Someone, somewhere, at some point in time, told me that humans are divided into two categories: participants and observers.

I’ve always considered myself an observer; not a terribly good one, obviously, since I can’t remember who told me that.

I think about this now. I am living in the suburbs of St. Petersburg. It is quiet; peaceful, almost. It is lonely.

It is two a.m. There was nothing interesting in the windows of the building across.

So, I stand in the hardware aisle of the 24 hour super-store nearby, observing power tools. A man passes me by. He is black. I start to follow him, subconsciously, at first. Then, with purpose. Maybe he speaks English, I think; Russia is not a very diverse place.

He has dreadlocks. He is wearing sweatpants; a nice pair of headphones hang around his neck. I wonder where he is from. He stops in the bread aisle. I stand at the head of it, scratching my face. He turns. I pretend to buy some flour, for my late-night bake-off perhaps. When I turn back, he is gone.

I catch up with him in frozen foods. I have instant noodles in my arms. A babushka watches me, watching him.

“What?” I snap.

She growls and moves on, cart full of jars, fermenting. The man I’ve been hunting looks up. He frowns.

I try to wave, dropping an instant noodle. I bend to pick it up. Another one drops.

I sigh, gather my strength and ferret the little packages into my arms. When I straighten up, he is gone.

The Babushka is chuckling at me, rolling away. I give the back of her head the finger.

I look around, feeling a bit panicked. I turn to find myself looking into a well-polished bit of freezer. My eyes are sunken, arms full of instant noodles.

“Are you following some poor man through a grocery store at two-a.m.?” My reflection asks.

I nod, guiltily.

“Go home!” It demands.

I nod, sadly. I drop my instant noodles into the closest freezer.

I head for the exit.


A Writer and an artist living in Russia

13 Comment on “Hot on the Trail of Dreadlocks

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