Friday, October 21, 2005
— Fiction —
Who’s the new guy? Is he new? Nope, guess I’ve seen him here before. Every Friday at 7:55 a.m., just like me. Balding—pasty. Yeah, I’ve seen the guy. Could really use more sun. 45—older maybe. Yeah, guess he’s been coming here for weeks, now that I think about it. Guess I never really noticed him before. Or have I? Always in that stupid blue suit. (Same one every time? His FRIDAY suit? What a loser.) And the rouge-red Kmart tie. Mr. Middle Management. I loathe his kind. Thinks he’s too good for the rest of us. I’d like to take him down a peg.
* * *
So, we meet again! The guy’s a cue-ball, for God’s sake. Buy some Rogaine, cheapskate. Roger Raincoat—just because it’s raining. (Brilliant plan, Einstein. Now go split the atom.) Look at him, just sitting there. So nervous. Fidgety. What’s he thinking? Every Friday morning at 7:55. What’s going through his shiny little head? He’s thinking about ME—I’ll just bet he is. Thinks he’s so superior, in his President’s Day–sale Haggar slacks—buy two pairs and get an umbrella for free. Jerk.
* * *
Oh, this guy kills me—he is just too much! Watching, watching … He thinks I don’t know, but I know. Oh, I see through him all right! Big man! Thinks he’s clever, face buried inside the latest issue of The Atlantic Monthly. THAT’s where you tripped up, my friend. NO ONE actually READS The Atlantic Monthly! Like I’m actually reading the summer fiction issue of The New Yorker. Fat chance! I’m keeping my eye on you, Big Man. Just like it says in the song they’re piping in on the loudspeaker behind the potted fern: I’m watching every move you make.
* * *
This could be it. This could be the day I pop that guy, but good. He’s gone completely out of bounds—past any reasonable limit. And I’m not going to sit still and take it. Bad enough I have to see him here every Friday at 7:55. TODAY the joker follows me onto the subway, stands way down on the platform by the peanut stand. (Like I didn’t seem there, Commandant Capitalist, nose wedged inside Investors Daily). He TRIED to play it cute by riding in the next car, but I spotted him right away through the connecting door. Then, he’s got the nerve to tail me to my appointment, keeping pace with me, step for step—but always staying ambling two blocks behind. I stop for a paper, he stops two blocks down for a pack of cigarettes. I whirl around to stare him down, he suddenly needs to snag a Daily News from the very same box I’d used two blocks back. Makes me think—maybe it’s not JUST Friday mornings. Are there OTHER times, other days he’s been watching me? Dammit! That must’ve been HIM across the street in the Taqueria Tuesday night! I could SWEAR I saw a bald dude sitting in a window seat, looking up from time to time at my apartment. I’m on the ninth floor and it was pretty dark—and I was probably drunk—so I can’t be sure. Still, I swear to God, it could be the same guy!
* * *
O-kay, this is REALLY it, I swear. I’m not going to last the five minutes to 8 o’clock. Bad enough we ended up on the same train again. (THIS TIME, I stayed two blocks behind him, stopped when he stopped, etc. Didn’t count on that, did you, Sylvester Polyester, Disco-Dan right out of a swingin’ 70s flashback I’d just as soon forget? Oh man, this torture. No magazines today. What the hell happened? Postal strike? Cleaning crew join Mensa? Not even a Student Highlights. (Damn, their crosswords can be hard sometimes.) OH MY GOD. He looked over! Beak peaked right above the National Geographic he slipped it our of his briefcase when I came in the door. Talk about your obvious props! Talk about “being prepared.” Freakin’ Scotty Scoutmaster, that’s what this guy is all about. What’s on the cover … “The Kremlin Today”! Oh, you are not fooling anyone, pally! Screw you, I’m looking right back. There, how do you like my eyes drilling into your face? My thoughts boring into your brain? Oh, you wanna lock eyes, big man? Let’s do this thing! Can you feel it? How does it feel? Yeah, we’re both shaking and oozing sweat. Like Scanners, one of our heads may explode from the strain. HOW DOES IT FEEL!
And then his therapist opens her office door. The guy jumps up, magazine falling to the cheap brown carpet. He points at me and screams: “See, he HAS been watching me! Following me around! I told you! I told you!”
He goes on like that until MY therapist opens his door on the opposite side of the room. I cross my arms and nod. “Now who’s paranoid?”
And let me just add, I feel it’s highly unprofessional for mental-health professionals to roll their eyes and sigh in front of their patients.