One thing that drives me crazy is people standing too close to me in public spaces. I could feel eyes on me, and someone making a concentrated effort to stand nearby in the grocery aisle. I preferred to remain in my own little world, the intrusion unwelcome, forcing me to pull out of my reverie in order to monitor the activity around me a little more carefully. Sort of like when you turn the music off on a long run when someone begins to run just back from you. The earphones stay in, but the music goes away in order to be aware.
It's not until I am standing at the wall of men's razorblades, trying to get everything on my half of the list and why the hell am I buying these when no one ever shaves anyway? that I smell the familiar scent of Light Blue and I know it's the Devil. I turn and ask him which razorblades he buys now and he reminds me he is still using the straight razor.
Oh yes, I'm sure in the throes of something or other I remember it being held to my throat but for now I pretend I didn't hear him and turn to finish my shopping and get the hell out of this store where no one blinks at paying $9.99 for Artisan baked bread that was stale yesterday and today should be on sale but isn't, and whoever chokes it back dry will remark on how rustic and wholesome it is while I sit in the corner eating a sandwich made with Wonderbread, full of enough preservatives to keep it fresh until I'm back in diapers.
But he follows me. Nightmares last night, Bridget?
People are staring.
Always, I shoot back over my shoulder. Especially if I've spent time with you beforehand.
He scowls and rushes to keep up with me. I put mustard in the cart. Then Tabasco sauce. I thought I was quite benign the other day, Bridget.
Raisin Bran. No, actually you weren't. You start out steadily then pick up speed as you go downhill. I stare pointedly at him over a container of coffee. You poked me full of holes and then stood back and watched me bleed out. You weren't harmless. It's almost worse that way.
He looks spooked and chagrined that I would even recognize his methods of weakening my will. As if we need to do that sort of thing with words.
I put a box of tea in the cart and then take it out, trading it for a different one. I am losing my cool quickly now. I just want to finish and get away from his words for once when he reaches out and stops me. I flinch and drop the tea on the floor and everyone turns to stare at us once anew. I rip my arm back in close. Leave me alone!
A familiar hand slides around my neck from behind and I exhale shakily. Ben reaches around me, tossing some paper and string flesh-presents into the cart. (Meat Christmas! he always says when he's been to the butcher. Have you been a good little carnivore, Bridget? He'll say and I'll laugh til I snort water out my nose.)
What were you going to say that you couldn't wait and tell her at home? Ben is waiting for an actual answer this morning. Ben's on the warpath. Ben has just about had enough and oh, boy, they're all in for a big surprise now.
To his credit Caleb changes the subject. I was going to tell her she could leave me a list and I could have the groceries delivered. I usually do that for myself and if it would make things easier for everyone we could pool our resources and have one big delivery each week.
We'll think about it. Ben smashes a kiss against the side of my head so hard I almost fall over but I'm holding on to the cart, and he releases my neck and takes over steering. We finished? I nod and he heads for the checkouts. People politely pretended they aren't watching every move we make and I duck my head and follow him quickly, leaving Caleb standing in the breakfast aisle.
Caleb said my name once before I was too far away to hear him and I stopped moving just long enough for Ben to let go of the cart and have to come back and grab me and then I was put in the truck and we were gone.