I get a text from a friend asking if I wanted to go to the mall and out to Arigato for dinner. Joy to the world!
I arrive at the mall, park, and text her to see where she is. No reply. Okay, no problem-o. Guess I’ll head on inside. Maybe a few of my friends are around in there, wandering around and browsing the wide selection of shops Kamloops has. Hah. I step out of my Jeep and into a swirling world of snow.
Because earlier warm weather that day, I was only wearing a mesh cardigan, but for whatever reason, I didn’t find the air overly cool. I was in good spirits. My steps felt light, and I was looking up into the sky and smiling to no one in particular. If anyone was watching me, they’d think I was some happy moron. But whatever, I was enjoying myself. Snow stuck to my hair, my face, my clothes. Step, step, twirl in the middle of the road. I reach the door, go through it, and hold it open for the man behind me. I smile at him. Our eyes lock.
He’s young, only a little older than me. Our height is exact. He has colorless blonde hair, and bleached somber blue-green eyes. He might have been handsome if it weren’t for the way he hunched over, and the way his eyes met mine with abruptness. For that minute I felt something wasn’t right. I continue my smile, and pull away from him. I head for Sears, which is at the end of the mall, with my head held high.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see his black hoodie. Oh, guess he’s going the same direction as I am. I’m not paying attention to where I’m going really, and more concerned with the fact that no one is replying to my texts asking where they are. I notice that I’m almost in Sears and slingshot around. The man does the same. Now I’m a little curious.
Coincidence? What the hell?
I head for the opposite end of our modestly sized mall, turning my head often to glance at passing stores, that way I could see if he was still following me by our reflections in the glass. He is. Close by as well, only a meter away, and almost coming up beside me. I keep my pace causal so he assumes I haven’t noticed him. I walk past Booster Juice and swerve around the back of it. All the while staring down the people who worked there with a small smile. Translation: Fuck guys stop making smoothies and help me. Help me. Help. The man continues to blatantly follow me. He isn’t even trying to hide it, which somehow suggested danger more-so than if he was trying to.
I steal a look back at The Body Shop and consider entering, but I don’t. It makes little sense, but I’m afraid of possibly making eye contact with him again. I shoot straight for The Bay, rapidly thinking of ways I can observe him a little and maybe judge his intentions. Once in the store, I move left towards a random tea cup display. A middle-aged saleswoman approaches me and asks if I need any help. I blurt out, “I’m looking for tea cups without handles.” Wherever that came from, I don’t even know. Her face screws up in confusion. I can only imagine how long this is going to take her.
I scan around my peripheral vision for the man, and almost feel alarmed when I can’t find him. Oh. Eyes latch onto mine. 10 metres away. He keeps his face downcast, but tilts his head slightly to the left. I waste no time in looking back at the teacups. I’m unnerved. I absent-mindedly ramble about how my mom loves teacups without handles. I’m terrified. The saleswoman eventually explains (clearly baffled) to me that they don’t sell anything of the sort and I should check the kitchen store downstairs. I pretend to listen and then ask where the store is, all while keeping an eye on the man as he scuffs back to the store’s entrance. 5 metres away. Waiting for me, and likely listening to me. I thank the woman, and turn to leave. The man copies. I warily keep him in front of me, but he purposefully walks slowly, as if he wants to return to his position behind me. I tread to his left. We walk beside each other as close as friends.
When we reach adjacent to The Body Shop, I break away and bolt inside without warning. One of the women working there asks if I’m looking for anything in particular and offers me a pamphlet on the store’s sales. Not wanting her to bother me, I politely refuse the pamphlet and claim that I am only browsing for facial wash. “Okay, let me know if you need any help!” Cheerful smile exchanges with unsteady smile. She leaves me be. I focus on the products in front of me, pulling a few out and acting as though I am wholly focused on the back label. I glimpse the man standing with his back to me just outside the shop, resting his hands on the railing outside, peering down at the shoppers below. He twists around and rests his eyes on mine again. I hastily break the gaze, my face flushing, then refocus on a facial wash infused with tea tree oil. The man enters the store. Fuck. A saleswoman greets him. “Hey.” This is the first time I’m hearing his voice. It’s low. He retreats almost as soon as he enters, returning to his place along the railing.
I put the facial wash back into it’s snug place on the shelf and stroll out the store, veering right and retracing my steps towards The Bay. I hear the man’s footsteps at first behind me, then a moment later beside me. He matches my gait with a sort of urgency. He wants me to notice him. I’m uncertain. Raw fear overwhelms all else. I know I will regret confronting this man. A dangerous vibe of desperation leaks out of his every action. Before entering the Bay, I jolt to the right. I can’t face him.
I speed down the long hall leading to the washrooms.. The dingy headache-inducing fluorescent lights flickering on at random intervals give me a dim light. Hearing footsteps behind me and now almost in a blind panic, I swing into the women’s washroom, almost knocking over another girl my age. Her friend shoots me a strange look. I don’t apologize, and find a stall to hide in.
I can’t help it. Before I know it, I start crying. Finally one of my friends responds to her phone, and I shoot text after text of my situation. She’s already grabbed a table at the sushi place, and cannot leave or we’ll lose it. I have to get out of the bathroom alone. Almost 30 minutes of me crying and texting and reapplying my makeup pass before I leave my sanctuary. To my relief, he wasn’t waiting outside of the bathroom any longer for me. I sprint for my jeep.
I think if this sort of thing were to happen again, I would be more bold. When you read stories about harassment, you can’t help but think to yourself, “oh, I would be more brave. I wouldn’t react that stupidly.” Then you find yourself in an unexpected situation, and you fail yourself.
Creepy dude, I hope we never ever meet again.