That Guy Following Us –
What does the guy following them represent?
|Publication Date||June 27, 2017|
|BCRS ratings?Learn more|
“That guy has been following us for the past three blocks.”
“He’s not following us,” I say. “He’s probably just going the same way we are.”
“Yeah, but… he’s looking right at us,” and by the way she tightens her grip on my arm, I can tell she’s pretty scared.
I glance around and see the guy walking behind us. He meets my stare and doesn’t look away. I turn back around and pick up the pace. There’s something wrong with the way the guy is walking; like he was injured. His hood is up so that his face is covered by the shadows. I guess I’d noticed him following us around for a while now, even if I told myself he wasn’t.
“Ouch, Patrick, you’re walking too fast.” “Sorry,” I tell her.
“Did you have fun tonight?”
“Yeah, sure,” I say, sneaking another look around my shoulder. He was closer now. And somehow the light had shifted so that all I could see now from under the hood were his bloodshot eyes. And when they narrowed and I shifted, putting my arm around Amanda, the guy slowed down a bit and kept further away from us.
“Did you see what Julia was wearing tonight, Patrick?”
I sigh, “Unfortunately, yes…”
“She was really out of line tonight; coming up to you and putting her arm around you and all… it really drove me crazy to watch her prancing around that party with her enormous, flabby breasts hanging out for everyone to see. Oh, and they are flabby Patrick, trust me, I’ve seen them. And the stories she is always telling us, oh they’re so terrible, really… the number of men she’s been with….” “Let’s cross here,” I say.
I find it funny that Amanda thinks Julia was out of line tonight, especially because Amanda was dripping around the party with pretty much her whole ass hanging out of her skirt (because men find her ass to be nicer than her cans). But, for me to find anything wrong with that would be absolutely preposterous, right?
“Are we nearly home yet, Patrick?” she wines.
“Yeah just about,” I say, “and I think that guy is gone now.”
But just when I get finish speaking, someone coughs behind us, all raspy and wornout sounding, and Amanda turns around and grabs my arm because the guy is still walking behind us, pretty much at the same distance he was before. His hood is still up but I can’t see his eyes any more, and for some reason that unsettles me. The sound of his feet scraping the pavement send a chill down my spine.
“I’m scared,” she whispers.
I look down at her and squeeze her against me. I do appreciate that she depends on me, and I guess I depend on her too, which is nice, you know… to have that with someone. It gives me the courage to look around again and squeeze my fists because if this stranger tries anything, especially with Amanda, I will smash his goddamn face into the pavement. I take my keys and let the jagged ends jut out between my clenched knuckles, waiting for the guy to make his move, to reach for something inside his sweater… but he doesn’t.
We make it home and I shut the door heavily behind us, feeling my chest loosen and the air move more easily down my throat.
“Thank god,” she says, “I really thought that guy was going to…” and she trails off.
“I told you he was just going the same way as us,” I tell her, “purely coincidence.”
She takes off her coat and I take it from her soft hands. She smiles at me while I hang the coat in the closet and slip off my shoes. Amanda heads to the kitchen to start a pot of tea and I take my coat off and go to lock the front door. The two of us had been fighting a lot lately, but I was really trying now. It’s all about the small things.
I lock the door and look out through the side windows. The hooded man is standing directly out front of our house, across the road with his hands in his pockets; staring.
“Are you coming, Patrick?”
“Yeah, sure, just a second.”
When I look out again I think he’s gone at first. But now he’s standing in between two street-lamps where no light falls, and he’s still just standing there with his hands in his goddamned pockets and his hood up. He won’t stop looking into the house. I can tell that he’s looking at me. He knows I see him, and he can see through me.
Amanda is making snacks in the kitchen. I’m not sure what will happen if I go out there to confront him, so I don’t do anything.
I switch off the light outside and think about calling the police, but I guess the guy hasn’t really done anything yet. You’re probably just being paranoid. By the time I’ve made it to the kitchen and have my arms wrapped around Amanda’s waist I’ve managed to convince myself that everything will work out fine. That the guy outside isn’t standing there staring menacingly at our house, and that he hasn’t been following us pretty much the whole way home from the party; the party that I didn’t want to go to but went only because Amanda seemed to be really excited about it. Her friends all liked me, I think, but I didn’t really like them. I know it sounds shallow or arrogant or whatever, but I just don’t bother trying to socialize with most of these people who seem so tickled to be talking with each other. The whole night I just sort of float around watching Amanda act all happy and friendly with everyone, while I try and figure out what I have in common with her. And all this is going through my head as I maneuver her legs apart on top of the oven and pull her panties off, and she’s moaning and saying my name while I whisper ‘i love you’ in her ear, my breath going in and out, and the lights in the kitchen flickering. After it’s over I feel satisfied and she seems radiant and shining.
