Two young men look for romance in a shopping mall.
| Two younger and two older men waited for the bus. The young men were dressed well because they were on the way to The Galleria shopping mall. Muscular arms protruded from the short sleeves of their knit, pull over shirts. They had given each of the young men twenty dollars spending money at the mental hospital. One of the older men asked Barry for a smoke. Barry took out his pack of cigarettes and gave him one. Barry lit the cigarette for him. The cigarette's coals glowed as the broken down old man took short, one second drags repeatedly on his smoke. Arthur had seen other guys in the mental hospital smoke their cigarettes that way. It seemed a little odd.
"Say, brother," the older man said to Barry. "Think you could give me a couple of dollars so I can get some beer?"
"I gave you a cigarette and a light. Don't ask me for anything else," Barry snarled.
The bus arrived. As the two young men climbed up the steps at the front of the bus two young women got out of the back door of the hulking vehicle. The metal behemoth rocked perceptibly as it lurched away from the bus stop. Glimpses of nice houses with expensive cars in their driveways sped by out the window.
"I had a job where we had to move prefab homes through the downtown area. I learned how to talk to people then," Barry commented to Arthur.
The bus rolled into the mall's parking lot, and the two young men got off the vehicle like this was their world.
The Galleria sold nice things to nice people who had nice money. There were boutiques, department stores, an arcade, a couple of bookstores, and a bakery full of rich looking cookies, all for the upscale people of Dallas. A female mannequin wearing a silky, silver blouse with large black dots on it stood in a boutique window. Arthur realized that blouse cost way more than the twenty dollars he had in his pocket. Music from the ice skating rink echoed upwards towards the roof of the cavernous place.
Barry spotted a well dressed woman. She wore emerald rings on her fingers, and she had a dark complexion with black hair. She had a gold neckless set with rubies around her neck, with a gold and ruby cross hanging on her chest. Her dress accentuated her figure, and her face was deftly made up. Arthur was a little alarmed at the unabashed way Barry approached her.
"You look so gorgeous. I am amazed by how good you look. Any man in the world would be proud to be with you," Barry gushed.
"I have a husband who is all the man I will ever need, but thank you for the compliments. You boys stay out of trouble" the woman responded.
Arthur was jealous of the apparent chemistry between the two, but he was smart enough to know that this woman wasn't for him.
He recalled a few lines from "War and Peace": "If I was not myself, but the bravest, cleverest, and wealthiest man in the world, I would go down on my knees this minute and beg you to marry me." It went something like that.
The two young men rested on a bench in the middle of the mall. The cool air and the elegant stores made it a pleasant place to loiter. Shops lined the two avenues that extended down the mall. Soft music rose into the upper reaches of the building. Arthur almost felt relaxed.
"I've got to find me a woman. Let's go to Braxton's and see if we can find a couple of women there," Barry ventured.
Arthur wondered if Barry was likely to blow off the hospital and go home with a woman for a few days.
"I'd rather go to B. Dalton's and look for women there," Arthur responded.
"You and those books. You can't get women in a bookstore," Barry answered.
"Yes you can. If you know what to look for you can."
"For every woman you get in a bookstore I can get ten at Braxton's."
"I like a woman of substance. I want a woman who has a brain."
"Well you go to B. Dalton's then. You can have those intelligent women. They all think they are some kind of female genius," Barry stated.
The manager at B. Dalton's enthralled Arthur. Her dark brown hair was pulled behind her ears, and a maroon sweater was draped across her shoulders. The sleeves were neatly tied across the front of her white blouse. She had the kind of beauty that inspires poets. Makeup would only diminish such a perfect face. A gold, heart shaped pendant hung from her neck. Arthur knew he couldn't approach her in any other guise than as a customer. Arthur noticed that she was looking at him out of the corner of her eye. There was chemistry here.Then Arthur noticed a book titled "The Delta of Venus", by Anais Nin, in the literature section. The beautiful young manager gave a small cry as Arthur took the work of literature off the shelf. She looked away, and the spell was broken.
