I can feel each bead of sweat as it forms at the back of my neck. Half begin the slow trickle down my back. The other half fade away in the breeze leaving a clammy goosebump feeling across my body. I can feel the red heat spots spreading across my skin, bringing a flush to my cheeks and chest. My hair is piled atop my head, still wet from my shower, but thankfully not making me any warmer than I already am.

I reach the front of the line. The male cashier greets me with a professional smile. I can see the same heat I am suffering through is effecting him tenfold. Sweat has beaded across his hairline, making the little hairs there curl and frizz. Behind his smile I recognize the panic I’ve felt when I was on his side of the counter. With the heat and exceptionally long line will this be the customer that snaps?

I smile, share the misery of the heat. I commiserate that I’ve been where he is when he apologizes for the long line. He is immediately relieved and keeps a friendly smile on for the entirety of our transaction.

It’s Friday, Spring Break, raining and almost 70 outside. The mall is packed with numerous places advertising spring sales. I mingle with families of bored and crying babies. I’m bumped by sullen teenagers that are at the point in their lives where they want to be noticed and invisible at the same time. There are people with a list of specific items to purchase and then others, like me, who aren’t  sure what they want; they’ll know it when they see it.

My senses are overwhelmed. Loud chatter does nothing to cover the cries of young children who didn’t get that toy or the irate and rude customer who attempts to berate the cashier. Despite the dismal weather outside every light inside shines like a fluorescent sun. The warm scent of cinnamon teases me and pulls my attention towards the salty heaven of Auntie Anne’s pretzels. I ignore the whine in my stomach and settle for the tzaziki filled Mediterranean food of Cava.

I’ve only been here an hour but already my body and mind are exhausted. Time to return the quiet calm peace of my apartment.  Where I won’t have to wind my way through a crowd, be assaulted by rudeness or inundated with the pity of overworked and underpaid retail associates. Or where I am drenched because inevitably I have lost my umbrella and didn’t think to buy a new one in my excursion.

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