Three adjunct professors go to the mall. They park in the parking lot and head straight for Forever 21. The store pulses with an uptempo bass line and the pure fever of possibility. Almost every item for sale is within these adjunct professors’ budgetary limits. Dresses are all thirty percent off. A store employee suggests that the professors take a mesh bag for ease of shopping. Each professor acquiesces. Soon, each of their mesh bags is brimming with rayon and lycra. They wait patiently in line, between a row of tired fathers and a cluster of gleaming teens. A bright young woman shows the professors to their dressing rooms. The professors disrobe. The professors each try on a gray dress, thirty percent off. The professors cry out for one another — come look at this! They step out from behind their curtains and into the bright light. Each professor has a different problem. One professor’s black underwear is visible to the entire Forever 21 community — fathers and daughters alike. The gray dress is practically transparent. The next professor’s breasts poke out from either side of her narrow dress top. If she was not wearing a full-coverage bra, the security cameras at Forever 21 would have captured images of both of her nipples. The last professor’s upper thighs are exposed; her dress is not truly a dress at all, but a large, two-sided apron. It seems that each of their items has some fatal flaw. The items from their mesh bags do not either “fit” or “not fit”; the items are not simply “liked” or “disliked”; rather the items all seem to suffer from a quality of sheer impossibility. The professors return each of their items to the bright young woman. They are silent for a moment. One professor considers waiting in line, just to buy that good Japanese candy that Forever 21 sometimes sells by the register. The other professors discourage her. They take her by the arm and lead her back out into the mall. “Let’s never come back here again,” one of them says. “Never,” they agree. They know, however, that this “never” will be almost as impossible as the store’s own “Forever.” They’ll be back again in a month or two, lured by a kind of epic forgetting, that narcotic sensation of stopping time.
The Believer has returned
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