Image by Christine Renney
After visiting the shopping centre they always lingered, had done for years. It was difficult now to pinpoint exactly when this had begun, much less how or why. It was unspoken that, once the shops had closed, they would skulk along at the edge of the precinct where the teenagers gathered.
Pubs, clubs, burger bars and pizza joints dominated and the couple would find a table where, from behind the plate glass, they could gaze out across the now car-less car park.
The litter, the day’s debris, had been swept and shovelled against the kerb and in each and every corner and crevice. The youngsters didn’t seem to mind. They kicked through it, tramped on it, added to it, restless and eager for the night with all its possibilities.
The couple talked over their pizza, dissecting the lives of others, of old friends, people they rarely or never saw anymore, colleagues from work and people they barely knew. They raced toward conclusion after conclusion, invented scenario after scenario. There was something about that place, that time, that offered obscurity: a middle aged couple with nowhere particular to go, nothing to do except to visit the multiplex cinema to see the latest blockbuster – ‘Action/Adventure’ or ‘Romcom’, sequels and prequels they watched indiscriminately. But this particular night their hearts weren’t in it and so they began to wander.
This, in fact, was what they had wanted to do all along. Simply to walk, just to be here and not feel the need to dress it, to skirt around this fact. They were elated and entered a busy pub. It was like walking on air and the drink helped to prolong this feeling and then, suddenly, the moment was lost. The revellers had deserted them. Of course, they could have followed, chased the party, found another pub or even a club but – they had shopping bags to cart and so stayed put, drinking until common sense prevailed at last and they began to make their way toward home.