She wondered if people were looking at her. What might they be thinking? They probably didn’t even notice her, but what if they did? It didn’t feel safe here, outside, with so many people around. She wanted to get back into her cozy little home as soon as possible. Just a few groceries and back. Back very fast to safety, ideally. Just not too fast, people would probably think she is weird if she started running for no visible reason. There was sweat on her back, she could feel it, that always happened when she was scared like this. She just had to focus. Groceries. Right. Food for a week, ideally. Maybe a little less, a week's worth sounded like a lot to carry. But she didn’t want to go out too soon again.
She startled heavily and moved out of the way. A middle aged angry man shoved himself past her. She hadn’t noticed she was still standing in the entrance of the supermarket. Okay. Groceries. If she just focused on that she could push the anxiety back and get through this. Vegetables and fruit first. Too many people in this section and too many choices to make with so many people around. No, just focus on the food, ignore the people. What to take? Tomatoes. Apples probably. Her hands were shaking heavily, she desperately hoped she wouldn’t drop anything, but it was inevitable shaking this much. The second apple she grabbed fell to the floor. She quickly went to pick it up but just ended up dropping it 3 more times before it ended up in her basket. Upon getting up she saw a woman almost next to her giving her a highly judging look. She quickly moved away running into an elder woman.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry dear.”, the elderly lady smiled at her.
Her heart was beating so fast she was almost certain she would die at this rate.
She made it to an empty aisle. People were streaming past each end of it but in here it was empty and almost kind of quiet. She could have a few minutes of staring at shelves and calming down. Then she noticed the women that stared at her earlier at the end of the aisle again. Once again giving her that judging look. What did she do wrong? She walked out of the aisle as fast as possible. She just needed to finish this shopping trip quickly. Once she was back home all the danger was over.
She finally made it to the checkout. Things were even more crowded here. She got in line for the self checkout. Too many people. A man moved into the line behind her, getting so close that he touched her back and she could literally feel his breath. She moved forward a little, until there was little space to the person in front of her as well and the guy followed, although not touching her again. Her heart was beating even faster now, she felt dizzy, nauseous and her ears didn’t pick sound anymore. She wanted to sit down but she couldn’t. Bad memories were coming back. What if he…? Focus on food. Focus on Food. Food. Food. It was her turn. She walked to the free self checkout table. She clenched her hands around the edge of the table for a few moments to steady herself a bit. Then she started scanning items, but it was difficult with her hands shaking even more now. People were probably already getting annoyed at her for taking so long. Many items slipped from her hands while she tried to scan them, some multiple times. She took a quick look at the line of people waiting. The judging face was there again looking directly at her, scaring her into dropping more stuff on the way to the scanner. What did she want from her? Did she do anything to that person? She just wanted this to be over, get back home. More shaking but somehow she was still able to put the credit card into the reader. Hopefully she wouldn’t fall over. She wasn’t sure what her card’s code was, what if she put it in wrong too often? She got it right on the third time. Now she had to get out fast, she was annoying everyone else here for way too long already.
She made it outside, sound was returning. The nausea and dizziness was still very strong, too strong. She barely made it to the next bin and spat out a bit of vomit. Gripping her grocery bag tightly, she started making her way towards the tram station. She felt like she was about to pass out, she never wanted to go outside again.
“Hello Ma'am? Would you please come with us!”, a police officer said.
He seemed to have appeared out of nowhere right in front of her. Was he really talking to her? Her heart was speeding up even more now. She gave him her best questioning look as talking wasn’t possible.
He grabbed her arm roughly, a second officer grabbed her other arm, shoving her towards a parked police car. Why was this happening? She could barely get her feet to move at the pace of the two officers. Breathing was getting hard and her heart was beating so fast it hurt. She could feel herself slipping away. She couldn’t pick up anything going around her anymore. She just wanted to be at home, but that wasn’t happening it seems, So right now she just wanted to cease existing on the spot. But that seemed unlikely to happen as well. On the bright side, she wasn’t really in the situation anymore. Her body was on autopilot and she was cozy inside a little corner of her brain. No input was reaching her, not even from her own body. Moments ago her breathing and heartbeat were hurting and almost unbearable, but now she couldn’t feel that anymore either. Maybe she was dead and everything was over? Atleast she didn’t have to be afraid any more in that case.
“HEY! HEY! Can you hear me?”.
An aggravated man was flipping his fingers in front of her face.
“Yes,”, she finally answered,”Yes,... I’m sorry.”.
Her surroundings had come back to her. Which meant she wasn’t dead, if that was a good thing would have to be determined later. For now it only meant the anxiety was back. She had apparently been put in a room she assumed was one of those interrogation rooms that could regularly be seen on TV shows. She was sitting opposite to him on a small table. She didn’t want to be her, especially not alone with him, whoever he was.
“Do you know why you are here?”, he asked.
“No.”, she managed to press out.
With her senses returning, so did her heart racing, her sweating and shaking. Her throat had become really dry and it was hard to speak.
“Okay let's start simple. What were you doing today?”.
“I was… outside… to get groceries… in the supermarket. And then you people picked me up.”.
“And nothing else? Do you want to drink something?”, he said pointing to a glass of water on her side.
Why was he asking such weird things? And he was really being too fast. But she should probably drink something. It didn’t seem like a question, more like a demand. With her unsteady, shaking hand she grabbed the glass and started slowly moving it to her mouth. If she just focused enough she could do it. She could do it. … . She dropped it about 2/3rds of the way, it bounced on the table, spilling water on her and the interrogator, although he didn’t seem startled by it. She tried to put it back but just ended up dropping it again until he intervened and put the glass upright.
"I'm so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”, she quickly apologized.
“Are you nervous?”.
“Yes...Yes I think so.”.
“Well the only people that are nervous and shaking so much are people that either hide something or have a problem with drugs. Or both. So why don’t you tell me what you really did today.”.
He seemed very certain she had done something wrong. And just like the last time they would probably not believe her again. They never do. She started crying. She just wanted everything to end.
"I already told you, I was shopping for groceries.", she pressed through tears.
She was feeling more anxious, nauseous and dizzy with every passing minute. She needed to get out of this room, she couldn’t stay so close to people for this long. On top of that the fear of what would happen if they didn’t believe her? Or just made something up so they didn’t have to admit to making a mistake? The Interrogator was asking something again but she couldn’t hear it. Then her world became black.
She opened her eyes. The face of a nurse was smiling at her. She was in a hospital room.
“What happened?”, She asked.
Already she was feeling a little uncomfortable again from the unfamiliar surroundings. But she was too tired and sleepy to really feel scared at this point.
“You passed out at the police station but you are fine now.”, the nurse answered, still with that warm and comforting smile. ”The officer told me to let you know they are not charging you with anything. Once you have rested a bit and feel better you can go home”.
She felt relieved. Things were over and she could finally return home. Ideally she wanted to go home immediately and stay inside until the dreaded groceries came up again, but she was too tired and needed to rest first. Now that the police thing was over she could barely keep her eyes open.
“Thank you.”, she whispered, before falling asleep.