Sunday, October 15, 2023

There's a rumor going around about you

is what this guy said to me the other day. I was walking the dog and had my earbuds in. But I noticed out of the corner of my eye the guy walking up fast behind me. The dog doesn't like that, a stranger moving toward us. I don't like it either. I turned at the corner, figuring the guy would keep walking straight ahead, but instead, he cut across the grass, looking like he had something urgent to say.

Of course, the dog freaked out, lunging, barking. She's what they call "leash aggressive." When she's on a leash, she feels like she's an extension of me. I am her person and she's got to do what she's got to do to protect me. I love this about her. While at the same time, I don't love this. Some of those lunges have nearly pulled me off my feet. 

Anyway, there was urgent-walking-guy, right in front of us. I held up my free hand like a stop sign, explaining that he should stay back because my dog is nervous. 

That's when the guy said there was a rumor going around about me. 

I had one earbud out and was fumbling with the other. "What?" 

"That you've got your hands full." He laughed. 

I laughed in the way that you laugh when you're creeped out and wanting to get the hell away from someone. He laughed again and continued up the street. 

But I was unsettled for days. Replaying the conversation and trying out other possible responses that ranged from letting the dog loose on him to kindly explaining how inappropriate it is to approach women you don't know so you can say something weird. 

Cut to, I ran into him again. 

I was just home from work and literally had my hands full. Library books I'd checked out, my water bottle, my purse. And there he was, walking fast down the street, and almost at the sidewalk in front of my house. I decided not to make eye contact with him. 

But then, just as I neared my front door, he speed-walked across my yard. The only thing that stopped him from getting in my face was the giant patch of sunflowers I've got planted.

This time he laughed and asked me if I'd seen his beer. I glared at him through the sunflowers and told him to get away from me. And then I blurted out that familiar line well known to grouchy older people everywhere. "I mean it. Get off my lawn!"

He walked off mumbling about how he was only joking.

I did a little detective work and found out from a neighbor that he lives nearby. She thinks he might have dementia. "Did he tell you there was a rumor going around about you?" she asked, and I immediately felt sad and sorry for the guy. While at the same time wishing he wouldn't walk directly toward me ever again. 

I went to the farmer's market down the street. On the way back I had my hands full with bags of vegetables. One bag with two pumpkins, small ones, because that was all I could realistically carry. I hadn't paid for them yet. After I'd picked them out, the farmer said he didn't take credit cards. I told him I lived five minutes away and would run home and get my checkbook and come right back. 

I could feel him sizing me up. Was I the type of person who would take pumpkins and come back to pay for them?

I was. I am. But how could he know that? 

He let me take the pumpkins, and as I rushed toward home, I saw the urgent-walking-guy again, walking urgently toward me. I crossed the street and he hurried along without looking at me. Honestly, I think he may have been a little afraid of me. 

But there we were, both urgently on our way, him to presumably strike up odd conversations with strangers, and me to make good on my promise. 

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