I was walking down the frozen food aisle and a man down the aisle met my eyes. I smiled. I always smile if someone meets my eyes. I turned the corner and continued to shop and felt eyes on my back and turned. It was the man. He was again on the same aisle, hovering a few shelves away. I looked up, he looked down.
I turned the corner and continued to shop. I saw the man pass my aisle and then double back, waiting at the end. Waiting and watching, me. I looked at my list. Looked at the shelves. Dawdled. I pulled my cell phone from my purse and put it in my pocket. I looked up again, he was gone. I exhaled.
I walked out of the aisle and there he was again, a few paces behind me. Up and down every aisle, he was there. Just behind me. Waiting at the end of the aisle. Empty handed. He was not shopping. Not shopping for groceries, at least.
On the bread aisle, he approached me, too close. "You again." he said flatly, no smile. Like it was happenstance, like he hadn't been matching my pace for thirty minutes, watching me as I shopped, as I chose food for my family. "What is your name?" I answered, my insides screaming, my hand twitching towards my phone. "Would you like to go somewhere and talk with me?" "Uhh, no thanks. I'm shopping." My heart skipped, my stomach lurched.
I walked quickly to another part of the store, calling Josh as I walked. I hid for a moment and spoke to him in hushed whispers, looking this way and that. I explained, told him that I'd be calling him when I left the store, to keep the phone close. I walked out of my little end cap corner and there he was again, reading a package. I walked briskly to another portion of the store, weaving through aisles, making awkward turns. My heart doing double time. I called Josh again, "He found me, but I think I've lost him again."
I headed to check out, hoping that someone would stand behind me in line, blocking me from view. No one did. As I was checking out, I saw him again. He didn't see me this time. He headed towards an exit, still empty handed, still looking. I thought about asking the clerk to have someone walk me to me car, I thought about blurting out, "A strange man has been following me throughout the store." But I kept quiet. Even as I held my tongue, I wondered how many others had had this same feeling in the pit of their stomach and made the same decision, I wondered how things turned out for them in the end.
I paid for my groceries and headed to the other exit. I called Josh again as I walked through the parking lot, going much further out than necessary in order to avoid nearing the other exit, my heartbeat whooshing in my ears. I loaded the groceries quickly and locked the car. As I drove away, I passed the other exit. There he was, arms crossed, staring at the doors intently, still waiting and watching.