Proust at the Mall of America

"Albertine wants a Slurpee, a cherry Slurpee. Won't you buy your Albertine a pretty red Slurpee, pretty please?"

Why are we here? Why did I agree to court and love and attempt to please a creature like Albertine, a girlchild who refers to herself in the third person, who seems to find baby talk enchanting, who loves herself the more, the more childishly she acts, even when she sees it disgusts me? We are standing on the sticky downslope of one of the Camp Snoopy pathways, recently sprinkled with a hail of Dip-n-Dots, that miracle of flash freezing that produces droplets of ice cream product. The swell of sound, the shrieking of the carnival riders, the grinding of the metal machinery, the pulsing of the engines needed to disorient the inner ears of kids and teenagers, the crying of the toddlers and babies who haven't been given exactly what they want the moment they conceived that desire--none of these sounds can drown out the clanging of the cash registers in every corner of this megalopolis of commerce. I long for my sensory deprivation chamber in my cork-lined room, the quietude of my soul becalmed at home. But the boredom I encounter there, once fortified against the onslaughts of others and their non-sensical desires, is as a living death. Albertine's face in one-quarter profile turned toward the LogJam ride will come back to haunt me then, the slight upcurve of her lip, the width of her exquisite brow, will beat a tattoo on my heart. How can I leave her? How can I allow any other man, beasts that I know them to be, to buy her a cherry Slurpee? I can not. Nor can I allow any other man to clip Subway coupons from the PennySaver for her. No, indeed. I can not. The universe will not allow it. Ah, Albertine, my love . . .