Bagels, check. I push the cart slowly up the bread and beer aisle, face flushed and feverish.
There’s someone at the end of the row. He’s a huge man, broad-shouldered, beer-bellied, big-handed, barrel-chested. He says something I don’t quite catch. Thoughts in an achy fog, I nod hello and keep walking. He repeats himself. I pause, squinting against the flourescent lights through a headache. Was he asking where to find something?
“You couldn’t hear me, could you?” He smiles.
He steps closer. “I said: ‘You’re a beautiful woman. Are you married?’ ”
I wheel my cart away and toss a firm “Yes – very happily” over my shoulder as I round the corner, feeling annoyance rather than unease. Do squinting eyes and a feverishly flushed face make you look sultry or something? Milk and butter go into the cart. The obnoxious flirt’s not in the checkout area so I get in line. A moment later he emerges from the closest aisle with a single item and gets in line right behind me, once again just a little beyond the border between “standing nearby” and “invading my space”. He’s promoted himself from pest to creep.
While he’s still checking out, I quickly leave the store. It’s after dark, but the parking lot is well-lit and full of people. If he exits and walks toward my car, I have no problem yelling, making a scene, asking others for help, or heading back into the store. It’s better to be wrong and embarrassed than in danger. Thankfully, he only glances in my direction before heading to the Dollar General next door, and no car follows me home.
Carl arrives back from the hospital late in the evening, and I tell him about the man. His jaw tightens. “What a creep…” Then his mouth twitches: “…but a creep with good taste.”
Disclaimer to ease parental heart rates: This was three weeks ago. I haven’t seen him at the store since.