Friday, February 8, 2013

A Story of My Friendship with a Clerk

     One thing I do with great regularity every week is go grocery shopping.  I know most people do, but for me, it is an essential yet soothing ritual.  I go into a little trance walking the aisles and examining food, putting food in my basket fulfills my "gatherer" DNA and makes me feel that all is right with the world.  Because of many food allergies, I can't make many things from a box or preserved to last a long time, or eat out, so there is no backup if I run out of food.  It must be bought every week.  As a result I have become very connected to the whole process of shopping, cooking, and eating.  OK I'm obsessed.  Because of this I meet and chat with the store clerks on a regular basis, and if we don't know each other by name, we do know where the other is from, their hobbies, favorite foods, etc..  I LOVE food and many great conversations are started by asking what exactly I plan to do with that kale or eggplant.

     One such clerk worked at our local Safeway.   I may have learned her name, but I don't remember it.  I'll call her Karen.  Karen looked to be a lovely middle aged woman with long dark hair.  She had children that she liked to make healthy smoothies for.  I know this because she told me during a conversation about the fruit smoothies I was making at home, during which she told me that collard greens are excellent to add to them.  She shared her "insider" knowledge on produce discounts and deals, which, in my world, is like, BIG.  She remembered me every time I came by, to the point where we made eye contact and brightened until we got close enough for a conversation.  Perhaps I brightened the most; I loved being noticed and remembered, and anyone enthusiastic about food conversations earned my long lasting loyalty.

     After perhaps half a year of knowing Karen, I made a quick grocery run to her store with my sister.  The reason my sister came with me was because I was out of it.  I was losing focus, had a headache, and could feel myself losing control.  The only reason we went at all was because I was nearly out of food, but we both knew it had to be fast.  My sister was there in case I needed help collecting items or running my card.  At the counter our clerk was Karen, but by this time I didn't know it was Karen.

     One of my male alters was in front.  He stands tall in my 5'9 build and tends to look just about as intimidating as any older teen or young man, with a bit of scowl and defiance.  He wears my mens' black farmers coat with his fists jammed in the pockets and his shoulders somehow hunched while at the same time thrown back and taking up as much space as possible.  He wasn't rude, exactly.  But he stared at Karen with a blank expression and, no doubt, a scowl.  I remember peering out from behind him with the edges of my blurry vision gone black, wondering, or perhaps jointly wondering with him, "Who is this person and why is she talking to me as if she knows me?"  I dimly noted Karens' faltering smile, her conversation turning confused and dropping off as this person stared at her with no recognition or response.  Perhaps she looked down and hurriedly stuffed my groceries into bags, I don't know.  I don't know what he did- perhaps he nodded and smiled to the weird stranger, perhaps he made some noncommittal noise, or perhaps he just gathered his things and walked out.

      It wasn't until later when I was fully back with clear thoughts and full, bright vision that I remembered some fragment of what happened.  I was puzzled for awhile and then it hit me -"Hey!  I know that woman!  Wasn't that Karen?!  We talk about food and stuff."  I felt a bit sad that I hadn't recognized her but shrugged it off and forgot about it.  There was nothing I could do now.

     Some time later I saw Karen just after I entered the store in the frozen veggies aisle.  She stood next to a cart as she restocked the shelves.  I brightened, as usual, and walked towards her with a smile forming on my face and thinking of some way to greet her.  She caught sight of me and in a second emotions flew across her face: recognition, surprise, and hurt.  She jerked to face away from me and turned her face down, burying herself in busywork with the cart.  My smile faded, I slowed and stopped.  She obviously did not want to be bothered.  And why not?  Last time she'd seen me I'd treated her like a low level lackey.  I remembered now, I connected the dots as to why she was hurt, and that our budding friendship was no longer there.

     I had hurt her, I couldn't think of a way to explain myself.  Walk up to her and say, "I'm really sorry about last time, you see I have multiple personalities and I didn't know it was you"?  Make some lame excuse about, um, me being a jerk?  I didn't think of her as just a person to bag my groceries, I liked her and admired her.  Whether or not I had been in control I had hurt her feelings.  I walked past her looking at the floor.  From then on I was careful not to check out at her counter.  I have never been one to think of things as set in stone, particularly relationships with people, but all I knew to do with her was respect her as I could by giving her a wide berth.

     I'm sad that we're not friends anymore, and sad that it is a fairly regular occurrence for me when I do make friends.  I do make a point now, when I can, of making eye contact and conversation with acquaintances to send the message "I remember you!  I know you!" to maybe hold us over when I don't.


Anonymous said...

The switching, the never knowing who's going to show up on any given day, I know it can be hard on all of those around us. But on the up side, I personally was just so impressed with the fact that you had been friendly and chatting with this clerk in the first place. I tend to be just paralytically shy as a part of how all my pieces fit together, and although that makes for a little more coherence when it comes to how other people, especially acquaintances, see me, it does mean that I miss out on the sorts of friendships other people manage. Thanks for sharing your experience; you always bring some needed perspective about the ups and downs of my life compared to someone else dealing with some similar challenges.

Miss Anne Thrope said...

I just realized that I had commented as Miss Anne Thrope here, and then had gone back to Anonymous, so I wanted to comment again to say that it was me commenting before.

annette said...

Either is fine, thank you for commenting. I meant to reply but sometimes it takes awhile. I find that trust in relationships is especially hard for us, it makes relationships difficult. Part of that is just learning who to trust, which is a learning process. And yes, some of us are quite chatty:) When we can we use that to connect DID to the rest of the world, it sort of helps to pave the way and make it easier for the shy ones.