As the solid cement of the building resupplied my courage, he was suddenly in front of me, and the muted gray of dusk turned charcoal.
“Why do you chase me?” he asked.
“I . . . I . . . you . . .”
His intensity took my breath away. I wiped my clammy palms on my jeans. So what if he could hear my heart beat like the tell-tale heart? I was on the offense, not the defense, wasn’t I? I would not let him intimidate me. I WOULD NOT.
“What mindlessness draws people like you to chase me? You’re the same ones who would be most dismayed to catch up with me.”
I gulped and he was gone. The conversation that had taken less than a minute seemed as though it had lasted an eternity.
I ran back home, knowing he would be able to tell where I lived if he followed. At this point I didn’t care. I just wanted to be somewhere familiar, somewhere safe. I slammed the door behind me, locked the deadbolt with trembling hands, and watched as my dog took one whiff of me and hid under the couch.
Later, when my breathing had returned to normal and the sirens of the evening blended with street sounds of my city block, I sat with my cup of tea and thought about what he had said. Chasing him? Well, sure, but only because I wanted to prove I – what was it I had thought at the time? Trifled with? Yes, couldn’t be trifled with.
Maybe I did prove it. I’d caught up with him, after all. But to be perfectly honest, it didn’t feel like I’d proven anything. I turned to one of my favorite shows on the television, but the evening’s murder investigation started me thinking things that hadn’t before occurred to me. I switched it off. I grabbed a book I had been reading, and slammed it shut after a paragraph. I switched on the T.V. again and listened as a political ad droned on about someone who thought that I deserved to get what I wanted, not what I worked for. I thought for a minute about what I deserved and threw my shoe at the T.V. It went black.
I switched on a lamp. Who was he anyway, this immoveable, intense man who sent shivers straight to my gut; who I’d never seen before, but who seemed slightly familiar? Not familiar like an old acquaintance. Familiar, maybe like an old textbook. Like that.
What if it was him? Whether I was correct about his identity or not, there was one thing I did know. Loathe to admit it though I was, he was right. I had been chasing him without a thought of what that meant other than my immediate desire to prove something. I hadn’t thought of the peripheral, the fall out. And if he was who I now thought he might be, my mind had already revealed that I had been chasing him long before he confronted me on this golden day. When I inhaled the golden light of fall, I thought of tombs and pirates, not warmth and light. I really was playing that lottery that had flitted through my brain like a sudden breeze.
There are many things I chase in life, some more worthwhile than others. But on a golden afternoon that knocked the breath out of me with fright I wonder. Should Death really be one of them?