I wasn’t following him down the street; we were just going the same direction.
I wasn’t following him but I did come immediately after him for several streets, stepping off the curb just after him, heading in the same general direction as him. He’d been caught in my inner monologue, all wrapped up in my day-dreams thoughts. Somewhere along the way he left his house and made all the right turns at just the right time to land himself here. Two cracks down the way, just the smallest bit faster of a pace than mine.
He had scraggly black hair and low cut black fade jeans that reminded me of this guy I used to know in high school. He walked with a bit of a limp, and had a bag slung over one shoulder. His belt was black and white checkered. I called him Robert in my head and I assigned character value to him based on someone I used to know.
This guy, Robert, he rode his skateboard everywhere and wore glasses like Andy Warhol. He took the glass out and told people he wore them because they made him more artistically inclined, except he never did anything creative anymore, he just read about what other people did.
He was always tugging at his pants even with the belt attached, as though his hips served no evolutionary purpose other than to hold his top half and bottom half together. He did modeling once and he called himself a model and he even made it into a small modeling company, which served as his main résumé in life as he supported himself primarily by selling weed. This was not how he would want to be known, but one holds on to peculiar things.
Anyway, I’m walking down the street trying to keep a moderate distance from him, which isn’t hard with the way he’s walking. He holds his board like an extension of himself, some part he’s tucked away and folded up for the moment. Limp, limp, limp. We’ve reached the middle of downtown now and he ought to have somewhere to go. I wonder where it is. Is he on his way to work? Is he coming home from school? Is he picking out groceries or filling a prescription? Is he sick or is he healthy, is he happy, is he sane?
I think with certainty that someone must love him. Here I am, following him, and I don’t even know him. Probably never will, since I have no intentions of saying hello or asking him what his name is. I’m also not going to ask him where he’s going or if he needs some help getting there or whether or not he’s in a chipper mood.
It is quite curious that this stranger has now occupied so much of my time. Excited so many of my neurons, and given me so many stories. I think about all of the people in my life that I love and if I happened upon them walking down the street.
You’re never strolling down the way and realize that you know the person standing right in front of you.
There must be someone out there right now who is thinking about this saggy pants boy. There must be someone out there wondering where he is or how he’s doing. When he pulls out his phone to text or answer a call, it’s startling to me. He’s living his life and I’m just right here, and he’ll never know I existed. I’m not a part of his story. He has worries and fears and hopes and dreams and someone that’s thinking about him and – you know, I’m making it about me, but it’s not about me. It never was. He does take his phone out and he looks at it, then he puts it back in his pocket. I pretend he forgot what he was doing, or maybe he was checking the time, or perhaps he saw a text from someone he didn’t want to talk to.
I realize that strangers aren’t much more than mirrors, blank canvases we use to paint pictures of ourselves. I used him to make some sense of myself.