Pacing the aisles of Barnes and Noble, Alexa stared at the crisp spine of each new individual book as she waited for one that would catch her eye. She grabbed each book which created a pile that wouldn’t even be possible to read during the short time she would be home. Eight, nine, ten books piled up when Alexa realized that she needed to stop. She stood up and began walking up and down the aisle, immersed in the summaries of each book she had grabbed, and inhaled the new book smell that she thought was only comparable to the equivalent of freshly cut grass. She took note of every single word on the page as each word further immersed her into her novel’s world.
She took each step, focused yet oblivious to the world around her; however, she began to feel a sense of discomfort that made her squirm as she felt as though someone was watching her. Alexa lifted her eyes for the first time in what felt like hours to stretch when she saw him for the first time. He was only two aisles away as he watched every single step she took and traced her with his eyes. The hairs on her body stood straight up as thoughts began to whirl around her brain like a tornado of ideas of what she should do next. Does she pretend not to see him? Does she grab her father a couple of aisles away? She didn’t have her keys on her as her dad had driven, which also meant no pepper spray. There was no immediate access to a weapon if necessary.
The world teaches girls to be skeptical and aware from a young age, but they aren’t often taught by the world what to do once you have become skeptical and aware. She knows stranger danger isn’t exactly practical. Alexa’s mom had told her to be alert and aware of everything, but today, her oblivion let her be distracted and led into this mess. Alexa pondered what she should do next. What will happen if she makes the wrong decision? So many options but not enough time to make a sound decision as the man in the blue jeans, red t-shirt, and blue ball cap began to mimic each move Alexa made. If she took a step to the right, he followed. If she took a step to the left, he would too. Alexa decided to walk to the end of the aisle, continuing to read the book that was already in her hands simply because she was too nervous to grab another. Her vision was so foggy and her hands so shaky that she didn’t even get the chance to read the summary. She got to the end of the aisle as she still felt his piercing eyes on her back and began briskly walking to find her father at the front of the store in the mystery section, of course. She sarcastically pondered where else he would have gone.
“Dad, a man is following me.” she whispered urgently.
“What do you mean? Are you sure? I’m sure you’re just being paranoid” he remarked.
Suddenly, the suspiciously plainly dressed man showed up at the end of the aisle, stopped, and stared at her and her father. He then disappeared, not to be seen again by the two for a while. Their nerves began to subside as they had decided that the man must have left or walked elsewhere as soon as he had seen that Alexa was not alone. The two made the executive decision to sit at the Starbucks only feet away.
After they placed their orders, they sat down to read their books. They then realized the man had resurfaced once again. Alexa’s heart dropped to her stomach as she watched the man get a drink and then proceed to sit directly behind her father, facing her so that they made eye con-tact. She began to shrink back in her seat until she felt as invisible as if she were watching a horror movie at the theatre. She continuously tapped her father from across the table, and she mouthed the words “he is behind you” in such a way so that the man did not notice.
Her father turned around to the man and said emphatically, “Sir, do you have a problem?”
Alexa’s heart sank to the pit of her stomach as she was both embarrassed and scared of what would happen next. The man stood up and quickly walked away, knowing that they had caught him. As soon as the man was far enough away, the two took off for the car in complete disregard of what they should’ve been doing. They could have told the police, the store manager, or anyone else, but they chose to save themselves. It was that day that Alexa indeed recognized how different it must be to be a man. The power. The careless freedom. The ignorant bliss. She would never have dared to speak up to the man like that, but her father did. He had the privilege of being able to be confrontational without consequence. A privilege she would never be able to have herself. She opened her car door, sat down in silence, unabatingly shaking while her father started the car, reversed, and drove home— all as if none of it had ever happened.