sketchbook: Sunday 11 September 2011

SUN 11 SEP 2011 ca. 1:45 p.m. THE BAY WOMEN’S WEAR

Department store quiet and cavernous as the sun shines outside—thermal-inversion light filtering through far-off glass doors. Subdued, librarylike, mainly the heavy industrial thrum and squeak of the escalators. Then a low-volume sound of a woman’s power vocal performance on the sound system—just audible. The floor is tiled with white linoleum squares, with subdued, camouflage-green hard-wearing carpet under the racks of clothes. Close by me: a small rack of denim shorts, 50% off.

Looking past the big square pillar: the shoe department, more spacious and open, like looking out on a field from the dimness of the forest or a cave—although all fluorescent-lit from rectangular panels set in the dropped ceiling. Tables with curved legs and glass tops hold podiums with women’s shoes, solitary and unpaired. On the far wall: spotlit wooden shelves of shoes looking more like books in a bookstore.

Snatches of muted conversation as shoppers pass by with their children: “Because a promise is a promise,” says a little boy, “you can’t go back.”

The clop and clack of shoes on the tile; the strained squeaking of the escalator handrails, ceaselessly moving. A false, air-conditioned world, weakly and cheaply lit. Out those glass doors: the flash and sparkle of cars rolling by.

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