Arthur cursed his stupidity. He'd done the wrong thing. Maybe "The Delta of Venus" was salacious, but he didn't mean anything by it. This was where Arthur always stopped, anyway. How could he approach this stunning woman if he didn't have his own transportation, and he only had $20.00 in his wallet? He considered using Romeo's words to Juliet in Shakespeare's play: "If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine … ", but he was afraid he'd look silly if he tried. Besides, she was taken. Why else would she be wearing that gold pendant around her neck?
Arthur waited for Barry to show up at their designated bench.
"Did you have any luck?" Barry asked as he approached his companion.
"I did get some kind of a response from a woman," Arthur answered.
"Did she look at you? Did she say something to you?" Barry asked with playful sarcasm.
"No. She didn't do that."
"What did she do, show you her tits?" Barry's playful words were starting to bite.
"No. You wouldn't understand," Arthur patiently tried to explain.
"I understand. You got turned down cold," Barry responded.
"Well how about you then? How did you do?" Arthur asked his companion.
"I talked to this girl, but she was nuts. She'd be real friendly, and I'd be thinking, 'I got her. She's mine'. Then she'd start talking about some guy named Heathcliff.(1) It was Heathcliff this, and Heathcliff that, and I'd be wondering what in the world she was saying."
Arthur had a small smile on his face. "Some women are just crazy," he muttered.
The two young men rode the bus back to downtown Dallas, where they found a small café. Arthur still had all his money, so he could order a good meal there. He gazed at a picture on the wall of a beautiful and confident young woman sitting at a table with a handsome young man. They wore the clothes of success. There was a piece of pie in front of her, and she was delicately guiding a delicious looking morsel to her mouth.
Barry grabbed a flier off a stack of advertisements. Then he grabbed a pencil next to the stand and wrote "skank list" on the back of the piece of paper.
"I'm going to list all the skanks we're going to get at the hospital, and I am going to call it our skank list," Barry told Arthur.
"You must be totally cynical about women," Arthur commented.
"I don't know what that means. What does that mean?" Barry responded, confused.
"It means you think women are no good, and that it is stupid to try to have a meaningful relationship with them," Arthur returned.
There was a heavy silence, then Barry spoke.
"You can have your meaningful relationships. I just want to have fun," Barry replied.
Arthur knew this conversation would go nowhere if he tried to pursue it. The waitress brought their hamburgers, and the two young men ate in silence.
Finally Barry said, "I don't know what you believe in your world, but in my world women are there for fun, and you're stupid or crazy to want anything different. I haven't been in a committed relationship for six years, and I get a lot of women."
"I'm not looking for a committed relationship. I just want a relationship with a woman who knows what I am talking about when I mention D.H. Lawerance," Arthur explained.
"And you think all other women are skanks, right?"
"No. I just think they're not that interesting."
When they returned to the ward the massive wooden doors to the rooms reminded Arthur that they were in a locked down facility. One time one of the patients who had explosive anger disorder tore one of those doors off its hinges and threw it down the hallway. They kept that guy strapped down almost all the time.
When they entered the lounge the other patients crowded around them and asked them if they had gotten the phone numbers of any young women. The two young men reluctantly admitted that they had struck out.
Wally edged up to Barry and quietly asked him if they had drank any beer.
"Yes. I drank a beer in Braxton's," Barry stated out loud.
Arthur looked at Barry in astonishment. He wondered if any staff was in hearing distance. Arthur hurried back to his room.
Thirty minutes later Mary entered Arthur's room.
"Arthur, I just talked to Barry Stample, and he said you guys split up while you were on your outing," Mary paused. "You knew you were supposed to stay together." She paused again. Arthur didn't know what to say. "We're taking a hard view of this," she said in a serious tone.
"We were apart only a short time," Arthur reacted.
"I believe you, but you were supposed to stay together. How am I supposed to trust you guys now? I'm going to talk to Dr. Pinter about this, and I doubt if you'll be going on any outings for a while."
Mary left, and Arthur went out to the lounge. He was about ready to deck Barry. He sat down and waited for M.A.S.H. to come on
(1.) "Heathcliff " is a main character in a famous romance novel titled "Wuthering Heights". It's the kind of book college students majoring in English Literature read. Heathcliff's passion for Catherine is so strong it is like he is a force of nature.