This mall is too big for the both of us

They say SM Megamall is, from end to end, a kilometer long. As a kid, I believed that, since whenever we go shopping there - the rare occasion, just before the holiday rush - I get slightly cranky because my feet and tired and there weren't many benches back then. I believed it so much that I used that fact sparingly in conversations, just so I can look like a smartie.

In hindsight, it's a wrong assertion. The mall isn't a kilometer long - those Metro Manila maps that are drawn to scale say so - but I think that the mall's corridors are a kilometer long, if not more. Try walking all six floors from end to end and tell me it doesn't feel like exercise.

I was wrapping up my day yesterday when Gwen sent me a text message. "I'm in SM Megamall," she said. Apparently a friend who had errands to do in the mall dragged her along in exchange for Zagu, and as it turned out, they might watch a movie. To a person like me who's bored and has lots of time to kill, it sounded like an invitation for me to try to find her. Or, as we'd all probably call it, stalk her.

Indeed, it is a challenge. On paper, looking for someone at Megamall is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Or, in my case, it was like Patrick Star looking for a light bulb to save Roger's life: you're facing a mountain of them, but you proceed to grab the one attached to an electrical source anyway. Imagine digging through six floors (in my case, three) of shops, stalls and corridors - in the middle of peak shopping hours - looking for someone who (in theory) doesn't know you're looking for her. Painful is an exaggeration, although it depends on who you are.

"Nasa Zagu kami," she texted me.

Since it's a challenge on my part, I set some ground rules: I will not call her, but I will text her - after all, I need to know whether I'm still looking for someone. The one definite: I will not ask where she is, simply because there are only a few places to look for her: a Zagu stall, or the cinemas on the third floor, provided that she and her friend decide to watch something. Problem is, I couldn't remember where the Zagu stall in the mall is. Oh, right, there is one inside the supermarket, right near the entrance where I'll come from - but I was fairly convinced that there was another Zagu branch elsewhere in the mall. After a quick survey, I started walking.

Turns out I was looking for nothing at all. I went from one end of the mall to the other around, I don't know, four times, maybe five? I went up the fourth floor to search for Zagu in the new electronic mall directories, but it turns up nothing. Maybe it's because it's a stall, I figured, and not an actual shop. Then again, Gwen was giving me those hints - I don't know what to call it, because she certainly wasn't encouraging me to look for her. "Naglalakad lang," she once said, causing me to panic a bit, because suddenly I have five floors to look for. My feet were getting painful and I was regretting wearing my black Deutschland top, because I was getting a little sweaty.

"We're gonna watch Eclipse," she later texted.

That shrinks my choices, then. I rushed up to the third floor - I used the stairs, natch - and wondered which of the mall's twelve cinemas carried the third Twilight movie. Eight of them.

"Nakabili na kami ng ticket. Hint hint."

I was near the escalators, near the entrance to cinemas 7 to 12. I was staring at the ticket booth but I couldn't spot her. Maybe they're on 1 to 6, I figured, so I walked to the other end of the mall to stare at the ticket booth and try to spot her.

"And pumasok na kami. Awww."

"I knew it. Dang, I was at the cinemas already."

"Cinema 9? Were you calling?"

"No, I wasn't. Damn, I'm standing right there!"


I stood right there, staring towards the snack bar, eyeing a bottle of iced tea, fresh from the fridge. It cost me thirty bucks. On the flip side, it ate up a good chunk of my time: I left the mall shortly before seven in the evening, and after thirty minutes of walking aimlessly, I felt pretty primed to go home and lie on my bed.

"That Zagu isn't in the supermarket, right?" I asked Gwen from inside the shuttle.

"It is."

"Dammit. I was there too."


I should've followed my gut, rather than justify everything I'm going to do with terms such as "triangulation". Sure, I might be correct with thoughts of two Zagu branches in the mall - it happens, especially when the place is big, and when a trip from one end to the other entails an exaggerated kilometer of walking - but I should've followed my gut. Sure, she might've been really hard to spot - I always thought she was a bit taller, but she claimed to be "short", "average" and relatively unchaged - but I should've followed my gut.

I had a bad seat on the shuttle. I was squeezed, I was tired, and I felt I absolutely let myself down.

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