Image by Ryan Bradford
I realize that I'm probably still a little high from the night before when Bob Marley comes on the radio and I don't immediately turn it off.
The line of cars waiting to get into the Fashion Valley Mall parking lot is nearly a mile deep and moving at the speed of the continental drift. I briefly look in my rearview mirror and see the despair and fury in the face of the motorist behind me. It's three days before Christmas, and this line of cars might as well lead us all off a cliff, purging all the last-minute-shopping idiots from Earth.
Outside, car horns blast and drivers scream, but inside my car, I'm the personification of the meme where the dog sits in a burning room, saying, "This is fine."
I turn up the reggae, the worst musical genre. I pump that shit.
Yep, I'm definitely high.
This getting high thing is new and different for me. But then again, everything feels different since election night. Everyday life feels different. When friends greet each other with "how's it going?", there's now a qualifier after every answer: "It's pretty good ... considering." It's hard to find much joy in the world outside of friends and family. Even reading year-end best of 2016 lists seems futile and vulgar.
Whoops, sorry for the stoned tangent. Harshing my own mellow.
The previous day, I had acquired my medical marijuana card. I had been interested in obtaining one as an alternative treatment for anxiety. Then, after learning cardholders will also be exempt from sales taxes when recreational outlets open in 2018, it sounded like a financially wise move. Responsible, even!
That night, my wife and I ate brownies and lost our minds. We watched some show about underwater sea creatures, and I felt myself slowly become sealed to the recliner. "Is that real?" my wife kept asking at the screen. Moments or hours or days later, she was puking, and I was helpless to lift myself out of the chair.
We're not very experienced at this getting high thing.
The mall's parking lot feels pressurized and ready to explode. I don't have the mental acumen to fight for a spot, so I park in the outskirts.
Wife wants fingerless gloves. Must remember fingerless gloves.
The mall is awash with unwelcoming, sour faces. I roam around Nordstrom aimlessly, hoping against hope that there's a section clearly labeled "Fingerless Gloves." Due to some non-linear thinking, I find myself in the shoe department, because shoes are related to socks and socks are the distant cousins of gloves.
What am I doing here? I think. What are we all doing here? How did we get to this point?
It's a thought that's as profound as the price tags on the dresses I'm caressing—a futile effort to appear normal and not at all creepy. How can anyone pay for this? Only the rich can afford to shop here. That's how they get you. You see something shiny and immediately, you reach out for it without acknowledging the consequences, you drown in debt and then you die, only to be resurrected when the next tremendous, shiny (the shiniest!) thing appears. This is American politics. This is how we got Trump. This is how the majority of the populace still believes in the American Dream—a sales pitch that's as flimsy as these satin garments that feel good against my fingertips.
"Can I help you find anything?" a suspicious sales associate asks.
"Just, uh... no."
The Nordstrom narcs are onto me so I book it to Macy's. The relative disarray here (compared to the pristine affluence of Nordstrom) welcomes my kind—the disillusioned, the lost, the untethered.
Again, I find myself in the shoe section. History repeating. We'll always be stuck in this flat circle, never learning.
Finally, I muster up the courage to talk and ask an employee where the gloves are. "Excuse me madam," I say, focused on making sure the correct number of syllables leave my mouth. "Could you direct me to the fingerless gloves?"
"Upstairs," she says. "Third floor. There are dresses up there too. They're all really nice."
Yeah, not falling for that, I think.
Upstairs, it's quiet. The frenzy of the bottom floor is gone, replaced with a soothing calm. It regularly blows my mind that these quiet moments can exist in a post-election world. Why aren't people just constantly freaking the fuck out? Or maybe they are, underneath. Or maybe they don't care. Maybe it's only the artists, the thinkers, the affected, and the anxious who are still hung up on this, trying to make sense of it all. Maybe that's why we're miserable. Maybe that's why we look at people shopping, moving and subscribing to the notion that life goes on, and weep our liberal tears. It's very much like the Summer of Love has ended again, and we've woken up on bloody carpets, bracing for another Altamont, Watergate, Vietnam.
Apologies. Probably just the weed talking.
I find the gloves for my wife. The cashier says I can save $15 if I buy a candy bar. It's the easiest sale she's ever made.
I walk back to the car and realize I'm starving. I unwrap the raspberry-chocolate bar and chow down. At the moment, it doesn't seem like stoned satisfaction but an act of self-preservation. Guess that's all we can do.