I am only looking. Why do I suddenly hear Jim Morrison howling between my ears? I step over the threshold from a bright, white shopping mall into a cavern selling an aspirational lifestyle of toolness. “This is the End. My only friend, the end.” The pounding bass from electronic music ushers me into a store with the ambiance of a frat party and an opium den.
“Bra.” A tall Aryan boy in unpleated khakis and a counterfeit Rugby shirt accosts me. He initiates some kind of tribal hand shake. His collar is popped and disjointed. His hair is stylish chaos. “Do you need help?”
“I am just looking.” He knows I am lost. He looks at me with suspicion.
“I’ve seen ones like you. You wander from machine to machine in Gold’s Gym so unsure of yourself. Yes, I’ve seen you. What is it that you want?”
“I am just looking.”
“No, it’s time for a change. You won’t tell me what you want because you don’t know what you need. You need this.”
“What is this?”
“Our newest fragrance for bras and honeys. We call it Lechery and Lechery is bi-curious.” The container is an iridescent molehill. I shrink away but he laughs to ease me. “Don’t worry, bra! It’s just a nipple.” He points the pink glass nipple in my face.
“What is the scent?” I hesitantly allow him to spritz the sketchy substance on my arm.
“Sex.” I carefully inch my nose over my wrist.
“That’s what sex smells like?” He looks at me as if I were not so worldly as he.
“I forgot you would not know.” He stares into the darkest corner of his trendy apparel den. “You probably think I am a poseur, but I know who you are … they sent you to bring me back. You’re an errand boy with a laundry list of iniquity from capitalist robber barons.”
“I swear I am just looking.”
“No one looks here. You taste!” He grabs my hand and forcibly rests it on a table of marked-down Rugby shirts. “Taste. Taste. Do not be afraid. I saw your Bermuda shorts and I knew, I knew you would come here to judge us. Why don’t you try on some cargo pants? Distressed jeans? You will know why I pop my collar and shun the light of the outside.”
“Distressed jeans? What have you done to them?” I cry in horror as I search for an exit in this dimly lit garment jungle.
“HAHAHAHA, you’re funny just like Leno! I watch Leno every night. Pure comedic genius. He may only say a Paris Hilton joke I’ve heard thousands of times before, but when Jay says it, I’ve heard humor for the first time … Bra, I have some T-shirts you need to see. I want you to buy a T-shirt because you won’t just buy a T-shirt. You will buy hot young ass. Have you seen our catalog, bra?”
“The glossy soft porn?”
“Bra, you still don’t understand. I want to show you the T-shirts. Let me bring you inside the circle. I can be your big brother. I can show you how the people here live. So simple, so animal, so right. Nature compels them and they act. I was once like you, but then I fought my way through the clearance racks with my machete and saw the naked majesty of this society. I knew I could never return. I left my family and my belongings. I learned how to properly fold khakis. This place is spiritual. Have you heard of the Kama Sutra? There is nothing dirty about this place.”
He showed me several shelves of ambiguously raunchy T-shirts concerning crabs and beavers. One was an aged ringer shirt promoting a fake breast-milk campaign: “Teats for Tots.” The tool is locked in a gaze with me. I see stars of expectation in his eyes. I will not disappoint him.
“You’ve got some nice double-entendres here.”
“Double-entendre?” He looked intently into my eyes as if he had just rediscovered a prodigal brother. “Bra, I like your mojo. Go to the first dressing room and wait. The girl from Successories is into it, too.”
“What?” Perhaps he is not familiar with the term “double-entendre,” but I obey. By now the spell is too great to break. Out here, the authority of the tool is the voice of God and I hear his commandments well.
The last thing I remember: The demonic sound of techno music as a girl binds my wrists to a clothes rack. “Don’t worry,” she says, as migraine and music sync, reverberating through my skull. “I used to work at Spencer’s Gifts.” Jim Morrison’s disorienting howls: “Kill! Kill! Kill!”
To my mother’s chagrin, I like to tell this story at family cookouts. Although, sometimes, when the reunion is awkwardly quiet because Uncle Pete is talking up Southern secession again, Mother will say to me, “Honey, tell that story. The one about the gangbang in Abercrombie.” I smile and oblige.