My friend Camy wrote a delightful series of short stories, recounting the same event from three different perspectives. Cheekily, I jumped on the bandwagon with a perspective that he hadn't covered, and he was gracious enough not to object so here it is. I strongly recommend you read Camy's series which can be found here first.

Son of Car Park

by Bruin Fisher

A wave of irritation hit me forcefully and I reeled. So I knew I was in for a tour of the aisles. The woman was having trouble fitting the coin in the interlock so she could separate me from the others but I knew there was more to her irritation than the fiddly mechanism. She was with a child, a boy, and she felt protective love for him, but also anxiety. The boy's mind was full of excitement, anticipation, mischief, and I could see her point.

They were joined by another adult, a man, why was her irritation directed at him?

Humans have speech, and I'd give anything to be able to talk, but they seem to be unable to read each other's emotions at all most of the time. Now emotions I can do. I can see emotions like an aura around people, but I can't make sense of the sounds they make to each other. I wish I could, because a lot of the time I get the impression that they're saying stuff that contradicts what they're feeling. That can't be right, but it sure seems like it, sometimes.

Now, for instance, the woman looked across at the man and smiled, but her irritation level rose. She didn't want him there but she wanted him to think she did. What is it with humans?

I felt sorry for the poor woman. She's arrived irritated and it was getting worse. The fiddly coin-operated interlock that released me from the stack didn't help, of course. She had to keep a close eye on the boy, and then there was the man she wasn't being honest with – the man who she didn't want to know that she didn't want him there. And to my shame I wasn't helping: one of my castors binds, and it makes me difficult to steer. I've been taken around by people who've started serene and happy and ended frustrated and angry. I'm sorry, I can't help it. The castor would be easy to repair, it's just a length of packing twine that's got caught in the ball race. But we don't get maintenance.

She shops like most women – she chooses carefully, taking advantage of bargains and offers, not buying luxuries, not buying anything that's not on her list. But she zig-zags across the shop, visiting aisles several times and wearing her retinue out. The man isn't playing an active part, he's just tagging along, lagging further and further behind. He is beginning to show irritation, which rises each time they re-visit an aisle they've been to before. He would have done it differently. He would also have done a lot of impulse-buying, and would have spent much more buying expensive equivalents of cheaper staples, ignoring offers.

Then I was witness to a tableau which really had me interested. The man suddenly registered surprise and fear, and something else more difficult to define. Another man had stopped in his tracks while walking across the end of the aisle and I read sudden shock, and pain, and... love? Yes, there was lust in there too, but definitely love. And directed at the man, not the woman. The little boy was unaffected, didn't notice, but the woman saw the eye contact between the two men.

The other guy walked on and my lot continued their shopping. The man forgot his irritation, consumed now with fear and anxiety. He was checking other shoppers in each aisle warily.

There was another episode between the two adults at the checkout, and then they were out. The boy took over pushing me and I hate that. Riding me, balancing his weight over my handrail, my jammed castor bit and we lurched to one side and toppled. A lot of my chromium plate ground off against the tarmac and now I'll go rusty. Drat. I was so annoyed I almost missed the big emotional aura coming from across the roadway beside their car, where the man and the other guy he'd seen in the shop were standing very close and... both of them becoming sexually aroused, would you believe? Right there in the car park! The emotions were very complex, lust very much to the fore but a whole web of other stuff underneath. Guilt, fear, shame, deception, need, anguish, despair, longing, and it wasn't easy to separate the two men's feelings. But I reckoned the deception was all coming from the man who was with the woman, while the emotions of the other fellow were more open, clean even.

What really surprised me, though, was the woman's aura. Anger I could understand, and pain. But relief??

Bruin Fisher March 2008

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