I’m sitting on the bench next to the front door of the store. I don’t feel like a criminal.
Mo texted and asked me to bring her jacket over. She’s in the cold room, she wrote. Just knock on the door. I don’t know where the cold room is. And I have a phobia about knocking on doors. So I wrote back and asked her to meet me outside. I’m waiting for her.
I look up. The security guard is standing next to me.
“What are you doing?” he asks. I explain I’m waiting for my wife. Customer or employee? I just sort of mumble something. I’m not big on conversation, and I don’t see how it matters much.
Yeah, women, he says. We spend a lot of time waiting. I pretend to laugh and wait for him to walk away. He doesn’t.
“So what exactly are you doing again?” he asks. I describe something about a door and a cold room and a jacket. It doesn’t even make sense to me. I hear Arlo Guthrie in my head reciting “Alice’s Restaurant.” “I didn’t get nothing and they made me pick up the garbage.”
I realize how stupid this is. He knows Mo. She’s just around the corner. I could just tell him to come with me and we could march in together. But I don’t. Just leave me alone. I’m a 58-year-old gainfully employed citizen who’s never committed a crime in his life other than that time I removed the label from the pillow. I am not robbing your store. I’m just shy. PLEASE GO AWAY!!!!
I sit. He stands. It’s unbearable. OK YOU GOT ME I’M IN A SCHEME TO STEAL CHICLETS TO SMUGGLE ACROSS THE BORDER!!! THERE ARE YOU HAPPY NOW???
But, of course, I say nothing. He continues to stand too close to me. This will not end well.
Finally, I crack. I walk inside, go around the corner, find the cold room, knock on the door, give Mo her jacket. I tell her my story, and she comes outside with me to punch the guy out. But he’s gone.
Before I leave, I grab her car to fill it with gas at the store’s station on the corner. She’s been driving on empty since the Carter administration. And, of course, there he is.
“I guess you found her,” he says, staring at me. I just shrug and fill the car. He watches me the entire time.
I drive back over and switch cars again, which probably will cause a ban for life from the grocery store. Illegally putting gas in cars. I am a desperado.
As I drive off, he’s still watching me. I feel like a criminal.
I can’t breathe.