In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my new apartment. Take life one day at a time. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. I take long walks. Always in a new place. Sometimes I drive thirty minutes … forty … just to go to a new park, a new pathway. A new walk. I don’t know what I’m scared of. People recognizing me? There was an old lady at the park near my apartment. I walked there every day until she started saying hello. So I chose a different park, a new park, until someone there started waving at me. When people look at me, I’m convinced they can see the blood. The blood of all the humans whose lives I’ve taken. Dripping down my face and running off the tips of my fingers like Carrie when Chris and Billy dump the pig’s blood over her head. I am so afraid that someone will see me for who I am.
I think of Judah. Always. Of his hands, and eyes, and voice. If I keep him with me, I don’t feel so afraid. I think I’ve convinced myself that Judah can save me, but wasn’t Judah the one who sent me running in the first place? Do we create our own heroes and then kill them with the truth? Judah is just a man, not the god I made him. If I can tell him this, then maybe…
A strange thing happens. There is a man—a not-so-small man, in fact, he’s rather large in the shoulders. I see him in the most recent park I’m frequenting. The park with a playground: a giant pirate ship rising from the dirt, a colorful shipwreck where children can flip alphabet blocks and gaze through a looking glass toward Rainier. Their colorfully clad legs scamper over and under, screaming and laughing and darting around each other.
He’s standing against a tree, smoking. There is something about his body language that tells me he doesn’t belong. He’s merely observing. I follow the train of his eyes. He’s not watching the children, thank God. I feel the tension leave my shoulders when I realize this. He’s watching the group of mothers. Intently. This, too, could be harmless—a husband trying to get his wife’s attention, a man who thinks he recognizes someone from his past. I go through each possible scenario in my mind, but nothing I tell myself can save him. He’s prickling the hairs on the back of my neck, making my stomach ache. I begin to hear that silent alarm, the same one I heard when I watched Lyndee for all those months. You’re crazy, I tell myself. You’re looking for things.
I turn away, start to leave, but I am half way to my car when I stop. The men who bought nights with my mother … they looked at her that way. The way he was looking at one of those women, with unguarded lust. Like she was an object he got to use. Use. I feel my skin crawl. My heart slows. Ohgodohgodohgod. What am I thinking? I can’t walk away. I take the long way around—through the trees—and the whole time I tell myself how crazy I am. I try to make myself want to stop, go back to the Jeep, hole up in my apartment with movies. I have so many movies I still need to see, I’m working my way through the eighties: Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Julia Roberts…
I can see his back, the littering of cigarette butts around his tennis shoes. He comes here often. He’s chain smoking. I look for the box. I want to know what he smokes, if it’s the healthy kind. I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing. I think I just want to watch him, watch her. Watch who? I study the playground, the moms. He’s staring toward a bench where three women are sitting. Two blondes, one brunette.
Which one is it, you fuck?
I stand there for another ten minutes before he moves. I duck behind a thick blackberry bramble, as he stubs out his last cigarette, casts one more glance over his shoulder, and walks back down the path. He’s noisy, cracking branches and stomping around. But he has no reason to be quiet, because he’s done nothing wrong. When he’s gone, I look toward the bench. The brunette. She’s leaving with her kids, grabbing them by the hands as they try to escape and run back toward the playground. I smile because it’s funny to watch. Then I glance back the way he went.
“When you don’t have anything, you don’t have anything to lose, right?” I whisper to myself. Good ol’ Samantha Baker and her sage wisdom.
I follow him.
His car—a dark blue Nissan. Nondescript. Then I follow him to the corner store where he buys new cigarettes. He doesn’t smoke the healthy ones. Just crappy, old Camels. I’m disappointed. He drives to 405, lazy, like he has all the time in the world. A couple of cars honk at him and speed by. He gives one the finger, the other he waves at. He heads south. What’s south? Burien … Federal Way … Tacoma … I’m still here—three cars behind, two cars over. I’m ready to cross three lanes of traffic if he decides to exit. He exits in Lacey; he even puts on his blinker to make it easy for me.
“Why thank you,” I say. I make sure to keep a couple cars between us. Three rights and a left. I follow him for a few more miles until he turns down a private driveway, overgrown with weeds and sprinkled with trash. I keep driving. It’s almost dark. I pull into a gas station a mile down the road. I go in, buy a pack of Camels. I ask the guy working the register if I can leave my car there for a few minutes. I saw a house for sale and wanted to walk back up the street and take a look. He’s so stoned he doesn’t care. I light the smoke with my pink Zippo as I walk. It tastes wheaty.
I focus on the gravel beneath my boots—my favorite sound. I am calm, because I don’t know what I’m doing yet. No raging heart, no erratic breathing. Just me and this awesome gravel. I am stalking this dude for no good reason. That makes me crazy, right? Maybe not. Maybe I’m just curious.
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