by J.I. Kleinberg
There’s a big sale going on at the Mall of Regrets.
I should have left home earlier, should have taken
the bus. Now I’m circling the parking lot, sorry
I ever left home. Strung between light poles,
banners promise New Regrets Daily! Why am I
here? Don’t I already have plenty to rue?
I finally take a vacant parking spot, ignoring
the bright blue sign that says, You’ll be sorry!
Near the entry, in the Fancy Espresso Makers shop,
I pay for my Amazono in its almost-guilt-free PVC cup
and ignore my buzzing phone. The storefronts are blinding
with garish neon signs and stuttering rows of flashing lights.
On the right, there’s an enormous showroom of Edsels
and Gremlins. In a store called Lies, the walls are covered
with printed slips and scrolls of paper, some elaborately
calligraphed. Next door is Things I Wish I’d Never Said.
Some of the stores seem esoteric – Failed Theme Park Rides –
but most are distressingly familiar – Misspelled Cake Decorations,
Jokes in Really Bad Taste, Worst Girlfriend Ever, Back Seats of Cars.
There is an abundance of exclamation points and smiley faces,
and liberal use of the words Recycled – 100% Recycled Husbands! –
and My First – My First Tattoo, My First Cigarette. A store called
But It Looked So Good on the Model! is packed with shoppers.
Meanwhile, loudspeakers pump out barely audible announcements
in between plaintive recordings of Connie Francis singing
“Who’s Sorry Now?” and Brenda Lee singing “I’m sorry.”
I see people I know carrying huge shopping bags and busy
with their phones, unwilling to make eye contact. Of course
there are the engagement rings and wedding gowns, the diaries
with picked locks, the barrels of extracted fat, the auto-corrected
texts. Ugly House Paint is overstocked, with signs declaring Sale
Today Only! No Returns! At one end of the mall, the Museum of Regrets
is currently exhibiting Collections I Never Should Have Started,
ranging from offensive incense to fingernail clippings. At the other
end is a department store called The Promised Land, where you
can download “sincere and actual” excuses recorded “just for you”
by your favorite famous actors. There’s a shop of bagpipes
and accordions, another of barely-used exercise equipment.
About a dozen people are crowded around the ATM, which has
eaten their cards and issued cheerful receipts saying, “Sorry!”
A long line snakes outside the door of Bad Pets. A shop called
Never Did Get It To Work is filled with VCRs, remote controls,
complicated telescopes, and a blizzard of crumpled instruction
booklets. A narrow shop called (Dis) Enchanted displays buttons
and bumper stickers for losing candidates, diabolical office-holders,
and lost causes. If you’re willing to take your chances, a dollar
will get you a grab bag of regrettables at It Seemed Like a Good Idea
at the Time – girdles, orange-hued spray-on tan, down-filled toilet seats,
pumpkin-scented windshield washer solution, and inflatable food.
There’s an adults-only store, Bad Ideas I Had While Drunk, with
an annex called Oops, Sorry, I Was Stoned. When I stop for lunch
at Pangs, the server describes, at some length, the day’s special,
then tells me they ran out of it a couple of hours ago. On impulse,
I order a blended drink called The Twinge of Remorse – sweet,
slimy, and brain-freeze cold. The mall is turning out to be a bust.
The 24-hour movie theater is closed. Sorry! says the sign on the door.
The only thing I’ve bought is a package of stickers, each one
printed with a handy apology: Sorry I forgot to show up to babysit.
Sorry I left you at the altar. Sorry I lied about my phone number.
Sorry I thought you liked okra. Sorry I tried to bribe you.
Sorry I poisoned your kids. Sorry I didn’t attend your funeral.
They’re available as rubber stamps, too, but stickers are so
convenient. Damn. There’s my phone again. I wish I had
a sticker that said, Sorry I forgot to tell you I was going to the Mall.