Awkward in the Aisles

shopping-2411667_1920A few days ago, I passed The Hermit on a winding two-lane road that I travel several times each day. He drives a big red truck, old but well cared for, and he’s hard to miss. He’d been on my mind lately, as my recent move had edged me just westward enough to require a switch from my old grocery store to “his” store. By this, I mean, the store closest to his apartment. We now live less than two miles from one another. We travel the same roads. We shop at the same stores. It is inevitable that we will cross paths.

The first few times I picked up groceries, I scanned the lot for his truck. I’m not sure what I would have done if I had seen it. Bail in search of an alternate shopping spot? Text him a warning: I’m coming in? Walk in boldly, acting as though I had no idea he was inside? Fortunately, no awkward produce section encounters have occurred yet, but I know it is only a matter of time.

I remember a story he told me about how an ex had the gall to come to “his” Starbucks. “She should have known better. I’m always here at the same time.” He seemed irritated, angry even, but I could tell that seeing exes in the wild also triggered his anxiety. Not wanting to turn a mundane trip to Publix into a potential panic attack involving ducking behind cereal box displays to avoid me, I decided to reach out. I told him I’d moved, that I’d seen him while driving, and, knowing his stance on exes in his territory, wanted to give him a heads up about the grocery store thing.

He replied immediately, letting me know that we’d passed each other more than once. I hadn’t noticed, but his observational skills had always been uncannily good. And that was all it took. Now we’re talking again. Much of our text conversation when we were seeing each other had to do with weather, local military plane activity (long story), complaints about traffic, and Netflix. Now, my phone buzzes consistently throughout the day with updates on The Hermit’s random thoughts, activities, and observations.

I told him about when I was briefly on Hinge and it had surprised me with a recommendation one day: “We think you should meet The Hermit!” (side note: despite rationally knowing that the app likely made the suggestion based on proximity and age, I almost threw my phone in irritation when that screen popped up — what the fuck, Hinge? Been there, done that. Nope nope nope.) My admission naturally led to the dating life inquiry. Fortunately, he kept it casual and conversational, but I imagine he’ll ask me more if we continue to talk.

It feels odd and unexpected to be in contact with him again. The last time we spoke, he got upset that I was dating someone and cut off all contact. His choice felt childish but also implied that he’d been hoping for a second chance with me and was disappointed (yet again). Now he claims that he wouldn’t mind bumping into me in aisle six if that ever happens. I’m not entirely convinced, but that’s the official position he’s taken, and I’m not going to psychoanalyze him.

Tell me your most awkward “ex in the wild” story — who was more awkward: you or them? Did things get heated? How did it make you feel?

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