We went to the store, just me and my youngest, a few days ago. It was packed. The university was out for summer, so people were scrambling for party food, booze, and last minute bug-out supplies. It was also full of loud noises.
It wasn’t a big deal anymore, not like the fair. She wasn’t with me, and I was comfortable with that. I seem to have overcome that need for a twisted symbiotic relationship with her. I’m no longer dependant on her to keep me calm. I sure didn’t need her presence reminding me how much of a piece of shit I used to be when I didn’t need calming.
We just got some milk, then I felt like cooking spaghetti this week, so little man and I made for the pasta aisle. I remembered the pallet of tuna we bought at Costco, so I grabbed some tuna helper, too. Making our way towards the end of the aisle, that goofy kid bit my shirt, laughing the whole time. I tickled his neck to release his death grip on Bill Fuckin’ Murray, then I heard a voice behind me.
“Excuse me, can I bother you for a minute?” I turned and saw a woman who looked 10 years younger than the voice that “bothered” me. “I can’t reach those noodles, and you’re really, really tall…”
I got the hint. What I didn’t get is those noodles weren’t only on the top shelf. There were several boxes at her eye level. I grabbed those and handed them to her.
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t even see those! I’m Elizabeth.” I gave her my name in return. Then I realized how unusual it was to give my name to a complete stranger that couldn’t even properly exploit my height.
Shut up, brain. Go with it. She was staring while I was ruminating. My son broke my concentration by throwing a grape.
“He’s adorable! What’s his name?” I was getting a little worried at this point. The baby didn’t care. He extended his hand to shake hers. What a gentleman.
I took a good look at this woman, trying to figure out what she was up to. She had long and gorgeous black hair, and brown eyes. Most likely 5′ 8″. Probably no older than 28. Very fit. She wasn’t wearing makeup, but her face was pristine without it. She looked like a mix of Asian and Hispanic.
She seemed to sense my apprehension, so she didn’t shake my son’s hand. He stuffed another grape in his mouth, then smiled with it between his teeth. He started dancing to his own music. I gave her his name, and told her he was two.
“I’m sorry if I’m forward, but I saw you getting milk and thought you were adorable with your son. You had your hands full with him, so I thought I’d talk to you first.”
I’m still not convinced. Women don’t come up and talk to me anymore. They haven’t done that in over eleven years.
“Your eyes are breathtaking…”
Well, shit. I’m convinced now. My eyes are indeed mesmerizing. I was actually being hit on.
“Well, thank you for that. It was nice to meet you, Elizabeth,” I said as I gripped the shopping cart and walked away. Dumbass!
Eleven years and three months. That was the last time an interested woman initiated conversation with me. For eleven years and two months of that time, I was with the love of my life. Out of that, five years were spent as a prisoner in my own mind, and the years following, I’ve been learning how to get free. I’ve been broken for too long. It’s time to end that.
I may be an unemployed father of three with PTSD. I may have an unhealthy case of cognitive dissonance that makes me overprotective of my kids. I may have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow to discuss that behavior.
I’ve been working on myself a lot lately. I’m losing weight with little effort. I’m exercising every morning. I’m growing a nicely-groomed beard. I’m sleeping better. I actually have goals that are attainable right now. All this is doing wonders for my self-esteem.
If you’re reading this, Elizabeth, I’m interested.