Like most people, I am susceptible to crippling bouts of paranoia… the dramatic, horror-film type where you’re in the house by yourself, but you can hear strange noises. A passing policeman gives you a thoughtful stare as if to say: “Ah, yes, I know all about YOU.” You’re in the middle of a crowded shop, yet the hairs on your neck are standing up in primal awareness. You turn around and YES, there’s someone staring at you…
I have a particular sort of paranoia. I was walking to the bank when I passed this man I HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE IN MY LIFE and he looked at me. I wasn’t wearing anything out of the ordinary, or gibbering and waving my arms around, as I have been known to do. He didn’t look at me in a man appraising a woman way – disappointment that way would lie, as I am nothing special and dress somewhat nondescriptly… but HE LOOKED AT ME.
I dismissed my paranoia as a temporary aberration and carried on. I went shopping with my mother, and as we rounded the corner into the next aisle of the supermarket THE MAN was there, examining the reduced items with extreme interest. Our eyes met as he clutched a marked-down mackerel and I fled in fear, leaving my mother shouting: “Come back! I haven’t looked at the wasabi/pickled gherkins/chestnut purée yet!”
I met my son in town later. I saw THE MAN standing over the same DVD section we wanted to look at. My palms broke out in a clammy sweat and I said nonchalantly to my son: “Oh, let’s go somewhere else, I’m sure I’ve seen it cheaper there…”
That day, I saw THE MAN a total of seven times. He looked at me. He didn’t make any menacing overtures, or even look at me threateningly, although I must confess when I saw him on the bus home, he did look somewhat puzzled as I scrambled from my seat and demanded to be let off the bus IMMEDIATELY.
I haven’t seen him since.
I often see people I’ve never seen before anything up to ten times in one day and then never see them again. Is there a whole gang of these nameless individuals out there, just waiting to… to… LOOK AT ME??
Think I’m going to bed now. I’ll be safe there…