Crying in a Mall | Adriene Lilly

I’m coming down an escalator in a shopping mall in Beijing when I see a girl crying on the black sofa in the waiting area of a Cantonese restaurant. She is blotting her eyes with a tissue. Her makeup isn’t running at all. Not a single tear, only sobs. She’s wearing a blue dress with white dots and holding a blue phone to her ear. I wonder if she planned this ensemble. I can’t understand what she is saying into the phone, partly because I don’t speak Chinese and partly because she is whispering through stunted tears.

Earlier that day I’d seen the crying girl with the blue dress with white dots and a blue phone, but, earlier that day she hadn’t been crying and neither of us had been in a mall. I saw here after following a dog down a road I didn’t know. The dog and I had both been waiting for a cross walk sign to change. He was standing in a cluster of Chinese business men who were also waiting for the sign to change. When it changed, he walked across. If he’d had a briefcase I would have mistaken him for a business man.

I followed him for six blocks. He stopped at a bus stop and if he’d had any money I would have mistaken him for a passenger waiting for the bus. For a moment I was genuinely scared that I was going to end up to following this business man dog onto a bus. The bus came and he didn’t get on. Instead he started putting the moves on another dog that was standing near by. When I realized that he was just a dog looking to go home with other dogs I turned around and walked six blocks back to my apartment. That’s when I saw the girl who- wasn’t crying at that time, but was crying now- in her blue dress with white dots and a blue phone. She was walking towards the bus stop where I had left the dog, she looked happy.

I think about this dog and this girl as the escalator glides me gently past the Cantonese restaurant. I don’t stop to wonder why she is crying and I don’t think about where she is going. I just stand there and let myself slip away.


A graduate of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Adriene Lilly now lives and works as a teacher in Guizhou, China. She spends her time studying, writing and the occasional holiday seeking out the most remote parts of the internet.

About TOSKA

Nonfiction for the restless soul. Published online quarterly.

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