He waited outside the XXI on a chair that proclaimed it was the best massage chair of the 21st century. He disagreed, of course, on the grounds that the best massage chair of the 21st century would have been free, instead of $5 for 10 minutes. He would admit that it was a pretty good chair, though.

Normally he went inside. He wasn’t ashamed or afraid of losing his man card. He just had a lot of bags, plus the coffee. He wanted to relax and drink it, not dodge people and avoid knocking things off shelves or running into people with his shopping bags. Plus, he had been carrying them for hours.

She was inside. He didn’t know how long she had been in there, exactly. About half a coffee or so, maybe. He watched all the people go by. It was one of his favorite pastimes. People-watching. He played a game to see who was the best looking. Mall Pageant. Female category. He decided not to divide according to age. A woman walked by who was surely a finalist, he thought. But of course, the pageant would end how it always ended, with his wife taking the crown.

Someone kicked a bag and put a hole in it, which sent objects flying everywhere. He got up from the chair and gathered the items, taking an extra bag out of his coat to hold them. People seemed to kick his bags a lot. So rude.

She was taking a long time. There must be a line, or maybe she was having trouble deciding. Or, maybe there were so many good things to look at. He still had coffee. He wasn’t worried.

Some uniformed guards showed up. Probably to investigate the kicking. He assured them he was fine. They insisted he come along with them, and told him he should take all the bags with him. And maybe a shower. They would all wait for the real police to arrive. He again said he was fine, and there was no need to involve the police for such a minor event.

The cuff of his dirty tattered coat ripped when a guard pulled it, sending a cloud of dust into the air. He sat down in the chair again. He didn’t want to move. They said his wife was gone. Not coming back. Dead. But he said they were mistaken.

She’s just buying a few things, he said, and then she’ll be right out. They’ll see. Any minute now.

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