Valentine's Day items have been on the shelves since approximately the day after Christmas, and I've generally steered my cart right on past until last night when I was at the store and feeling extra lovey about my sweet Tom and wanted to see if there might be a little something to bring home to make him smile.
My mind was kind of wrapped up browsing bubble gum scented heartshaped items we don't need when a guy with a bit of a gangster-ish look came into the aisle and said "hi," to which I replied "hi." Next he asked me what I was going to buy him, and even though I'm sure he was joking, it was kind of weird, so I replied something about "sorry, nothing this year," and I started heading out of the aisle now heavy with the weight of awkward and uncomfortable. As I headed out of of the short but claustrophobically narrow aisle, his friend appeared in front of my cart, grabbed hold of the corner held onto it just long enough to further add to the uncomfortable atmosphere going on in the aisle and to creep me completely the hell out before he let go. It was probably nothing, but I'm glad I left the aisle.
A few minutes later they appeared where I was again and joked about me following them. I smiled weakly while I wanted to throw up in my mouth because I just felt so very much not at ease. It was probably nothing, but I'm glad I didn't engage them in chat.
I wandered around the store a bit more, but when I realized that I was spending too much energy wondering if they were going to appear again, I decided that I'd just call it done, check out and leave. It probably saved me a few bucks anyway by doing so. I paid for my less than 20 items, smiled at the guy at the door who makes sure you aren't stealing anything and started to walk out the door, except that there they were. The same two guys, just standing there talking to one another all nonchalantly. It was probably nothing, but I'm glad I didn't walk out the door.
I called Tom immediately and let him know what was going on and that I just didn't feel safe. He offered to drive over there just to walk me out safely, but I wanted to give it some time. I watched moms with their babies cruising right on past and thought it was maybe kind of silly of me to hang back in fear. These guys hadn't talked to them, though, hadn't made them feel afraid of Very Bad Things happening. I wouldn't have thought twice about it either in their shoes. And so I waited. I waited and watched as tons of people left and plenty more came in. I waited and watched until I saw the two guys finally leave. Then I waited just a bit more until a big and strong looking man with just one small plastic bag was headed out, hoping he'd get involved if need be, and I kept my eyes peeled while I made a beeline to my car. It was probably nothing, but I'm glad I erred on the side of caution.
Maybe I'm over paranoid after that one time that I'm sure wasn't just probably nothing. It's not like I live in complete fear and never leave my house, but maybe I think about scary possibilities more than some people and try to listen to my gut in defense of those possibilities. I appreciate good men who do things like literally going out of their way, such as sometimes crossing over to the other side of the parking lot row instead of right behind a woman just to help a woman feel more at ease, but I'm not sure how many most guys think of little actions like this, and I wonder how many women even notice. I notice, and it makes my life easier. Looking thuggish and acting creepy and then loitering just outside when I'm about to exit is the opposite of that. And I notice. It was probably nothing, but Tom was glad for my gift of being cautious more than something heartshaped from the Valentine's Day aisle (well, he doesn't know they also had his favorite chocolates in that aisle - still, I bet he'd pick me safe in his arms than those melting in his belly, right Tom?).
I brought me home, and Tom smiled.