I went to the mall on Saturday. This may seem like a small adventure to those who frequent these places of commerce, but for me, I might as well have sat at the top of a rocket and felt the breath compressed from my lungs as the thousands of tons of fuel fired up and propelled me out of the atmosphere and on towards the moon. What a rush, and not the fun kind.

Let me explain. I am an introvert. I do not do well in crowds. I have stepped into this mall’s Barnes and Noble on several occasions over the last several years. I have entered Sears, rushed in, found what I needed and rushed back out. But I have not, in a decade or more, come anywhere near actually walking through either of those stores and out into the bustling byway that makes up the heart of any mall.

I made my way first through JCPenney, looking for purses. They had nothing I wanted. I stepped into what seemed like a separate store for Sephora—no actual walls cutting it off from the surrounding Penney’s, but with corners and supporting columns defining the space. Loud music blared from unseen speakers. Clearly a place for young people, I thought. I’m not a young person. What am I doing here? They did, however, carry multiple brands of perfume. Just not my perfume, which has probably slipped into extinction, as all old things do. It likely went quietly, unlike myself. I plan on raging against the night, á la Dylan Thomas.

But not yet. I still stood there transfixed, knowing that there used to be a See’s Candies just across the way from Penney’s. I wanted mint truffles, and theirs are the best. I limped towards the door (my gout was acting up) and out into the Saturday-afternoon-busy court, and the people moving and sitting and walking and talking accosted this poor simple introvert like a tsunami. Mall shopping has not for a long time nor is it now my idea of fun.

But See’s awaited—still present if I could navigate the cross currents of this particular hub of activity. I paused in my pursuit of mint truffles at a cart of cell phone accessories. The woman there asked what kind of cell phone I owned, and before I could protest that I was “only looking,” she’d pulled every cover she had for my brand from the hanger and spread them out to show me. I smiled sweetly, overwhelmed by her generosity and embarrassed that she’d now have to re-place all those covers when I’d had no actual desire to make a purchase.

Finally I made it to See’s. It was half the size I’d remembered it to be. No doubt cutting down on the rent by making room for new lessees for the old mall. And the place was jammed. No mint truffles for me.

I turned to retrace my steps back to Penney’s, stepped through the door, past the Sephora “tent,” and on towards the men’s shop at the end of which stood my goal—the door to sunshine and air. My foot hurt, my back ached, and my soul desired nothing more than freedom from the mass of humanity that frequents all malls on a Saturday.

I doubt I’ll go back any time soon. I may never step into a mall for the remainder of my telescoping-down life. Target is about the limit of my patience with crowds. Won’t even try Wal-Mart. The parking’s impossible. Think I’ll just stick to my blogs and my books, making the occasional foray out into the world to visit with friends. Just not too much, please. We introverts need time alone to re-energize.

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