Actual arrival: Before me/unknown
A man has been pacing since – no probably before – I arrived. He’s on the phone. Or at least I presume he is. I’ve grown to distrust the obvious: not even the phone against his ear, those agitated gestures with his one free arm, and the movement of his lips, are enough to convince me absolutely.
I need evidence.
“Look for evidence,” they said.
He’s off the phone now. He’s stopped pacing. He’s sitting next to his bike, staring at the sky. Now looking down.
Whatever conversation – sorry, apparent conversation – the conclusion has disturbed him.
Perhaps he was disturbed prior to the conversation–
A new man.
Looking left and right, and then left and then off. He didn’t hang around. Should I expect him to? I’ve started to construct a world for my bicycle riding phone man – and desperately wanted him to be a part of it.
“Don’t fictionalise,” they said.
“Don’t literalise, either.” they said.
“What?” I said.
“If you don’t know what is happening, construct reasonable hypotheses.”
Do not commit.
And don’t be seen.
Expected arrival: 19.15
Actual arrival: 19.32
A girl. Blonde as blonde.
Walks. Stops: looks at where she has come from, and resumes walking, one eye on the building, one on the pavement.
She didn’t stick around.
Is that a sign?
How fast should someone move away from a place in order to appear natural and not arouse suspicion?
How fast should someone move away from a place to arouse suspicion if they are otherwise innocent and natural?
She is not the one I am looking for. It is not the speed…for I have not concluded either way if this is indicative of anything at all other than the pace at which someone walks.
It was the one eye on the building.
You wouldn’t look back.
I wouldn’t look back.
Expected arrival: 19.55
Actual arrival: 19.45
The door opens. They’re early. She’s early. I hadn’t anticipated this.
A petit woman, coat off – now putting it on.
She too takes a glance at the building but this is all.
Busying herself with coat, hair, bag…
Not the least flustered – no hesitation – almost rehearsed.
This is what they told me to look for.
Signs. Unnatural signs. Overly natural, unnatural signs.
Would I seem overly natural?
I do not know what has been happening in that place (I’m not privy), so I cannot possibly presume the air of naturalness is a front. But I must presume.
That is my job.
She disappears around the corner at the end of the street, no pause, no look back.
Just the gentle bobbing and swaying of long blonde-brown hair, swept back and forth by an unruffled walk.
No look back.
Expected arrival: 20.10
Actual arrival: 20.05
Lazlo. The one they called Lazlo.
I don’t think they were meant to tell me this. Someone slipped up. And what can I infer from a name? Not a lot, on the face of things.
And yet it is not the name, per se, that I can father information from. It is the fact that I know a name that a) I wasn’t mean to know and b) they know – which begs the question: do they know the names of the others? or just Lazlo?
If the former, they know a great deal more about these people than I do and I am not offering them things they probably already do not know. So my observation is to inform them of the status – or accuracy even – of what they know.
If the latter…who Lazlo? Why do they know him? And why does their knowing him effect my observation to the point that they should not be allowed to tell me that they know Lazlo?
Perpetually hampered by question with no answers, just a clock, eyes, a pen and some paper: I wait.
Here he is.
He’s shaking – no, nodding – his head. Knowingly? Bag in tow, he turns left like the rest, adorns his back and sets off on his powerful heavyset quest into the night. He is not my man/woman. At least I hope not.
Expected arrival: n/a
Actual arrival: n/a
Insight is a dangerous thing.
There I was, wistfully contemplating a few inconsequential questions – who’s Lazlo? Why can I not know his name? How fast a walk is a guilty walk? – when I am called away to the very place I am observing.
I cannot say I am much clearer for it.
I am, in fact, finding sympathy with my would be prey: for this – this report – is a retrospective observation of myself. I am the observer being observes, and observing – post hoc – my own observations.
I was innocent, and now I feel…tarnished.
Not guilty… not even complicit. Dirty.
I am not aware of any fault, other than my own in curiosity and watching: where privacy is paramount and somebody is not mine to watch.
Is this a test?
Is it a lesson?
Are they telling me to empathise with my prey, so that I can understand their actions more intimately?
Is it to instil a mandatory sense of paranoia so that I may be vigilant where otherwise I might be prey for another to observe?
Does it ever stop?
A cycle of observation stretching right to the stairway of heaven…
Expected arrival: I have no idea
Actual arrival: 20.40?
A man whose sense of privacy and curiosity has been undermined – violated even. Is this a man I can surely judge from inside my observatory of power – that is, of power that is under the aegis of another – ?
He descends and, without even looking up to see his course, is off in the same direction as the rest; coat and bag adorned, striding to the end of the building and out of sight.
No look back.
Did I look back?
Did I break stride?
What does that say of me?
Am I to be an accomplice?
Leeching on the back of moments in somebody else’s life, sifting through the paraphernalia o signs that may come to signify everything… anything…nothing at all.
Should I have come here with another story, another world, another job, might I have imagined this man – this father of two, dedicated husband, impressionable but well meaning and amiable – no, malleable to the will of others – see him walk to the station with every intention of returning home to his family and not giving these last few moments a first thought, never mind a second…
Expected arrival: n/a
Actual arrival: 20.36
Not a great one.
No result for my employers.
But an observation of sorts.
An observation of thoughts.
I visualised a man unknown to me returning home to his wife and children, unawares of my presence – my prying…my purpose – and thus to him I do not exist.
I cannot exist.
And to myself, in this present state, pen and paper joining to confirm darting thoughts in ink and letters… me, I, exist not to myself at all but only in terms of the view I have offered my employers of myself. I have ceased to have a view of myself alone, and can only consider myself in the view of others.
Or not, as the case often is.
Suppose a man is the sum total of the views people have of him?
Suppose the more he is seen, watched, known or unknown; thought of, remembered, cursed and loved…the more he exists: the more he is to himself by way of everyone else?
Am I doing these people a favour?
Am I doing myself any favours?
I think not.
And so I must leave: to a place I may be seen.