Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Kindred

1

He was there again, standing across the road from the apartment, hands thrust into voluminous pockets. Today was the fourth day John had seen him out there, or at least the fourth day of his being conscious of the stranger’s presence just beyond the front door. Each of those days without fail he stood like a pillar, dressed in a large overcoat and a broad brimmed hat despite the warm weather. John couldn’t discern the features of his face, but could see skin the colour of milk in vivid contrast to the shadows gathered under the brim of his hat. He knew not whether he smiled or frowned or held his face pensive. All he knew was that the stranger was there, watchful, watching... perhaps waiting for something, or someone.
            John regarded this strange apparition for several long seconds, the briefcase in his hand feeling like a dead weight, all of a sudden too heavy... too grand a burden. The man across the street didn’t move. Nor did he seem to be aware of John’s advent through the front door. He seemed to be watching the sky closely, as if fearing a sudden spate of rain. Even as John inched slowly towards his car, the stranger didn’t appear to be noticing... but was John merely allowing his imagination to run amok... or was this guy really on the lookout for him?
            Surely not, John mused. Even still, his throat felt as if it were lined with cotton wool, as it had yesterday and the day before when he noticed the stranger.
            John unlocked the door to his car and got in. Somehow, in the safety of the car, he could relax. He was still there, but John wasn’t out in the open, and therefore, not in danger. Nevertheless, his elbow stole up to the window and depressed the locking mechanism. The car started without a hitch and he reversed slowly, keeping his eyes on the apparition across the road through the rear view mirror. He didn’t move, in fact, he seemed disinterested in this daily ritual, his face still pointing towards the sky. Why John was letting the stranger’s presence get to him he didn’t know.

            At length, the car was in the main road, idling. Still the man didn’t move. John crept forward slowly, slowly— ever so slowly, eyes darting from the road in front to the man reflected in the rear view mirror. For the fifty metres that encompassed the length of the street, the man didn’t move: not a single muscle, nor blink of an eye (not that John could actually see the latter). At the intersection he stopped, chewing the inside of his cheek as he negotiated the oncoming traffic. He looked left, looked right, then left again, taking all of about three seconds. And when he looked back into the rear view mirror, the man had vanished without a trace...