Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Two Minutes


I'm walking out of Ralph's and the automatic sliding doors are wide open, their sensors being triggered by a train of shopping carts, one tucked into the other. Behind the mass of metal there stands a Ralph's employee, young, with thinning hair and a soft face. He is clad in a glowing orange-yellow vest, the kind they wear while on cart patrol.

He's trying to talk to me over the carts, but he's nervous, distracted, his attention pulled by something I can't see.

"What?" I ask. He starts to point at something, shifting from foot to foot. 

"I don't understand," I say walking closer.

"I'm scared of him," he says, nearly whispering, prying his hands apart and gesturing generally toward the carts. I stop walking and wonder if this guy has just lost his mind and now sees dark demons in broad daylight.

"What?" I ask again. The sliding doors are still open and shoppers come and go around us. I wonder, with two cold cartons of almond milk in my arms (my reusable bag in the car as usual), why me, why not one of them? 

"There." He points passionately, specifically now, so I follow his finger and find a tiny bumble bee resting on one of the carts.

"Oh, it's a bumble bee," I say relieved, as if naming his demon will render it powerless. I half expect him to say, "Oh right, a bumble bee, I'm all good, never mind." I half expect this because I'm not afraid, because bumble bees are one of the only insects I'm not scared of.

I swat at the bee from across the carts, a good effort, and see it lift off, so I start to walk away.  

"He's still there," he yells after me. I turn back and see he is still dancing nervously, kneading his hands. I imagine the sweat between his palms and likely beading on his brow. I imagine the constriction in his chest, perhaps prickling in his cheeks, as his breath shallows and he can't get himself to take in air. I imagine all of the things that happen to me when I'm afraid. 

Not long ago I was walking through this same parking lot and a car rolled up along side me. I assumed it was looking for parking and scooted farther to one side. But as I continued, the car slowed, keeping pace with me. I kept moving, throwing sharp glances through the driver's darkened window in an attempt to say, 'Don't think I'm unaware, I can see you." Which I couldn't. I slowed slightly and so did he. I quickened my step and the car sped up. There were people in the parking lot, I could have called out to someone, but it was hard enough to breathe and walk and figure out when and where to run. Suddenly the driver's window descended and reflexively, I turned and looked. The man behind the wheel stared at me. No words or weapons, just the intrusion and intimidation of his stare. I glared back but by then I was running out of road. The cross street was coming and I'd have to decide which way to turn, so I slowed completely until I stopped, and he slowed until he stopped. 

"WHAT?!" I screamed, completely facing him as he sat in his car. He said nothing, just gave me a sliver of a smile. And then sped off. 

"I can't move these," the Ralph's employee exclaims to me, to everyone, to the universe. How many minutes have passed since he first called for help? Two maybe? How many minutes did that car trail me? Two. Maybe.   

I hurry around to the other side of his shopping carts and shoo the bumble bee away. I keep shooing and keep shooing until I hear him say a quiet thanks and the sound of carts clattering by. The automatic sliding doors finally slide shut as customers come and go.