I keep to the edge of the shopping centre but make use of its facilities. The toilets and the washroom, even the public library. I forage for food behind the large department store and I have a series of regular haunts. I have all I need within its environs and no desire to step outside, but for the most part I keep to the periphery. Moving effortlessly against the force of the shoppers, I forge myriad trails beneath the grey band of sky.
I settle down in an unused doorway at the back of one of the older buildings, now part of the centre, now home to one of the shops within. A corner spot where shoppers are forced to slow and occasionally forced to an abrupt halt. Not the most lucrative of positions, those who don’t give far outnumbering those who take the time to rummage in their pockets or a purse for change.
A far better prospect would be a spot along the walkway connecting the centre with the multi-storey care park but it is a delicate balance I must strike in order to survive.
I sit back against a concrete pillar and watch them as they park, those who will and those who won’t give. I am not invisible, I don’t disappear beneath the flickering fluorescent light. There is nothing celestial or ghostlike about me. I am all too real, there to be noticed or not.
They pass by and I am of no concern, I pose no threat and they focus anyhow on something, anything, beyond this dimly lit car park.
I imagine someone is looking down at me from above, observing as I move along the outer edges. Apart from my visits to the library my existence is Spartan, a lesson in patience and discipline.
The library is an anomaly, situated as it is at the end of a busy parade of shops. It is one of the buildings that line the centre’s mains square with its elaborate fountain, a marble pyramid sitting in a stone trough.
I stop beside the water sculpture and catch my breath. In getting here I have caused an ungainly commotion. I have shoved and barged my way but now, with my objective in sight, I pause, readying for the final few paces. The unwanted attention I have created slowly but surely begins to subside. Only the security guard is watching as I enter the library.
I push through and stand at the threshold and as the doors close I wait. The librarian sits at her desk. She raises her head and it is the barest of glances but albeit fleetingly she looks me square in the face and only then do I step inside.
A deserted oasis; her, and the books and now me. I retrieve my latest tome from its shelf and sit on the chair beside the plate glass window and outside the shoppers are teeming. The centre glares with all of its consumerist paraphernalia, the brands and the chains. I sit in the library window reading my book.
The security guard is pacing in front of the health shop beneath the green and yellow sign. He appears to be daydreaming and I imagine it is one where he is leading a vicious dog across endless wasteland. Only he is able to control the beast snarling at the end of its leash as easily as if he were brandishing a baseball bat or an iron bar. The result of intensive and dedicated training and when he and the hound have cornered their quarry they will rip him apart and scatter the shreds.
He is grinning inanely when the man from the central office arrives and as they make their way across the square and toward the library I can see that he feels a little foolish. But once inside the guard begins to loosen. The librarian behind the desk, prim and proper in her grey suit, is obviously startled by their presence.
And smirking at the official’s shoulder, the guard is rapidly regaining his edge and ready to rip and shred.