My heels clicked softly against the linoleum floor of the grocery store. As I breezed around the corner of an aisle, a middle aged man let out a low whistle. I grated my teeth and kept walking. Geez dude, at least wait until I’m out of earshot… I spotted a woman in a red associates shirt and asked her where I could find the lint rollers. She directed me across the store and assured I could find them by the cleaning supplies. Well, the lint rollers weren’t easy to find, so I asked an elderly associate in the cleaning aisle. Imagine my surprise when a voice came from behind me,
“Oh, they’re in the next aisle. Here look…”
I turned to see the man who had whistled at me minutes before. He was wearing a green jacket and a brown cap. I really didn’t want to accept his help, but the associate didn’t seem to know where the lint rollers were, and I was in a hurry to get home after a long day. I hesitantly followed him around the corner. I thanked him with very little politeness and made a beeline for the lint rollers. He puffed out his chest,
“No problem, beautiful….you know, I like your style.”
“Thanks,” I muttered. I clenched my jaw and continued to compare prices. As he wheeled his cart down the aisle I could feel the threads inside my shoulders loosen – I hadn’t realized how tense I’d been. Then his voice cut the air again – my shoulders tightened like rubber bands.
“Ya got a name, gorgeous?” Really?!? Are you freaking kidding me? GO AWAY!
“Faith,” I said curtly, not looking away from the shelf.
“…Ya got a number???”
I straightened up and turned to face him. “Yes, but I don’t give it out,” I stated matter-of-factly.
“Oh, I see…well, if I left mine with you is there any way you might…”
I cut him off, “Look, man, you’d be best off talking to my Daddy. Yes, I’m still that young. Ok? Like, I’m definitely below your age range.” I scrunched my brows trying to soften the blow.
He backed off, “Oh, alright. I understand.”
We both nodded and went about our business. I waited an extra minute to make sure he was gone. Then I peeked around the corner. Dang it he was standing in the freezer area with his back to me. I slipped by and headed towards the candy aisle where my buddy was working. I walked up and poked him,
“Dude, the weirdest thing just happened.” I told him what had just occurred and he laughed at me. I explained that I was stalling because I didn’t want to risk walking by the man and giving him another opportunity to talk to me. After a few minutes (when I was sure it was safe), I headed to my usual check out line. When the registers came into view, I froze dead in my tracks. There he was…in the fast check out – exactly where I was headed. I slowly back tracked and ducked behind a family that was selecting ice cream. I stood there in the freezer aisle trying to figure out what to do. I think the family gave me a funny look, but that part is blurry. Just go check out, and stop being so silly. It’s just a random man. What’s the big deal? I couldn’t figure out why this was such a big deal to me. It’s not like I hadn’t been followed through that store before; in fact, it wasn’t even the first time a guy had been obnoxiously persistent. There was something different about this one – the normal age is early to mid 20s, with an occasional late 20s or early 30s. This man was well over 35. It wasn’t just his age though – there was something unsettling about that him that I couldn’t put my finger on. My eyes followed the man as he made his way towards the exit. I took a deep breath and hurried to the closest register. I quickly unloaded my arms onto the conveyor belt and eyed the doors. My breath caught – there he was…standing a few inches outside the automatic doors. He had his back to me again as he stood there looking at his phone. chill out, he’s probably just responding to a text or something. I fidgeted and turned my body away…trying pathetically to hide my face. I had forgotten to place a separator between my groceries and the man in front of me. The cashier accidentally scanned one of my items before we stopped him. I stared at doors. As people passed through them, the man just stood there…motionless. The back of my neck prickled. The man in front of me paid and left. I shuffled impatiently as my items were scanned. The seconds seemed to pass in slow motion. My eyes stayed glued to the man in the green jacket.
“Tired?” I jumped a little and glanced up to see the clerk smiling warmly at me. I’d seen him a couple of times before – he was young and very polite.
“No. Well, yes. Sorry, I’m in my own little world.”
“You ok?” he prompted.
“Uh-huh. There was just this guy following me and I was just hoping he wouldn’t see me. He’s been standing by the door there…” I nodded towards the doors – I felt the blood drain from my face…the man was gone. “At least, he was…He’s gone now. I mean, he seems to be.” I swallowed hard. “I’m not entirely sure he’s really gone though…”
He leaned forward, “Do you want to have someone walk you out?”
“Yeah, I was just about to ask that…I’ll have my buddy, Jay, do it.” He nodded and went on to assure me that they have cameras everywhere and the store is under surveillance at all times. He informed me that if I ever felt unsafe, I could just tell an associate and they would walk me out. I thanked him sincerely and walked to another register where my friend was standing. I slipped my hand into the crease of his forearm and pulled slightly. He spun around.
“Hey girl! What’s up???” A smile plastered his face.
“Hey man, you’re walking me out.”
“Yes.” I tugged lightly on his arm and turned towards the exit. Once he fell into step with me, I let my arm drop.
“What’s going on?” he looked into my eyes with concern.
“Nothing I hope. There was just this man following me and I got the feeling he might be waiting outside. It’s probably nothing though. I just wanted to play it safe,” I lied. I knew the man would be waiting for me. Every alarm in my body was going off.
“Oh gotcha. Yeah, I know what you’re sayin. I’ve actually been in a similar situation before…” As we neared the exit, I felt myself leaning closer to Jay. I don’t normally walk so close to guys – the situation had me acting like a little girl. I tensed as we stepped through the doors. Here was the moment of truth – time to see if my instincts were right or if I was paranoid. I kept my head straight and peeked out of the corner of my eye – there he was. The man in the green jacket stood in the shadows. He opened his mouth and stepped forward. I felt my skin go cold. He stopped when he saw Jay. I felt like a frightened rabbit. This was the act of a lifetime. Ignore him, Faith. C’mon girl. Don’t let him know you’ve seen him. Just keep moving. Don’t freeze up. Just do something! Adrenaline pulsed through my veins. I knew my face was about to be a dead giveaway, so I channeled my energy and thought quick. I felt my eyes tightening and forced a smile. I turned my body towards Jay and exclaimed,
“A GIRL?!? No way! Tell me more!” I gestured elaborately prompting him to continue.
He smiled, “Yeah, a girl.”
I giggled and leaned in to whisper playfully, “Bro, you been stalked by a lady?”
“Yeah,” he chuckled. He lowered his voice? “Is he there?” I nodded. “Is he watching us?”
I waved my arms in excitement and exclaimed, “Yes. of course, silly!” I pretended to be entirely absorbed in this engaging conversation.
When I was sure we were out of earshot, I skipped ahead of Jay and spun around. I spoke quickly and quietly through a huge fake smile, “Ok as soon as we get to my car, I’m going to hug you. Make a show of it, because he’s still watching. Sound good?” Jay nodded. We hugged, and I thanked him.
“No problem. That’s creepy. Is he still there?”
We said goodnight and Jay headed back towards the store. I started my car with shaking hands and drove home.
Just another tale of a modern woman…