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.