This is the place. I have seen him alight at this bus stop many times. At first I didn’t actively look for him, that would’ve been crazy: it was simply a happy coincidence that I was walking by right at the time he exited the bus, wearing what I presumed were his work clothes. He had a brown leather mailman bag: I don’t know why, but I had pictured him with one of those when I met him, several weeks earlier, at a friend’s birthday party. Perhaps it had been the clothes he was wearing…
As soon as I got home, I regretted not asking him what his name was. I still regret it. Then I was too ashamed to ask Frankie what his name was, as if it would’ve been a crime to say “Hey, your friend, the one with the bright blue eyes and the wavy brown hair: the journalist one: what is his name, anyway?”. But she would tell him. Frankie would definitely tell him later that a friend of hers was interested in him, and she’d ask him whether he was interested in me. And after that I might as well drop dead. Yes, I made the right move by not asking her his name. Now I can nonchalantly shadow him until he enters a bookshop or a café or something: and then I can look at him and fake surprise and say “Oh, I know you! We met at Frankie’s party, right? What’s your name, again?” and I really wouldn’t know his name. This would add sincerity to the scam.
It sounds crazy. It sounds like a crazy plan. I don’t know why I am doing this. I could simply ask him his name: I could sit at the bus stop and wait for him to step off the bus and… no. That would be even crazier, somehow. A more upfront but still very stupid idea.
I was not looking for this. I tried to forget him. I don’t even know why I couldn’t… Because I simply couldn’t. I’d try to erase his bright blue eyes from the back of mine, but they’d always come back… And I saw him so many times on my way home that it was as if it were meant to be, even though there is no such thing. It was just a coincidence and I am aware of that. And after the third time I was not sure it was still a coincidence: I suspect my brain tricked me into going home earlier, it tricked me into walking more slowly after walking by the café: it created numerous reasons as to why I should go home this way and not any other. After a while, I started seeing him every other day. Once I even caught a glimpse of a conversation he was having with a co-worker (probably): it was something about the leaks a newspaper has been publishing. He said, and this I remember clearly, he said: “I am not a journalist to satisfy the government. That is not why I do this. If they are doing something wrong, then yes, I am going to take the side of the whistleblower. I don’t understand how you could even ask me that”. And he said it in a calm voice, too: he said it in his velvety way. It was so dark the night we met. Frankie thought people would have more fun in the dark, because “It encourages people to do things they wouldn’t do with the lights on”, she had said to me; I thought it was a terrible idea. Why would she want people to do that kind of thing inside her apartment? She was right, though, for if I had seen him with the lights on I wouldn’t have had the courage to talk to him the whole night through. And because of that I couldn’t remember his face or any of his features all that well, but I could remember his voice. And I instantly fell in love with his voice and the things his voice says…
Now that I think of it, I should’ve talked to him sooner. Why waste all of this time? The more the time passes, the more I look and sound like a creep. If we do start talking and if we start hanging out, how will I bring this up? How can one bring up such a stupid secret without ruining things? I should’ve looked him up online. I could have. I might’ve found him sooner, and it would still be creepy, but more organic. Wouldn’t it? I tend to think of virtual stalking as less weird than physical stalking, and I am sure he would agree.
Here it is. It is his bus. I can see him at the window. I should stop thinking about how strange it is for me to be out on the street at such a freezing day, looking at this particular shop window for the past twenty minutes with the sharp wind slowly stabbing my eyes, and I should start worrying about acting normal. That is what I need to do: I need to act normal. Today is the day, and I hope it turns out to be a good one. I hope he had a great day at work and I hope that everything has been working out fine in his life, so that he will see meeting me as a good thing: an omen. The worst case scenario is the one in which we become friends, and that is still a pretty good scenario. Sometimes I daydream about having the kind of conversation I had with him. It’d be nice to see them actually happening, even if he has a girlfriend or two or a boyfriend: even if he’s not interested for whatever reason he might have. It’d still be nice.
I hope that is him with the blue scarf: I have mistaken other people for him before. If your eyes’ search is too resolute, sometimes it can find the wrong thing and take it for the right one — it sounds like a sign of obsession but really it is simply something your mind does, I am sure.
He is walking down the street and I am slowly following him. I have never gotten this far before: I sometimes admire him from afar, but I have never followed him. I did not want to know where he lives: I thought that would be taking it too far, but I guess I will find out today. He is going to stop somewhere else before going home, I think: he could buy some bread, for instance. Please, buy some bread, please: or buy a cup of coffee or decide you need some new book and it has to be right now. Please. I am getting closer to him: closer than I had gotten in the past few weeks. I can feel my heart pounding through the many layers of clothes. He stops at the corner, and I slow down: I don’t want to reach him right away. I don’t want it to be at the corner, while we wait for the traffic lights to turn red. He starts walking again, and so do I, and a boxy black car comes out of the thin air and his body soars a metre high before hitting the ground. The car runs away as fast as it had come and a crowd gathers around him. I run to him: I run to him and I kneel beside his unconscious body, his nameless blood covering those sweet eyes. Someone in the crowd asks me if I know him: how could I say I do? “My friend knows him” I answer, “We met at a party once”. We met at a party once and then never again. The ambulance doesn’t let me in: they say it’s too late. It is too late. All I wanted was to stay by his side and tell me he would be okay: and to maybe hear another word directed at me. Just one more time, and then a million times after that.
I find out his name on the newspaper’s obituary section. They have dedicated an entire column to him. He was an investigative reporter, the best they had, they say, and he was the one behind the leaks. Jacob: that was his name. I wonder if he would have liked it if I called him Jake.