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Hmm, Wonder Why His Girlfriend Left Him

, , , , , | Right | September 24, 2021

As a teenager, I score a job at an international retailer’s store straddled between two highways. It attracts all sorts of interesting people.

A few months in, right after I have turned eighteen, I am tending the fifteen-items-or-less lane when a man in his late twenties approaches with a mini-cart packed full of puréed baby food — we’re talking at least thirty to forty jars. Being that it’s a slow day and I hate confrontation, I smile and started scanning him through.

After a very enthusiastic greeting in response, this man starts talking about his day, his ex-girlfriend, the baby he shares with her, and how tough it is being a single dad. Though it’s a lot of personal information, I figure he needs to talk, so I smile and nod and mmm-hmm along with him. He leans in over the register conspiratorially.

Customer: “You know, I once beat up a man so badly he went to the hospital. And I don’t remember a thing. All I remember is being filled with so much rage that I blacked out, and when I woke up, my friends were pulling me off of him. I guess I’m some kind of psychopath when you piss me off, huh?”

I go silent, not sure if he’s kidding or high. We’re in the heart of meth country, and I’ve heard a few wild stories from my coworkers. He just smiles at me and nods as if to reinforce his point. I scan his last few items as quickly as I can, put his bags in his cart, and tell him his total.

As he swipes his card, he looks me over and smiles.

Customer: “You’re really cute. I’ll have to remember to come through your line.”

He came back that night to pick up some groceries, and this time, he made a point to beeline straight to where I was now manning a busy, full-sized register at the tail end of my twelve-hour shift.

In a store with eight quick-checks, he chose the longest line possible — the tobacco register — even though he had well under fifteen items. He didn’t ask for smokes and left just as quickly as he’d arrived.

He came back again on my next shift, and the one after that, and the one after that. More than once, I got to hear the story of how he was “some kind of psychopath” again, with additional anecdotes about how he “might even be an undiagnosed schizophrenic” and “could beat someone up without a second thought.”

He’d tell me about the latest anime he was watching and why it was twisted and creepy, which action figures he liked to fantasize about killing each other in gruesome ways, and how he took pleasure in slaughtering all of his friends online in various video games. In a vacuum, his speech might have been harmless — I myself enjoy violent video games and other media — but combined with his seeming desire to share the joys of beating people up and joking about having serious, untreated mental illnesses, eighteen-year-old me started to feel uneasy as soon as he walked in the door, to the point where I tried to get out of every conversation as quickly as possible.

But it didn’t matter how I engaged. If I was friendly and tried to change the subject, he’d swing back around to violence. If I was silent and smiling, he took that as approval. If I was quiet and focused on my work, he talked even faster to impart more details of his fantasy life into my own.

Finally, after two months of him coming through my register at least once every shift, if not two or three times, I started volunteering to take abandoned items back to their shelves so I could avoid him. And it worked, for a time… until one of my fellow cashiers pulled me aside on a break and told me that the guy had been asking my coworkers for the schedule of the “cute cashier who always checks me out.”

At that point, I’d had enough. I talked to my manager and told them I thought I was being stalked, and even if I was not, this man made me very uncomfortable and was flirting aggressively with one of their youngest employees.

I’m not sure what happened after that; I wasn’t on shift the next time he came in, but I didn’t see that man again for almost a year. At that point, I had already put in my two weeks’ notice, so I nodded through his, “I remember you! Do you remember me? I’m the guy who…” speech, wished him a good day, and never saw him again. 

Thank God.