It looked like he came out a gate. He may have come from behind. He is looking away as he walks away from the fence, Eva’s fence. Vague perplexed twitches scratch my mind. Did he come from her yard or something? Or was that not a side gate closing? He doesn’t even turn to look at us when we pull up in front of this house. Or was he just walking from the field behind her house?
I have never been here. Just now I drove up for the first time. My sister Gaby has, and was having trouble remembering which house is Eva’s. Oh, it’s that one! We were half past it when I pull over and parked. I’m too done driving to put the car in reverse and back up a few feet and park directly in front of the house. I just idle the car waiting for Gaby to insist, or I’m not re-parking. She doesn’t insist. So, I turn the car off.
We are way passed the driveway. Our car is parked half way between what is supposed to be Eva’s house and the next house on a quiet Phoenix col-de-sac. If Gaby is right, our old best friend Eva lives here with her three-year old daughter I can’t wait to meet, and her boyfriend I haven’t met yet either.
Are you sure this is Eva’s house?
Yeah, now I’m totally sure.
Is that her boyfriend, then? I nod in the direction of the man crossing the narrow side yard between the house and the construction site next door.
Gaby turns and stares in his direction. He reaches the construction cluttered next door front yard, bends over and picks up a bucket. His back is to us. He walks a few feet, puts the bucket down, turns and picks up the garden hose, then walks a bit further and puts it down, then reaches for a shovel.
No! He is way to old to be Eva’s boyfriend.
Well it looked like he was coming out of her fence. But I’m not sure. Maybe he wasn’t.
I don’t know what he is doing, but that is not Eva’s boyfriend. Why would you even think that?
I don’t know. Maybe she hired him to work on something. What if he is a friend of her dads or something? He could have come from behind the house, I couldn’t tell for sure.
I watch him, perplexed. He stands the shovel against the wall by the front door, picks up a brick from there, and puts the brick where he got the hose from.
First I’m wondering who he is. Now I’m wondering what he is doing. He seems busy and focused. His feverish work keeps his face turned away from us. If he was working for Eva, unless he is real shy, he would have wondered about us by now, maybe said hi, and figured out who we are. He must be shy or obsessed or something.
But he would have expected us, if he knew Eva. She would have told us if he would be working on something when we are showing up.
Even shy people notice a car drive up, and woman in it. Not a glance though.
Gaby is getting her things, cleaning up, folding sweaters, bagging up food wrappers and Starbucks cups. She tosses the pillows into the back seat and reaches back for her overnight bag. I turn the music down.
You go on in. I’ll come in after a while.
The truth is, I just can’t move. I need stillness. This happens sometimes.
It’s about ten in the morning, we drove all night expecting to arrive sooner, before Eva left for work. Traffic held us up after we did a circle around Sky Harbor. Eva isn’t home now, so rushing in won’t make me see her any sooner, anyway. I must sit here, breath, relax.
One thing I love about Gaby is she gets me. I don’t have to explain why I just sit here. I don’t help put CD’s away or straighten up or fold the lap blanket, or tell my daughter to get her things. I turn off the music.
Gaby looks around. Maybe we should tell Eva.
I think so. I nod.
I zone out. Gaby doesn’t disturb me.
I don’t see what the guy is working at. The hose doesn’t go into the bucket, or on a pile of cement to water and mix. He doesn’t turn it on. He doesn’t follow-up with a next logical step. The next, brick he picks up, he puts down next to a half-empty sack of cement. When he takes the rake from one spot on the ground and puts it down at another random spot on the ground, an uncomfortable feeling crescendos in bewildered, silent questioning.
What is going on!?
Sitting there uneasy, wondering, dazed, zoned, empty, time stands still.
A silent flash of nothing mixes with the nothing in me. It forms something. Not thought or words or even a feeling. It is an absolute, a knowing, an imperative, a command, no voice. Word-thought shaped of unquestionable authority that is not mine, booms in a still unheard un-voiced statement of fact.
“She is mine.
You can’t touch her!
She is mine.
Because I love her.”
I don’t know what stated this. It felt exactly like my feelings, but it wasn’t me. I just totally agree, because I do, and don’t know why, except that of course, it’s just what I would have said if I had thought of it, and knew why I’d thought of it. But I didn’t, and I didn’t.
But, then, it strikes me to add:
Not her, not anyone!
Then nothing. A sense completion, followed by a sense of peace.
My job here is done. It is a feeling, a certainty that came with this mystery. I have nothing else to do here, but don’t know how to say it, or even think it.
You can say or do what you think is right, Gaby. Whatever you think needs to be said to Eva or done, you do it. I’m not going to do anything.
The guy, when I notice again, has gotten on a bike. He rides past us with his face turned away staring, eagerly searching, it would seem, for something amazing across the street.
I can move now. Then no further thought. I forget about the whole thing. We all get up and go inside to shower, sleep and wait for Eva.
While Eva gets dinner, that evening, I play in the back yard with our kids. Our ball hits the gate. I look at it. It is unlatched. I latch it.
When we go inside I remember. The side gate was not latched, Eva. Now it’s latched.
It was unlatched? It couldn’t have been. Maybe…, she seems suddenly exasperated, well I don’t know how, I better double check after some people come over.
I don’t think of any related incident or anything else to say about it, while she seems frustrated with her beloved suspect.
Gaby forgot about the whole thing, too.
We all had a great time together, for a couple of days then we got back on the road.
After a few weeks when we were back home, Eva called Gaby frantic and terrified, sobbing.
The police had pounded on her door, urgently showed their badges and ordered:
Get your purse and your kid right now. You have to get out of here. We can no longer ensure your safety. Don’t come back here under any circumstances. You can arrange for someone to pick-up your things later.
We leave right now.
You know the Bicycle Stalker?
Yeah, of course.
He has now been identified. He is in your area. You and your daughter fit the profile.