I have to say, it's not a feeling I'm used to, nor is it one I like experiencing. I grew up in a town where I could ride my bike at midnight and not worry about being hurt by anyone but myself. When I went to college, I learned caution, albeit resentfully, because I knew that I could be hurt, but I was never fearful.
When Isaac was born, I experienced some fear because I thought he might stop breathing at any second (SIDS really freaked me out). I guess I could say I was fearful then, but it wasn't that skin-crawling, look over your shoulder every second kind of fear.
We live in a pretty safe city. I mean, there are areas I won't go at night, but I think it's actually safer than the city we moved here from. However, tonight I experienced a sensation that I've never before known, and hope to never know again. It's the fear brought on by somehow knowing that you are in danger.
I had Isaac with me when I stopped to the grocery store that we go to frequently. It's in a decent part of town, lots of traffic, no crime that I know of. I take Isaac into the entry way and am in the process of putting him into the cart when a man comes in right behind me. No big deal, it is a grocery store. The many was VERY friendly, saying, "Hi! How are you?"
My first thought was, "Do I know this man? He seems to know me." Then, I noticed his appearance. Shoulder length black hair (dyed), ankle length black trenchcoat, black pants, black shirt, black workboots. Very Goth, which you might expect from a teenager, but this guy was at least older than me (so, over 30).
Now, these two things in no way would have alerted me to danger, but they did put him on my radar.
So, I had one item to pick up, and so wasn't planning on staying long. It took me a little while to find the frozen fish fillets, but in the course of maybe 15-20 minutes in this store, I saw this guy FOUR TIMES. And each time he looked directly at me and smiled really big at me. Just like he knew me from somewhere, but I'm telling you, I DID NOT KNOW THIS GUY.
By this time, I'm feeling very unsettled and nervous, and have started watching for this guy. I see him go towards the back of the store, and so head for the check-out line immediately. I'm thinking if he gets in line when I do, I'm asking one of the bag boys to walk me out (something I have never felt the need to do, anywhere). I get in line, and not five seconds have passed before he gets in another line, but positioned so that he'd check out at the same time as me. That's when it hits me: fear. I hate it, but I know that something is not right, and I feel as if I am being targeted.
I explain the situation to the cashier, who is very understanding. I'm so nervous that I forget how to work the debit machine. She actually has to walk me through it. So, the very nice bag boy walks me out, and I explain the situation. When we walked away from the cashier, I noticed the Goth guy was just paying. I kept glancing back and checking for him as we walked to my car(so much that the nice bag boy told me not to worry about him), but you know, I never saw him walk back out. And for some reason, that seemed to cement my fears even more.
The feeling of dread that filled me in that store is indescribable. It was like a premonition of sorts, I guess. I truly felt as if I was being profiled: woman (check), alone (check), vunerable with small child (check). I couldn't have run anywhere with Isaac in my arms. Yeah, I hate feeling fear.