"Honey, can you come here?" he heard faintly from beyond the monochromatic layers of overpriced and inconsequential blouses. They hung in a perfect row, flowing gently against the breeze of a nearby department store air conditioner that hummed quietly to ensure a comfortable shopping ambience. He envied the air conditioner, answering only to the predictable, rational demands of electricity and natural physical laws.
Maybe in another time, another place, he could aspire to an existence as purposeful as that of the Haier cooling unit - today he was an indentured shopper.
The voice, though soft and feminine, weighed him down. She was a woman driven by two insatiable desires: to adorn her physique and simultaneously suck the will to live from his body - the latter she accomplished one dollar at a time. He turned slowly and rose from his seat, glazed and tired eyes perceiving the faint outlines of odd, oblong shapes set at strange angles across the jumbled floor. Years ago, he thought, an architect had designed this Filene's edifice with the sole purpose of illuminating and exaggerating the beauty of its merchandise. Lights were hung at the perfect height, mirrors mounted lengthwise along every wall with a reflective marble floor offering a sharp "click, click" as the lioness prowls around in pumps hunting her prey. But his male eyes ignored the bait, impervious to the sinister, careful niche marketing. His mind flitted, instead, back to the tumbling football that glanced off the upright in the afternoon JETS game - wide left - he would have made $20. Oh well.
Plodding along, slow methodical steps navigating clumsily through the crumpled morasse of fashion and fabric, the silhouette of what appeared to be his wife came subtly into focus near an open changing room door. He blinked to clear his blurred vision, then picked his head up slightly and rested his gaze on what appeared to be her feet. He didn't have the energy to straighten his neck and look into her eyes, and he wasn't sure he could peer into them even if he must. His ears strained to listen as he mouth moved rapidly, words flying from her lips as if she were the MicroMachine guy hawking miniature cars:
"...having a hard time deciding blah blah blah... already have a shrug, you know, but it's not blah blah blah... if I were looking for something more formal, then obviously blah blah blah... can always bring it back if blah blah... just to die for blah blah blah!"
What he perceived as a brief pause in her shopping sermon was quickly followed by several moments of silence. Oh no. Small beads of sweat seeped from his forehead and pupils constricted to narrow his vision - silence was never good. He forced the kind of smile a damaged Kirk Gibson feigned for Tommy Lasorda before walking toward the on deck circle in Game 1 - a smile that masks anguish and assures the its recipient that everything is fine - then raised his head to meet her gaze.
"So?" she asked with a tone that left him unsure if the inquisition were rhetorical or desperate for an answer. Hearkening back to a particularly informative episode of the Simpsons he remembered Homer's advice that women always want compliments.
"Looks great!", he blurted, reaching out to touch her shirt. He modified his affect, forcing a semi-furtive smile, and rubbed the fabric gently between his thumb and forefinger. "Very nice, and the shirt looks really good with the pants. I can definitely see you in this." He let his hand drop back to his side, proud of himself for a moment.
Her face was expressionless, her blue eyes a little cold: "These are my clothes - I wore them into the store. You're an idiot."