One afternoon last week , after a long day inside with the kids, I put them in the double pram and walked down to Woolies to get a few things. I used to hate pushing the pram round the streets in the early baby days with P. We live in a new estate and back then it was all dust, sun, no trees, no paths, tradies everywhere, no paths and did I mention no paths? P also used to scream like a banshee in the pram so there was that too. These days though the streets are more pleasant, it's cool weather at the moment, and the kids like a jaunt round the burbs as much as the next preschooler. It's more enjoyable all round.
So anyway we went and bought our stuff at Woolies and B fell asleep in the pram so I took the opportunity to pop into the new Dan Murphy's that has opened. How excitement, I mean it's walking distance! I selected an affordable bottle of French bubbles as my inaugural local Dan's purchase and lined up to pay. As I rummaged around in the pram to find my purse, I said to the high vis-wearing guy behind me to go ahead if he wanted to.
"You sure?" he said, as I ferreted around fruitlessly.
"Yes, Yes sure, I'm trying not to wake the baby, go ahead!" I repeated.
There was a bit more of that sort of exchange but he did go ahead, I found my purse, paid and went on my way.
As I walked down the main road outside the shopping centre, I suddenly heard someone beeping as they approached. I turned to look, and could see someone in a 4wd beeping and waving at me as they drove past. I didn't wave back, they went by too quickly, but thought to myself " Oh, who was that? Someone I know?". The car turned off to the right and drove into the distance. I wondered who it had been, maybe the husband of one of my friends? I could see he was wearing a high vis top.
I kept walking closer to home, and crossed into the street leading into our little estate. Suddenly, there he was again, turning into the street in front of me, beeping and waving. I felt embarrassed, like I should recognize him. He pulled up as I walked past.
"WHO IS THAT MUMMY! " P was yelling.
"Someone who thinks they know me darling, they've made a mistake I think! " I told her.
I kept walking, thinking, maybe he was visiting a display home? Was he a neighbour I didn't recognize?
And then he appeared again. He'd turned around, and he'd followed me. He beeped and waved and stopped in the middle of the street.
"Need a lift?" He called. I was still too far away to see his face properly but I remember thinking it looked red, flushed. I half stopped and turned his way. Did he have a hat on? I can't even remember now.
"No thank you!" I smiled and waved politely, still worried he was someone I should recognize.
Then, he smiled, leaned further out of his window and called out , "You single?"
Almost before the words were out of his mouth I'd turned on my heel, practically running, pushing the kids through a cut away in the fence, an easement that leads through to the cul de sac next to my street.
My heart was beating like a thousand drums. Did that just happen?
"WHO WAS THAT MAN MUMMY WHAT WAS HE SAYING?" P yelled again.
"Nobody, darling. He was just saying hello."
I didn't look back. I kept going until I was at the top, almost on my street. My heart was freaking pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest. As I came to the corner I suddenly thought, what if he was there? Could he still see me?
I raced inside and locked the door.
I replayed it over and over. I rang M and told him. I thought of the guy in Dan Murphy's, with the high vis shirt on. Was it him?
I'm still thinking about it, sort of second guessing myself. Going over and over the details in my head.
Maybe he was just being friendly?
But he followed me. In his car. And yelled out his window at me, asked if I was single, in front of my little kids. Who the fuck SAYS that to a strange woman pushing her kids in a double pram?
But maybe I misheard him?
But he still followed me. In his car. He doubled back to find me.
Was he someone I knew?? Maybe someone from the gym? I'd had another weird interaction with a gym dude a while ago...was it him?
No. I saw him three times. I'd have recognized him.
It's weird how at the time my body knew what to do before my mind did. My dumb apologetic second guessing brain wants to think the best of everyone.
M and I laughed about it that night, because, well, you know. I said, maybe he saw me buying the booze with the kids in the pram and thought, now that looks like a single Mum who needs some company!
Which is funny, but also deeply unfunny. Because WTF, dude. Didn't your mother tell you not to follow women in your car?
The next morning I wanted to walk the kids to kindy. So I did, even though that guy scared the living shit out of me. As I walked the streets, I scanned every car for his sand coloured 4wd.
Wasn't there of course.
It feels like a sort of weird dream now, a funny anecdote that I could laugh off. But fuck me, it's this kind of casually sinister shit that women put up with all the time and goes on over and over again . Why? WTF?
Like that time, years ago, when a well dressed middle aged man in a bright red Commodore screamed at me in rage, as I pushed my newborn baby across the road outside the Mater hospital, that I didn't "own the fucking road!!!!!!!". That time, I cried, already fragile. People stood around. Nobody said anything to reassure me. WTF