Writing and the Mall on Black Friday: A Metaphor

Posted by ches@writes4attention.com In: Writing 1 Comment

A metaphor for my novel writing experience thus far? Let’s see…

A man, we’ll call him Oscar for absolutely no reason at all, is on a journey. He travels a lonely, forest path, making tough decisions at each crossroads, trying to determine how to get to a destination he’s not even sure exists—

No, that’s not right. not unless he’s writing from a desert island, disjointed from modern life.

I know! He’s running a marathon. A marathon with a lot of other runners and he can see the finish line up ahead and—

No. Better, but to cliché.

Ah! He’s walking through a mall. Yes, that’s it. A crowded mall on Black Friday, crowds so thick, the people have people on them, and it’s full of distractions — overly aggressive kiosk dwellers shilling lotions and cell phones, homicidal stroller drivers, guys in funny hats shoving plates of toothpick speared chicken in his face. He’s in this mall and he just wants to walk away with something perfect. He’s not sure what, but has a vague idea that it needs to be lime green. He doesn’t know why, it just should.

He pushes forward, but stops to stare at remote controlled helicopters and cheap, penny-filled fountains and weirdly dressed teenagers who really should know better than to go out in public like that. Lime green hair extensions? He thinks. He resists the urge to purchase a pretzel dripping with butter and cinnamon and cheese and he chokes on the overpowering stench of cheap cologne pouring out of Abercrombie and Fitch. Lime green v-neck? He must stay focused. He can see Macy’s down at the end, just behind the Santa Claus that’s been posing there for pictures since Labor Day. Oscar must keep going, pressing on to his goal of purchasing a lime green … leisure suit.! Yes, that’s it! A leisure suit. It’s bold, it makes a statement, it’s something no one can ignore … but wait …

He’ll never get past the Santa line with its unruly children, ill-tempered parents, and six foot tall men dressed as elves who just want to go home, get drunk, and rethink their lives. Oscar cuts through the back hall, the one with the payphones and bathrooms and crude drawings of penises on the walls, because it leads around to the front of Macy’s. He gets robbed while he’s back there, has to go back to the mall security office and file a report and they talk down to him like it was his own fault for being there, but he finally gets back around to Macy’s ten minutes before closing. He feels good when he steps across the threshold of the store — he’s really accomplished something today.

He asks for a lime green leisure suit and a lady at the makeup counter who looks like a mannequin tells him that there might be something in the clearance section of the women’s department. He passes through jewelry, dazzled by the sparkle, and he passes through accessories and wonders what goes good with lime green leisure suits, and he passes through lingerie and tries not to look too hard at the wares, lest someone think him a pervert, until he finally finds the clearance aisle. The suit is there, gleaming in its greenness, and marked 80% off because there’s a stain on the left pant leg. No one will notice, he decides — he’s worked too damn hard to turn back now. He buys the suit and proudly declares that he will wear it home, even if it is a size too small and intended to be worn by a woman.

As he leaves the mall, everyone points and laughs, but he thinks to himself that there’s no accounting for taste. He wears it home and his mother tells him he can’t come in the house looking like that, but she’s half blind and doesn’t know what she’s talking about. He wears it to speed dating that night and each potential date tells him that he’s charming, kind of cute, but the suit just doesn’t cut it — it’s tacky, stained, and smells like a sack full of dirty cats. They just don’t think it’s a right fit for them. Dejected, he goes home, hangs the suit in the closet and thinks that maybe he’ll have it altered in the Spring.

Tomorrow, he’ll go back to the mall.

Baby blue is a better color on him anyway. 😉


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