NervousMan nervously looked through the newspaper looking for a work-at-home job. NervousMan knew that he needed more money and that the best way to get money was a job. Well, maybe it wasn't the best way. But it seemed to be the way that most people went. Usually though, people had to go someplace else to work everyday, and be around other people who were also working. The thought of doing that made NervousMan nervous.
On the front of the paper were stories and pictures of a bridge that fell down in Minnesota. NervousMan wondered how such a thing could happen. Weren't there people out there who were taking care of the bridge? Wasn't that their job to do that? Perhaps, thought NervousMan, those people were nervous too and didn't do a very good job and then the bridge fell down. NervousMan looked at the pictures of cars strewn about in the water like so many kids' toys in a mud puddle. The pictures made NervousMan nervous.
NervousMan left his home and walked to the store. On the way there, he decided to buy a sandwich so he would not 'shop hungry'. If he were hungry he might buy too much food and NervousMan didn't have much money. However the sandwich would cost money too. Maybe the amount of money he would save by buying the sandwich was about the same as the sandwich. NervousMan hesitated nervously outside the door of the sandwich shop for a few minutes, wondering if he should go in.
The lady at the cash register rang up NervousMan's sandwich and he ate it by the window of the restaurant. He thought about how the lady didn't really look at or talk to him when he paid his money to her. Everything seemed so mechanical. Maybe she was nervous doing her job, he thought. NervousMan was nervous too.
Sitting at the window, NervousMan watched the people pass back and forth outside the place. Back and forth, back and forth. Some of the people looked mean. Others looked tired. Some looked nervous, but not as nervous as NervousMan.
Arriving at the store, NervousMan walked through the aisles. In the produce section, NervousMan looked at all the bright colors and held his breath. He could feel the cool air of the refrigeration on his skin. They were having a sale on strawberries. Two bushels for three dollars. NervousMan got one of them. NervousMan liked strawberries. He also needed to get some salad, and some milk and some bread.
The aisles of the store, NervousMan thought, were very close together. Sometimes he would reverse his direction and go to another aisle if someone were in the aisle that he wanted to go down. NervousMan didn't want to make anyone else nervous with his nervousness.
NervousMan thought to himself (which was his favorite way to do so) "It seems like they are all looking at me. Logically, I know that they are not. But it feels like they are".
NervousMan imagined what it would be like if the store were being looted. Like, if there was some sort of emergency in the world and things in general broke down. Like the bridge had. Then, NervousMan thought, if that happened, the mean people would come and get all the strawberries and things like that first. They might even beat up NervousMan. How could NervousMan ask the mean people for strawberries after the looting? They would laugh at NervousMan and beat him up again.
The thought of being beat up by the mean people made NervousMan nervous. So NervousMan tried not to think about it. But in order not to think about it, he had to first think about not thinking about it, and that meant thinking about it.
NervousMan stared at the canned beets. Did he want canned beats? Why was it so hard for NervousMan to figure out if he wanted canned beets or not? Other people around him did not seem to have that trouble. They just walked in to the store, got what they wanted and walked out. What was the problem? What was wrong with NervousMan?
NervousMan was nervous.
Glancing to his left, he watched a woman in a green apron stocking shelves very quickly. "She sure seems to think fast" thought NervousMan. NervousMan looked back at the canned beets and regarded them. What if he worked at this store? he thought. What if he had to stock shelves like that very very quickly or else he would be fired and not have any money? What if his boss were mean?
At the checkout counter, NervousMan nervously put his items onto the conveyer belt. The checkout person was a good looking young man who did not seem nervous at all.
"Hey man. How's it going?" said the man.
"Fine, thank you" said NervousMan, forcing himself to smile slightly but looking away from the checkout man. He seemed to remember reading somewhere that smiling at other people put them at ease, and also looking at them too.
"I should look at them and smile, pleasantly" thought NervousMan. But NervousMan did not want to look in the eyes of the checkout man too much or else the man might think that NervousMan was nervous. Then, he might seem suspicious and he would ask for NervousMan's I.D. when he tried to use his ATM card, and that would make NervousMan even more nervous.
Was it best to look away from the checkout person or look at him? Which would seem less suspicious? NervousMan thought about this as he slid his card through the reader. NervousMan's hands shook nervously. The checkout man said something to him.
"Excuse me?" said NervousMan.
"Paper or plastic?" the checkout man asked NervousMan again, smiling.
"Oh... Uhm... plastic please" NervousMan said.
NervousMan always said please and thank you.
When NervousMan's groceries were bagged he told the checkout man 'thank you' yet again.
"Sure man, take care," the checkout man said and he smiled at NervousMan again.
It seemed like the checkout man was thinking something about NervousMan but NervousMan did not know what that something was. Maybe it was something pleasant.
NervousMan didn't mean to, but as NervousMan reached out to take the bags from the checkout man, NervousMan's thumb briefly touched the back of the checkout's man's fingers as he did so.
Then, without a word, the checkout man turned to help the next customer.
Later, as NervousMan walked home, he felt the rays of the hot yellow sun beat down on his arms and neck. NervousMan sweated.
"That man at the checkout counter was nice," thought NervousMan. "Much nicer that the lady at the sandwich shop".
As Nervousman ate his strawberries at home, he thought it was nice that there were nice people in the world. People who were nice, and not mean. People like the checkout man.
And thinking this thought made NervousMan feel a little less nervous.
NervousMan thought: As the world becomes a scarier place, then must I too become scarier in order not to fall victim to it?
Perhaps, Nervousman thought, the challenge is to love, as much as one can, in the face of fear. To hold onto one's heart. Maybe that is the greatest challenge, Nervousman thought.
And without knowing why, NervousMan wept.