Shopping Centre Sight-Seeing

Eytan Smith






By @EytanDGSmith


Marc suggested that over the Winter break we go to a public space and watch people go about their business. I decided to write down the little stories that broke out around me. The following is an extract of my hour long experience.


It’s 18:41.


I am sitting on a long glossy wooden bench coated in gum, on the upstairs floor of the Wood Green shopping centre. The place is filled with soon-to-be-out-of-business, low quality clothing outlets and an ethnic pool of Olympic variety. I am sweaty.


I share this gummy plank with a handful of fathers and their small babies. The fathers are impatient for their partners to emerge from the stores.  There’s also a couple, of indistinct ethnicity. They sit down next to me. As I’m writing on this pad that’s on my knee, I keep seeing a jumble of feet in trainers tangle and detangle, slide and lift in a playful dance with each other.

They speak in a flirtatiously low tone. I think they’re talking in a Baltic language.

They smell in heat. The smell is complicated, the combination of both their individual natural and synthetic scents all bundle together like dirty shoes in the boot of a car. The odours arrive at my nose, riding waves of mild nausea. They’re both drenched in perfume, but there’s something dirty and raw mixed in there too. His scent is overbearingly musky, like the inside of some other guy’s trainer, mixed with whisky.  Whilst I think its her natural scent that smells dry and nutty, but is masked with some sort of generically feminine, artificial cinnamon tone.

He is closer to me, I keep catching in the corner of my eye her manicured long ruby red nails crawl, slide and scratch the back of his shaved flat head. They’re worming their heads round fast, betraying the tango of their tongues with flicks and twists of their heads. The smell is becoming harder to bear the more the waves settle round my shoulders. Suddenly my eyes glance unwillingly at his track-suited lap to see another set of ruby red nails rubbing round and round and round like a slushy machine at a bowling alley.

Thank god her phone rings with what sounds like some trashy middle-eastern dance tune, she picks up in a decidedly more serious tone than her previous low hum. They linger on the bench for a few moments as she seems to be assessing something with a contorted face and a questioning matter of fact tone.

I can sense a deflating disappointment coming from the man as he and I slowly realise their romantic tactile session is over. I imagine I feel very differently to him. She gets up to continue the phone conversation whilst walking away. Like some sort of inverse race car, she has gone from eighty to naught miles per hour in under six seconds flat. Without direction, the man knowingly picks up her shopping planted at his feet and follows her off, out of my sight.


It’s 18:43.

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