We used to go to the mall and buy huge soft pretzels, with little cups of American cheese to dunk the pieces in. Lori, stick straight stick slender, proud of her tanned kneecaps. Karen with her round freckled moon face, Gwen with the overbite she could stick her thumb behind with her teeth clamped. She could have modeled for Matt Groening.
Spring break, summer break, winter afternoons lumpy with clouds. The mall with its “cobblestone” floors and fake lampposts to add character. Sweltering in the heat under layers of clothes—none of us drove, so we walked or took the bus. Shivering and sunburned in halter tops and cutoffs rolled up our thighs.
The pretzels were expensive, hard on our pocketbooks. And they went so fast in their hot salty cheesy chewiness. But one would do for a light lunch or heavy snack. We’d sit on the low walls of the greenery islands, licking salt and cheese from our fingers as we consumed them, struggling with our timing. Fast enough to enjoy them while they were hot, but slow enough to make them last a little longer.
Sometimes I think everything would be all right if I could just have a pretzel like that again. But they taste different now. And the mall has lost its infinite realm of possibilities.