So I’m at the drugstore to pick up a couple of things, post-workday, post-workout, pre-shower, etc. As I’m crossing from one aisle into another, in my peripheral vision I see a man turn in my direction and say something. There’s no one else around right at that moment, but I ignore him and head to where I’m heading. A minute later he’s caught up with me. He’s about fifty, in work clothes, tired, Mexican. He says, in a voice too low and too personal for my liking, “¿Andaba de compras?” [“Were you shopping?”]
I stare at him. He’s holding what looks like two cans of body spray or something similar, and he smells like he’s been spraying both of them. Not wanting to engage in Spanish I say, loudly, “What?”
He blinks. “Ah…you…eh…shopping?” Before I can say anything he’s seen that I understood the English. “Ahora sí,” [“Oh, now,”] he says. I say, “Yes. I am shopping,” and continue to stare.
He starts trying to explain himself in English, but doesn’t have enough of it to do the job. There are indeterminate, languageless noises and somewhere in there I can make out the English word “price.” And after a minute he gestures to the cans. There are other people in the store he could have asked. Other, more obviously Spanish-speaking people. But he didn’t pick them. And here’s the thing: the mumblings about price? That’s not what he’s after. He’s lying. I don’t know what his ruse is, but it’s 100% shady. I can feel he’s lying like it’s something physical.
In white-girl mode, I say, “I don’t work here.” And stare at him until he starts to move away from me. As I move through the store, I see him tracking me. At one point he begins to try to approach me again, and then thinks better of it and turns away. I watch for him, peripherally and in the store mirrors, until I know he’s made his exit. And then I pay and go to my car with all senses on high alert. Because you never know. Women have been killed for less. And that’s our reality.