A Walk Home
"Why couldn't you shake his hand?" She was pretty upset. "You could have avoided that situation if you shook his hand."
"Melisa you don't understand. It is never that simple." I said.
"Oh really, it is not that simple. Now what would have happened? Would your precious ego have been hurt? Would people have thought less of you?"
"No, you don't understand. I didn't like the way he was playing me."
"How was he playing you?"
"He was playing me out like I was a chump."
"That doesn't make sense."
"I don't know. He was playing himself out like a player. Come on. You know."
"I know what? You were trying to pick a fight." She would not let this play out.
"Did I bump into him? No. Did I throw a punch at him? No.
I said that last part with extra vigor. I was tired of trying to shed light on the situation. I looked over at Melisa, she was silent and she was shaken. We had only made it half a block down the street. She was looking back on the street, obscured by the encroaching darkness. The shadows were playing with my eyes. She grabbed my arm and whispered to me.
"There is someone following us." I laughed at that. 'You are crazy, Melisa. Do you know that you are crazy?"
"I am not crazy. Look he is following us. Didn't you read the campus alert?"
She shoved her phone in my face. The burst of light blinded me for a second. My eyes adjusted and I read an e-mail that said;"
"This email is being sent to the campus community as a timely warning regarding a sexual assault that occurred in the community. Please be advised at 1:15 a.m. a female was assaulted in the 900 block of campus. The suspect is described as a college-age white male. An investigation in to the incident is ongoing."
I finished reading and I said; "Stop being crazy. See, this is why I stopped talking to you. You are such a coward. You connect random events and work yourself into a panic." We kept moving closer to where we were meant to go.
After the air cleared she started again. "You know I was going to confront you about why you were being such a jerk."
I tried to cast doubt on the situation. "I wasn't being a jerk."
"Your right you were being a dick. You didn't talk to me for six weeks. We live two doors from each other and you avoided me. I was going to talk to you about it."
"No you weren't." I knew she wouldn't. That's what annoyed me the most. She wouldn't have talked to me. I keep her in the dark. I come talk to her, invite her out, and now I get lectured.
"Melisa, you would never bring it up for the same reasons you won't move away from here or on with your life." I said half of that sentence. I was too weak to say the rest or anymore.
We both looked away. I looked at the shadows on the sidewalk. Every street always has the lights focused on the center like a spotlight waiting for a parade. The light reflects against the cars, that line the streets, creating grey shadows who watch the cars go by. The light and the night come together to form their own boundaries and creations. Except the lines are never clear. I looked at Melissa. She was looking away into the darkness, but I was close enough to see my shadow form against her eyes. Still looking back she said;
"He is still following us. Jack, he is still following us."
I pulled myself together to laugh at this. "That is illuminating because now I know he is sane. Because he doesn't like walking alone in the dark."
"Don't you see, Jack. This is why I don't go out."
"No Melisa. You don't go out because you don't have friends."
"I know Jack it is sad but so true. That's why I love going to those parties."
"That is why I hate going to those parties because there are too many people I know," I replied. We turned right down the main street we were a left turn and a block away.
I tried to lighten the mood, "Why is no one out tonight?"
"Well its 2 a.m. and it's a holiday weekend," The ability to analyze the situation distracted her.
"Yah I saw Parker leave and I think Avi and Hannah went to L.A. for the night. Well I guess our neighbors won't be able to witness anything tonight." I flashed a smile at her.
"Stop Jack it is not funny that guy is still following us."
We turned left. We were half a block away.
"Jack! Jack! He turned."
At this point I turned back. There was a guy turning down the street, walking outside out of the light of the streetlights and he was getting closer. He wasn't moving very fast but he was getting closer that was obvious. We turned down the driveway of our apartment complex. We were not 10 yards down the driveway and I saw him turn down the driveway. "Jack what is happ…?"
"Melisa go home. Go up the stairs and lock your door."
My eyes were open. All the doors and windows of our place were dark. Everyone was gone. I turned up the stairs and stepped onto the second step. I turned. This is where I would make my stand: the high ground. I put my arm up on the rail across from me as my shadow darkened the steps.
I was laughing, it helped me relax. This was not the first time I had seen some poor drunk college guy follow a girl home. I tried to relax. I should think of something funny to lighten the mood.
He turned up the stair case. He matched Melisa's step perfectly. He was pointed towards her apartment. He bumped into my arm. I gave my best attempt at a joke. "Haha Do you live her….," I couldn't finish. I saw his face and I knew he didn't live here. I lived here and I knew who lived here, and he did not live here. Underneath his hoodie I didn't see a shaggy cut college male. I saw a 40 something year old man with beady black eyes that were focused on Melisa's trail. I stiffened my voice and said, "You don't live her…" It croaked out. He looked up at me. He stepped down off the stairs. His hands were moving inside his sweatshirt. My mind leapt. I didn't want to wait. I pushed him down.
He fell from the stairs crashing to the ground. His face hit the asphalt. There was blood from a cut or a nose bleed maybe. I don't know. Two black objects fell from his pocket and into the shadows. He rolled over and looked up towards Melisa's apartment and then he turned over and glanced around on the ground. He got up and dusted himself off and walked away. He ignored me again.
I was amped and I was angry. Why didn't he look at me?
I walked over to the first object that I saw. It was a small Swiss army knife with a light attached to it. The light was broken.
Was he going for the knife? Was it for me of her? The simple answer was I didn't care walked over to what fell. It was only a wallet. It was open on the ground. I turned it over and looked inside. Inside was a picture of a little girl. The night covered her face.