A couple of days ago, I was wallowing again in my unsubstantiated misery, and I thought to myself: This is ridiculous. I must go buy some regular Wavy Lay's and a tub of onion dip. The Fiery One wished me happy travels, and I began my walk to the convenience store.

I was feeling scattered. This happens to me when depression and anxiety decide to play my body chemistry like an impromptu concert of duelling banjos. My head feels like a detached, halfhearted helium balloon, bobbing and weaving to the right, while my body skates left of its own accord, and my legs just try to do their best to pick my feet up high enough to make it over the cracks in the sidewalk.

Of course, I don't actually look like one of those weaving lunatics who might ask you for a cigarette and then tell you about their last run-in with the Great Almighty, but I feel a little like one, albeit without the grand delusions. Understandably, this leaves me feeling edgy and a touch paranoid of my surroundings. Under these conditions, a trip to the convenience store can be stressful, but I have been making an effort not to give in to my lesser anxieties. I lit a cigarette, focused on the sidewalk ahead of me, and concentrated on the tasty onioniness of cold dip on Wavy Lay's.

I was doing great during the first block. I managed not to come into contact with any humans, and I was remembering to breathe. I even managed to enjoy some of the fine greenery that has sprung up all over my neighbourhood.

The second block provided a minor snag, because there was a softball game going on in the park I was walking by, and I am afraid of softballs that fly through the air. When I was a kid, I was hit in the head with a softball. When I came to, I was surrounded by a bunch of young men who looked completely freaked out. My glasses had broken in half and my head had expanded alarmingly on the right side. I became very confused and couldn't remember what my parents looked like or where they were, so I dragged myself to the car and languished there in 30°C heat for over an hour before anyone I knew found me. It was a lucky strike, though, because I got to get rid of my stupid Holly Hobby glasses.

The third block was the block that started to present a real problem for me. I do tend to be somewhat paranoid in my present psychological condition, so when I saw a man keeping pace with me and staring at me from the other side of the street, I tried to slough it off as me being strange again. When he crossed to my side of the street in front me, making sure to keep an eye on me and seeming to time out how far he would be ahead of me, I mentally gave myself a little slap for being ridiculous. Still, I memorized the style of shoes and hair for my possible future police report.

The fourth block, luckily, housed the convenience store I was headed to, and I let my shoulders drop from my earlobes to a more natural slope. Until I rounded the corner to the front of the building, that is. The man who I was hoping was only playing a part in my paranoid fantasy was pretending to lean casually against the front of the store as though he had been there for a while. Who speedwalks to the front of a convenience store only to take up poorly feigned loitering by the mailbox? The answer is NO ONE.

When I rounded the corner and he pushed himself further into a slump against the building and shoved one of his hands into his pocket to affect the look of someone who is just waiting around, he did not become more convincing. DUDE, I SAW YOU SPEEDWALKING ACROSS THE STREET FIFTEEN SECONDS AGO RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

At that point, I decided that I should have listened to my miserably depressed gut and stayed at home to cry in the bathtub, because that was seeming far better than knowing some faux loiterer was lying in wait for me so that he could flay me in an alley or start a tight regimen of stalking and harassment or beg a smoke off me when I only had one left. I mentally dressed him up in lederhosen with a propeller-topped beanie in order to make myself feel better. I added in one of those swirly, oversized suckers, too.

After purchasing my junk food, I left the store, and there he was, still hanging out and looking unconvincingly casual. I had caught him mid-faux loiter when his intention had obviously been to appear as though he naturally happened to be walking in front of me, because he glanced at me, shifted himself into a fully upright position, and started sauntering along the route he already knew I would take. Several times he checked to see if I was behind him and then would cast his eyes around to try to look like maybe it wasn't just me he was watching.

After following the man for about a block, I was about to say something to him like Oh for god's sake, follow me properly or get lost! It just all felt too ridiculous to have this man following me from the front. What kind of pervert follows a person from the front? STALKERS STALK FROM BEHIND, ASSHOLE. DO IT RIGHT.

All of a sudden, he stepped aside and waved his hand in front of him as though he were graciously ushering me along. It was like he had come to his senses and realized that he had it all ass backwards. Behaving as though this were all very normal, I nodded and passed by him where he stood next to the sidewalk. Once I had passed, he took up his following, only properly behind me this time as it should be. Strangley, this was comforting to have the whole operation going as I understood it should.

For the next block and a half, I looked back a few times to see him still keeping pace with me, but after that I refused to allow myself to turn around. I didn't want to have any more contact with him than I already had, and I had the relative safety of daylight and five o'clock traffic to accompany me home. When I arrived at my front door, he was gone.

If one thing comes out of this strange situation, I hope that he has learned more typical stalking techniques. I mean, following women is creepy and illegal, but when it's done so incorrectly, it can really throw a woman off her game.

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