Do you ever drive past someone and think that you know them? Today, I was stopped at a red light and I looked out of my window to see a young man wearing black pants and a gray hooded sweatshirt. I stared for several seconds waiting for his face to turn towards me just for another glimpse. Was it the person that I thought it was? I looked intensely trying to figure out why this person was even in this place because it just didn’t make much sense. The light turned green and I passed by without another look.
As I drove the rest of the way home I couldn’t get the face out of my mind. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was who I thought it was. I imagined what I would have done if I could have had one more look at his face….
As I pulled up to the bumper of the black SUV in front of me, I looked to my left and noticed a very familiar looking young man. He was wearing wrinkled black pants and shirt with a gray hooded sweatshirt over top. As he stood there waiting to cross the street, he was moving anxiously. It was as if he had a nervous twitch. His arms moved in quick jerky bursts from his side to his face rubbing his eyes feverishly.
I stared for several seconds waiting for him to look my way once more. This man looks so familiar to me. I know him, I do.
His face, buried in the hood of his sweatshirt, only peaks out slightly as he yawns an enormous yawn and then lifts the cigarette that is almost down to the filter, up to his face. A quick draw of the poison and his head is turned once again.
I continue to watch for what feels like ten minutes but was probably more like three. The crossing signal flashes and he begins to move across the street in front of the SUV. Each movement is strange and choppy. He looks robotic in his sharp movements one second, and the next his body is pliable and flimsy. I know this person and something does not seem right with him.
As he moves in front of the SUV, I can not see where he is. My eyes are searching around the other side of the enormous vehicle to get a glimpse of him once more. Finally, he emerges on the other side and jumps onto the curb triumphantly. He flicks his cigarette to the street and then stands still for a moment and looks up into the clouds.
I can not help myself from staring at him still. My gaze is broken only by the sound of a horn from behind me. When I look in front of me, the black SUV is at least five car lengths away and the light is still green. Everything inside of me is saying to stop and speak to the man, but I’m in the wrong lane and my foot instinctively presses on the gas to move forward. As I cross the intersection I see a place to pull in an turn around.
My heart is racing right now. I know that man! I can feel my heart beating in my throat as I turn my van around and head back to where I saw him cross. Only a minute has passed so he is surely still there.
When I make my way in the right direction I look out of my passenger window for him. He wasn’t moving fast so he is certainly close. There! I see him a hundred feet ahead in a parking lot of a small grocery store. I pull in to the lot and park a few spots from where he is standing. I’m frozen watching him and wondering what I am doing. What am I going to do next?
He has another cigarette lit and seems to be enjoying each long drag. As he exhales the smoke he stares at it billowing up toward the sky. For the first time I can see his eyes. They are blue. Not the blue of warm and carefree Caribbean waters that sparkle with each crashing wave. Not the blue that I had once seen. They are a muted and dull blue framed with tiny red veins. His sockets are sunken in and surrounded by a dark cloud. The circles around his eyes look like the black hole.
I watch still frozen in my seat. My hands are clenched so tight on the steering wheel that my knuckles are white. I notice his lips. They are white and dry and look as though they are starved for a drop of water. His bottom lip shakes a bit as he raises his cigarette for another drag. This time I notice his hand shaking as well. He moves it back down to his side and his left hand then fiercely comes up to his face and rubs his eyes once more. Then the hand moves on to his head as it angrily begins to tug at the hairs that are at the top of his forehead. A fist full of hair as he yanks and pulls and then moves back over his face.
I turn off my car and unbuckle my seat belt. As I turn my head to open the door, I catch a glimpse of a police car in my side view mirror. I open my door and walk around the back of the van to see as the car come to a stop in front of the man.
In seconds they have him on the hood of the car.
I’m frozen. I know this man.
I watch in a paralized state of shock as they pull a plastic bag out of his pocket and throw it on the hood next to his face. The officer continues to pull things from his pocket and throw them down. The man’s cheek is squished flat on the car and the life is gone from his eyes.
I swear for a split second his eyes met mine. I looked deep into them and realized that I did not know this man. This was someone that I stopped knowing long ago.
I turned my back and walked back to the drivers side door. I got in and backed out, replaying in my mind how I ended up in this parking lot. I glanced one final time in the rear view mirror and then tasted the drop of salt as it rolled from my cheek to my mouth.
I know I usually write about things that actually happen to me, and this did in a sense. I really was imagining this after I passed by the man. I just look into a face and wonder how they fit into my life or if they are supposed to. I guess this is where it took me. Hope you enjoyed reading!