I’m playing with a bunch of girlfriends in an outdoor wilderness, an expanse of emptiness, scooped-out and rugged in the midst of the city, sand-floored and vast. there’s a big pile of fallen branches, deadwood, and that’s where we’re playing, bouncing on them balanced like teeter-totters. then we decide to go away, walk across the wasteland and through little camps peope have set up with ragged blankets– there’s a man tucked into one of these makeshift tents, speaking tender spanish to a threadbare dog– and I feel a kick in my gut, shame for our privilege, for playing so blythley in this place while others are homeless and destitute– and then we walk on into the mall. I follow the other girls around for awhile until I’m struck by how much I’m just following– one of them stops to get some snack item and so we all stop, crowded along the counter, and it strikes me that I never would have done that, just stopping without a glance or comment to the others, automatically assuming everyone would stop– I imagine the roles reversed and the others continuing on, oblivious. so I set off on my own, trying to find my way out of the mall– but it seems to go on and on, ingeniously engineered to keep us inside, forever shopping– finally, after first appropriating a book I find lying around, I make my getaway with a bunch of people who are stealing fast cars.
I’m late for a flight, having walked a friend to her gate, so I’m trying to use the automatic check-in machine for the wrong airline, hoping that, like an atm, it’ll be somehow wired in to the rest of the system– but I run into technical difficulties with the machine, which is like a big flatbed scanner– I keep scanning my documents in wrong, and time is slipping away.
I’m hanging out with the girlfriends again in a big bed or row of beds like a slumber party, and we’re all busy filling out college applications– there’s a kind of unstated competition to see who can be most casual about it, and I’m filling out the first part just to establish the file, planning to do the essays later, when I see somebody else’s envelopes all stacked up ready to go and fat with documents– I ask, did you do the whole thing? and she barely looks up, watching tv and doing her nails to say, what? oh, yeah. and I panic, feeling completely behind– and I ask, so did you handwrite the essays? and she says, yup. and then I’m scrambling, shuffling through my documents, looking at all the essay questions and realizing how much work I have to do, how unprepared I am to do it, and how I’ll never mange to get it done here, easily and casually– and how surely she has put in some serious work ahead of time despite trying to make it seem otherwise, as if she barely cares.