who ran for council president and it didn’t matter that she treated her enemies like shit and talked down on certain people, she had a large group of friends who loved her like crazy and she appealed to them like mad so despite all the stuff she said they still supported her and voted for her and now she’s the council president.” I don’t even know how this random thought popped up in my mind, maybe because I had been thinking about campus elections and the council president’s personality which deviated from previous leaders’ struck me as odd and defiant, something I both admired and was sceptical of.
“Well, the girl has a support system to begin with and that’s very important regardless of whether you’re running for a position or you’re just a regular joe getting by with life. Thing is, if you have a support system who see the good in you no matter what you do, you don’t have to try so hard to impress other people because you have a few friends in the back who love you unconditionally.” Renee said. It dawned on me that I had made the right decision to keep only a few friends by my side. When I had made the decision to acknowledge who my friends truly were and accept the fact that I would never be a social butterfly with friends from all corners, life started to float more steadily along the stream.
When I was younger I thought, like most impressionable kids poisoned by mass media high school clique stereotypes, that having a gang was cool and you were a loser for not having many friends which was my case and which largely constituted the bulk of my depression for the remaining teenage years until I reached my current age. Growing up I saw friendships fall apart and people grow sullen and inward until they grew comfortable with the idea and resigned themselves to a solitary, quiet, bullshit free life rid of all the drama that comes with having many friends. More and more people came of age and grew to realize this and I was one of them who actually applied it to my life. Soon, my friend count which started in high school at a bogus 25 was reduced in college to 2 which were my two best friends from elementary. Yes, I admit that I had made zero friends in college, something I’m not too ashamed to admit though it can raise some seriously unsettling eyebrows but I’m proud of how little drama I deal with now that I look at my college classmates on a colleague level instead of a deeply personal, friendly one. It’s good having that kind of disassociation from someone, at least when shit hits the fan, you’ll be buried underneath the grand soil of indifference because there won’t be anything at stake when you argue.
“That’s why I keep telling you,” wise sister Renee spoke, cruising me back on track when my thoughts were being derailed by other random thoughts. “You should watch your reputation. Don’t just go about doing what you want like that aggressive ratchet rebel phase you had in high school. Part of me thinks the reason everybody hated you is because you caused them to hate you. Nothing wrong with being yourself but part of me thinks you were partially insensitive and rubbing them the wrong way. It was also a fault on your part why nobody took you seriously and everything became a joke to them because it’s the way you conducted yourself. How you see yourself is not the way others see you, not all the time.”
The parking lot had darkened even more so with the coming of grey clouds signalling the arrival of rain. The parking lot mirrored my mind with dark clouds of deep thought putting me in a contemplative mood that would last for, say, the rest of the day at most. If it gets discussed further, the next three days.
“Hey, I think we can go out now. The place is about to open.” I peered below the windshield and saw that the automatic doors were already turned on and ready to admit customers, families, individuals, groups of kids, crowding around the entrance set to go inside the little universe of consumerism. I was too lost in realization at the moment to think about buying a new blouse I would never wear or a new pair of shoes that would break apart two days after purchase but as Renee opened her door and stepped out I got out as well and trailed behind her, following blindly as we entered the mall. I admired how Renee could set aside such profound conversations and revert to her normal, practical self while I basically brooded over them for hours on end and would talk about them ceaselessly if I could.
I wonder, since I was able to outgrow my clinginess and need for large social groups, when will I outgrow my talkativeness?