Friday, August 28, 2009
We decided to acquaint ourselves with the new neighbourhood, and we had, anyhow, nearly run out of milk. So we set off, at twilight, on foot, to the supermarket.
As we drew close to a crosswalk there appeared before us a man, elderly, with a rather distinct head of hair.
It struck me as peculiar- he was all of a sudden striding in the very same direction as Spouse and I, yet I was certain he had not been in front of us moments before.
He kept walking, through the red light and to the other side; we waited for our turn.
After a moment or two he stopped, turned around and gave us a long, hard stare that I could not fathom.
Then, seeing that I saw, he quickly turned, slid up the street, and feigned great interest in the next building, which happened to be a gym that was closed for the evening. He looked at the building, and paused beside it, and examined it carefully, as though he might venture inside.
His steps were jittery, and I had the impression that he wished to turn around and look at us again. I could not think why.
I said to Spouse, "he looks like he's watching us."
"Strange," replied Spouse in a whisper.
After a spell the fellow must have vanished again down a side street, or else I simply forgot about him; we somehow reached the supermarket without giving the strange character another thought.
It was, by then, about half past ten at night.
We collected the few things we needed and waited in line at the checkout. That was when I felt a disturbance on the nape of my neck. A customer was idling close enough that I could feel the presence.
Still, I thought, we're in a new place, and people come here from all over the world with their different habits and ideas about personal space.
So I let it go. But just the same, I stole a fairly reasonable glance at the customer who was applying pressure to my back.
He carried only a bunch of bananas, which I considered an odd purchase at such an hour. Hardly was it what I would call an emergency item, worth venturing into the evening for.
I got a terrible shock when I recognised him and his hair.
"Spouse," I whispered, "look."
Spouse looked. "Yes," he nodded. "I see."
Then Spouse saw the fruit, frowned, and evidently thought the same about the acquisition of bananas at night.
We both wondered, silently, how our new friend had reached the store, or how he had arrived at the same checkout to end up one step behind us.
"I think," I said under my breath, "it's not a coincidence. We should run the moment the cashier gives you your receipt."
"Or we could go very slowly," hissed Spouse, "and see what happens."
"We don't want to find out what happens. I'm pretty sure it's not an accident. We might be stuck here. We don't want him to follow us home."
Spouse nodded again.
We braced ourselves.
"But," I added as our purchases were swept into packets, "be ready for him to drop the fruit and change his mind when he sees us running. I somehow don't think he wants bananas."
Spouse accepted the receipt, returned his wallet to his pocket, and gathered the bags.
Then we fled. We ran all the way home, bags flying and colliding with our legs, and we gave the fellow no chance to work out what on earth had happened or in which apartment we lived.
It might have been all perfectly innocent; but we got, nevertheless, a good jog out of the expedition.
I myself still strongly suspect that those bananas were returned to the shelf after we tore out of there and left a bewildered stalker to drift home, curl up with his Stalking Manual, and wonder where he had gone wrong.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 10:44 AM