Caroline Roper

We feel drips on the tops of our heads, and we forget whether we’re inside or outside. We look around hoping to glimpse another face whose expression matches ours. We find such a face and it tells us we’re not alone. A line of rain spills from a seam in the atrium ceiling. The water pools on the polished faux marble floors. It looks slippery, and no one dares cross it in their city shoes.

A band continues to play. Their song becomes more potent and melancholy, juxtaposed against the percussion of the rain. Their tempo drifts slower as they glance sideways at each other. The stage is still dry for a suspenseful moment. 

The rain picks up, and then hail pummels the roof. A baby shrieks theatrically, in key with the band’s song. We scurry up the stairs at the edges of the hall. We bang our paper bags against the railing and each other, the corners jabbing into strangers’ thighs and hands. A panel of the ceiling shatters, scattering glass into the pool, and we join the shrieking baby’s chorus. The band picks up their instruments and stuffs them into their cases, producing a cacophony of discordant notes.

We stampede towards the mall’s exit. Lines of held hands form between families and friends, creating a net that enmeshes the unaccompanied. We fly through the door, spill out into the parking lot, and dive into our cars or taxis. We each play a different song on the radio as we disperse to our homes.