Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Strip Mall

The sun has just left the sky, leaving the faintest glow of yellow hovering close to the horizon. Twilight is all around. Feathering out from the yellow-lit hue is a pale blue which fades abruptly into deep cobalt and purple-black. Several seagulls cross the sky silhouetted against the pale blue night.

I am sitting under the thick metal awning of a short strip mall on the outskirts of a sprawling apartment complex. Squat, two-story condos and tall apartment buildings are interspersed like a twenty minute long checkers match, they stretch for blocks and blocks, creating a mini-city. To the left, several hundred feet behind the grocery store at the end of the strip mall, is an apartment building standing twenty stories tall. A few of the windows are lit from inside, though the majority of them are dark. In front of me, just beyond the parking lot, is a long two-story apartment building that vaguely references Greek architecture with its two white pillars on either side of the main front door.

There are twelve different businesses all sharing the same long florescent-lit awning. At one end is the mid-sized supermarket with a front-facing glass wall. Covering the glass wall are an assortment of neon beer signs that each vie for attention. They blare their colorful message into the night, looking for thirsty eyes and loose wallets. On the other end of the strip-mall is a lonely-singular ATM that stands unprotected against the night. A solitary bulb embedded in the awning shines down, illuminating the money machine.

Between the two anchor points are a dozen storefronts. I sit out front, at the only outdoor table drenched in the glow of an arabica bean-scented coffee shop. My white paper to-go cup of milk-drenched tea rests on the table to my left, the cup still too hot for my fingers to hold. Two men play chess at a small table directly behind me, we are separated only by a thick glass pane and a thousand other invisible walls. Next door, a brightly-lit laundromat hums with the sound of tumbling clothes and a screeching baby that takes short breaths between wails. Three young Asian guys are standing just outside the open doorway to the laundromat. They talk amongst themselves in gangsta accents, simultaneously laughing together and making fun of each other.

Closer to the market at the end is a burger place with a sporty, Hall of Fame theme. There is an ice cream parlor, a smoke shop that sends the constant perfume of nagchampa drifting out its open door, a pizza place, a kick boxing school and two other small storefronts under construction. The steady tap and boom of the construction work mingles with the insistent hum of dryers and swishing washers. Somewhere above, a jumbo jet cuts through the sky, its noisy engines rattling the metal table and the contents of my paper cup.

Beyond the storefronts and sidewalk is a small parking lot with a hundred spaces, though only a handful are occupied by silent cars. Just beyond the lot is a narrow street lined with glowing street lamps and one large silhouetted cypress stands tall and dark against the changing sky.

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