He lives in a house. Number 999. Two stories. His blue Nissan is the only one in the drive. There is a light on upstairs. The bedroom? I watch it for a few minutes before I get bored. His mailbox is on the street. I walk back down the dirt drive and look around before I open the latch. He obviously doesn’t care to get his mail, the box is stuffed with mailers, catalogs … I search for a bill.
“Mr. Leroy Ashley,” I say softly.
I take his bank statement … and a catalog … and his Netflix movie, tucking them into the back of my jeans.
I crunch gravel back to my car, humming softly to myself. “Now I know where you live, and I have a new movie to watch.”
As it turns out, Leroy Ashley has terrible taste in movies. I watch the whole thing anyway—a sci-fi flick about aliens impregnating humans. Ugh. Gross, Leroy. I turn away when one of the characters performs an abortion on herself. When the movie is over, I eat the rest of my popcorn while reading through Leroy’s credit card statement.
Arby’s, Arby’s, Arby’s. There are a couple large purchases from a chain sporting goods store. One of those large places that sell guns, and tents, and clothes. There are a couple charges from a company called Companionship. The varying increments tell me he’s probably calling 900-numbers for a little spicy phone sex.
“Do you ask for a brunette, Leroy?” I say out loud. I put the first page aside and begin scrolling down the second. There is a charge from Mercedes Hospital for four hundred and twenty dollars. Directly below that, a charge from a pharmacy.
“Hmmm,” I say. “What’s in your medicine cabinet, fool?”
The catalog is Victoria’s Secret. Unless Leroy has a wife, or wears D-cups in his spare time, I take it he uses these when he’s not utilizing the 900-number.
“I’m not judging you yet,” I tell him. “Juuuust checking.”
This is how it happens though, isn’t it? I become fascinated with someone, and then I stalk them. Stalk is a harsh word. Follow? Yes, I follow them for a while. Just to make sure … I am super precautious like that.
I rub my eyes. I’m in a weird mood. I think of Judah to bring myself back down.
LEROY ASHLEY DOES THE SAME THING EVERY DAY. He smokes on the porch as soon as he wakes up—a joint not a cigarette. Cigarettes come after breakfast, once he’s dressed in his khakis and polo shirt. From what I find in his trash, he’s fond of frozen blueberry waffles and canned orange juice—the kind you mix in a jug with water. He goes through a box of waffles every two days, folding the empty boxes instead of ripping them up. Once he hauls his trash to the oversized bins he keeps on the side of the house, he climbs in his car and drives to work. He is methodical to the point of obsession. Work for Leroy is the giant fishing and hunting store off the highway. He works in the camping department, suggesting tents and gear to fathers trying to bond with their children, hauling their purchases up to the register, and shaking their hands before they leave. At lunch he eats at the cafe in the store, ordering soup and a sandwich with a piece of fudge for dessert. He’s not overweight, but he’s a big guy, and he’s hung up on carbs. After work, he drives to the park where I first saw him. He spends about two hours there, standing against the same tree and chain-smoking his Camels. He watches the mothers across the way. Sometimes I go to the park and lean against his tree when he’s not there. There is a scattering of cigarette butts around its roots. I try to understand him, see what he sees.
When he leaves the park, he stops first at a gas station to buy more cigarettes, then a little bar a few miles from his house, called The Joe. He drinks a couple pints while scratching his belly and talking with the other patrons. He’s neither overly animated, nor is he overly talkative. Just someone you could forget. I wonder how others see him. Nice guy. Friendly enough.
Every two days he stops at the large, chain grocery store. He never gets too much, just enough to get him through another couple of days. He needs the routine, I think. He relies on the grocery store, just like he relies on his morning high. It gives him purpose. After that, he settles in at home. I’ve never seen the inside of his two-story, but his meticulous disposing of his cigarette butts, and the folding of cardboard boxes makes me think he takes pleasure in the order of his home. Outside of his personal sanctuary, he is willing to discard his cigarette butts on the floor. If it’s not his, he’s willing to destroy it. You can see the flickering of the television through his drapes. What he watches, I do not know. I have never felt inclined to peek through his curtains to take a look. I’m afraid he’ll see my reflection in the television, or have a sense that someone is watching him and come charging out of the house. That would ruin everything. He eats microwavable meals for dinner: pot roast, turkey and stuffing with a side of macaroni and cheese. I find the boxes in the trash—all folded into little squares two inches long. I buy the same meals at my own chain grocery store and try to fold them like he does. I can’t get them smaller than a notecard. I eat what he eats, I smoke what he smokes, I am him. It’s a far cry from the days I spent spying on Lyndee Anthony.
It’s not until the weather turns wet, the air gathering the chill of winter, that Leroy changes his routine. He stops going to the park. At first I think something has happened—he’s ill, or he’s having car problems. I wait for him at the park around the normal time, until I notice that the monkey bars and swings are empty. This was his summer routine, I realize. The mothers have started their winter playtime hibernation. Where does this leave Leroy? The following day I wait for him near his house, behind a copse of trees where I hide my car. He emerges from his driveway at just before two, and drives to a house in the Queen Anne neighborhood—a restored two-story, painted blue. I am curious to know who lives in the house.
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