At Opry Mills Mall
Charlotte Pence

People-watching outside The Gap,
we smell the anxious
celebration of Saturday night:
food-court fries, freshly-showered
skins that hint of chlorine—musk.

We try to decide if I’m sad.
I tell him how most nights
I blink in the dark, worrying about
what I need to do.  He says
I don’t understand what’s normal,

sadness only a perspective.
But then he tugs on that oversized
ear lobe of his, takes a breath,
and suggests maybe always wanting more
has finally hurt me. What can I do

when told an unpleasant truth?
I change the subject to his faults,  
tell him he’s never had enough ambition.
He sighs, bums a dollar to buy
a big pretzel dusted with garlic.

We share it and lick our fingers
while we watch the sales clerk 
call her boyfriend when she thinks
no one’s looking. She says, “I can’t wait
to get out of this god-forsaken place.”  

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