When she goes upstairs I hear her start the shower and it makes me feel good, the sound of the water splashing against the tub. I walk around the house, mindlessly cleaning up cluttered books and dirty dishes. I find a few empty bottles that I’m not particularly proud of, considering Amanda doesn’t know about them (tucked away under the cushions of the couch, or behind the stove), and when I finish off the one bottle it makes me cringe and the burning settles deep down inside me as I pull back the curtains in the living room and peer out into the street. There’s no one there. And just when I pull away from the window something scratches against the side of the house and I swear I hear someone grunt. There’s a thumping sound against the wall; but when I look outside again there’s nothing there except a broken branch blowing in the wind. I could really use a cigarette right now, and I know there’s a pack hidden somewhere around the house. But it would make Amanda mad and this doesn’t seem like a good time to step outside for a smoke anyways.
When I go upstairs I’m relieved to see Amanda drying herself off in our room with a pink towel that makes her blond hair bright and nice in the light.
“Hey you,” she says.
I smile and look out the window.
“Is everything okay?”
“Of course,” I say. “Get into bed and I’ll rub your back.”
“Do you love me?”
And this seems to settle her. She gets into bed and lies down and for some reason I almost burst into tears. There’s something scratching against the side of the house but I can’t bear to look again. On the back of my neck there’s a burning sort of itch that I can’t quite reach or scratch because it’s burrowed underneath the skin. I find myself lying in bed beside Amanda. She’s asleep already, and I’m all alone. On the ceiling, the shadows mold and shift and in my heart, well, it probably looks the same. A puddle of grey shapes. I try to fall asleep but I can’t get comfortable and I keep hearing things outside. I get up and check the window again. There’s nothing there. But that feeling won’t go away. I
wonder what else could be out there. It all seems too far away, so distant and strange and desolate. Because if I leave here then I might never find a place like this again, and that fills me with a black sort of dread. But staying doesn’t seem much better, considering I’m convinced there’s a man stomping around up on our roof. And every once in a while I think I see eyes in the window.
Amanda sighs, then shifts in her sleep.
I put my cold hand on her warm thigh and this makes her legs cringe and bundle up tight against my hand. Lying there looking at her sleeping lips and gently rising chest seems to put a spell over me and I manage to fall asleep. My dreams look something like my heart. And when I wake up to the sun pouring into our room through the window, I don’t remember falling asleep – or anything about last night really, until I notice that Amanda isn’t in bed with me, the empty sheets all wrinkled and forlorn.
I rub my eyes and pull my torso from the bed. The house is quiet. I get up and check the bathroom. There’s no one there, no used towel or puddles of splashed water by the sink. I rub at my swollen face in the mirror. Suddenly something clinks behind me and I whirl around ready to strike with Amanda’s hair dryer, but it’s only Amanda.
“Good morning, sweetie,” she says.
I can only nod and throw out a cracked smile, the hair dryer still clenched between my maniacal fingertips.
She comes over to me and wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me. I’m so glad that she’s here right now, because waking up alone, after a night like that, was like rolling over one morning and realizing that everyone you ever knew was dead.
“I’m late for work,” she sighs. “But can we go out for dinner tonight, Patrick?”
“Absolutely,” I say. “That sounds great – actually, why don’t you just call in sick, I mean, it’s not like today is anything important…”
She laughs and tells me I’m crazy, and then she runs off downstairs to eat breakfast while I shave and brush my teeth. I hear her leaving through the garage door in the kitchen as I finish in the bathroom. The morning is soft and the gentle rays of sun bleed in through the parted curtains. After I’ve dressed and made the bed, because Amanda likes it that way, I go downstairs and my footsteps sound hollow in the empty house.
The kitchen smells sort of funny and the fridge door is standing open. I shake my head and grin at how rushed Amanda must have been this morning. The milk carton has been tipped over on the table and the white liquid is streaming off the wooden surface and landing in a puddle on the linoleum floor. My heart beats fast then slow, and cold beads of sweat drip down my arched back. What is happening?
The garage door is open.
And I know before I pull back on the doorknob.
I know because this was always how it was going to be.
Amanda is swaying from a rope in the garage, her wrists are slit and her neck is hanging out, all gorged and bloody, and I can see that her eyes are still open and her mouth is all twisted, the tongue lolling out all red and glistening. And in the garage I hear something move, that thing which has been with us for some time, despite my denial; and I didn’t do a goddamn thing about it.