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An Empirical Baptism at the Mall

An Empirical Baptism at the Mall



Jackson found the note in his coat-pocket when he was at the mall one evening.
He’d been waiting for his ride just inside the entrance for some time when he’d absently stuck his hands in his coat-pockets, felt the paper he didn’t remember putting in one, and pulled it out.

[[This isn’t easy for me to say to you, Jackson. It’s been so long, and I’ve been keeping quiet, but it’s not something I can do anymore. I worry about you all the time.]]

His heart skipped a beat, and he shut his eyes, taking in a deep breath.
Something like this had been bound to come at some point, he knew; especially from his sister, who’d been making his excuses since the beginning. But now that it was happening, he couldn’t find his breath. Everything surrounding him, the people and echoes of the mall, the big fountains nearby, the flashing lights from the cars outside, all of it disappeared, stifled under this little piece of paper.

[[Almost everyone knows what you’ve been doing, but now they’re finally starting to talk. Haven’t you noticed them looking at you?
They’ve been looking at me too, you know, like it’s my fault that your life is falling apart. I know it’s not my fault that you’re like this, and I’m not going to take responsibility for you, but I have to tell you that I can’t act like I condone this anymore.
You’ve been thinking it’s okay to be like this because it wasn’t easy to see at first how things are being ruined. It’s been happening slowly, because you know how to keep up appearances, but sooner or later it’s not going to be enough.

When I look at you and what you‘ve become, it’s like you‘re not there, like there’s never been a thought or a dream to pass through your mind. Then I think of what I always used to think I knew you’d be, and it makes me sick. It makes me not want to eat, or go to school, or be with friends or do anything. When I think of you, I just want to go lay in bed and never talk to anyone ever again. Can you understand what it’s like to feel that way, day in and day out?

There are other people who care about you, but none of them are going to tell you anything, because they’re either too scared or don’t think what they say is going to make a difference. Maybe this letter won’t make a difference, but I’m trying to believe that there’s still a reason to have faith in you.

Even after you read this though, in the end I know that you’re just going to do what you want.
But if you ignore this letter, it’s going to be over for you, because no one else is going speak up. You’ll be alone, and you’ll have broken my heart, but it won’t be my fault.

But at least now, you’ll know how I feel, and so you’ll understand me when I say that I don’t want any part of what you are anymore, because I’ve got my own life to live. I don’t think I’m foolish yet for still having the idea that you’d want to be in it too, like you used to be.
Please come back to me, and stay.]]

Peggy had signed it, as if he wouldn’t have known who it was from.


He shoved the paper back into his pocket.

There was no need for repulsion or anger, or looking into the glass door’s reflection to pretend that the circles under his eyes weren’t that prominent, that the sores developing on his hands and hairline could pass for something entirely natural. And he was too weary for shame.

He left his spot by the entrance, and trod, with his wavering, sad weight, over to the fountains in the center of the mall, and sat on the marble siding.
The spray of water ran heavy and shone bright in the fluorescents far above him. He rolled up his sleeves, baring the blue-white, pocked skin, and cupped his hands under the curtain of waterfall, allowing the water to run in turrets down his arms, where they petered off onto the front of his coat.
He stayed there until he was almost completely soaked, and by the time a guard came over and put a hand on his shoulder to see what the matter was, Jackson couldn’t tell anymore whether he was shuddering so hard from the cold, or from the absence of something needed.





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