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The Man Who Followed People

We all need a hobby

Trevor lived in an expensive apartment on the ninth floor of an exclusive apartment building in the heart of the big city. The apartment had great views of the streets and people below as well as the distant hills across the water.

Trevor was unemployed because he did not need a job. He was quite wealthy. He had enough steady income from his trust funds, his investment funds, stocks and real estate holdings and other business holdings that he simply did not need to work. He attended one or two board meetings a month but that was all he did. The rest of his time was free.

He spent a lot of time standing at his window, coffee mug in hand, watching people moving about on the streets below his apartment. Though he was one of them he felt so far removed from them. He figured that most of those people walking the streets were either going to or coming back from their jobs, or they were running errands or taking care of some business. They seemed so busy earning a living and trying to make it in the city.

Occasionally, he would go to the garage and get in his Tesla then drive over the bridge towards the hills outside of the city. A drive through the countryside was always refreshing and satisfying but what Trevor preferred more than that was staying in the city and watching people. People fascinated him — mostly because they all seemed so different than him.

But simply watching people from his ninth-floor window was not enough. Trevor decided to take daily walks through the city. This way he could watch people at a horizontal level. He could be among those people.

His daily walks grew longer and longer. One sees so much more at ground level and Trevor became ever more fascinated with the incredible diversity of humans. He grew curious about their stories. After all, everyone has stories.

Quite often, Trevor’s walks took him down a certain city block where a line of homeless people were sitting on the sidewalk with their backs up against a building. Most of them had little tin cups or upturned hats or little cardboard boxes in front of them for people to throw money into. While he always looked at all the homeless people, wondering what their stories were, he just walked past them without dropping any money.

One day while passing by the line of homeless people Trevor noticed a new homeless man that he had not seen before. He was leaning back against a bulging duffel bag reading a paperback book. The homeless man was old and wrinkled with a shaggy salt and pepper beard and gray matted hair on his head. He did not look very different than any of the other homeless people but there was definitely something very different. On the sidewalk in front of him, leaning against a stuffed backpack was a small whiteboard. In front of the whiteboard was an upturned hat with a few coins in it.

Trevor slowed down to read the message written on the whiteboard. It was a small whiteboard that was about two feet wide by two feet tall. Written in blue marker was this message: Why run when you can walk?

Trevor stopped walking and smiled. It was the perfect message for him. He was never running towards some goal. He merely walked and enjoyed observing the life of the city. Trevor felt that he was living that message but he also realized that the homeless man was probably also living that message though in a very different way.

Trevor reached into his pocket and pulled out a twenty dollar bill which he dropped into the hat in front of the whiteboard. The homeless man never looked up from his book.

Seeing Trevor drop a twenty into the hat, the other homeless people all leaned forward and held out their tin cups and upturned hats and cardboard boxes toward Trevor as he walked off. But Trevor did not drop any more money. Under his breath, he callously said to them, Get a freaking whiteboard!

While walking the city streets became Trevor’s primary occupation, he began feeling like he wanted more. He wanted to take his walking up a notch. But he had no idea how to do this. Finally, one day a brilliant idea came to him. Instead of merely walking and observing people, he decided to start following people.

Each day he would pick some random face out of the crowds and follow that person where ever they went. Sometimes he would follow someone for hours and sometimes he only followed someone for a short time before they went into some building — probably either work or home — and did not come back out.

By following someone as they walked through the city Trevor was able to decipher a few details about their stories, their lives. By seeing what stores they shopped at and what restaurants they ate at and what parks they went to and what people they met and interacted with, he was able to pick up little clues about those people.

Every day Trevor would pick someone new to follow to see what he could learn about their personal stories. His daily walks turned into daily adventures. Following people was definitely more exciting than simply walking around observing things.

Often while shadowing someone he would end up walking past the line of homeless people. The old man with the whiteboard was always there with a new message on his whiteboard. His short and often wise messages were written in a different color each day. Trevor did not always understand the messages but he began looking forward to reading them. And each day as he passed he would drop a twenty dollar bill into the old man’s hat. The old man never looked up from whatever paperback book he was reading.

And then one day Trevor’s life took a radical turn. He was walking down a street looking for someone to follow when he turned to look behind him. He saw a woman walking towards him. She was wearing a gray trench coat and a gray beret. From under the beret there billowed out a cloud of curly flaming red hair.

He could not follow her because she was walking towards him. He figured that he could wait for her to pass him and then from a discreet distance he could then follow her. Turning around, he decided instead to turn at the end of the block and walk down a different street.

Two-thirds of the way down the new block Trevor turned to look behind him and he saw that the red-haired woman had also turned onto the new block and was still walking toward him. At the end of the block he crossed the street and began walking down another new block. Halfway down the new block he turned to look behind him and sure enough the red-haired woman was still walking behind him.

Trevor began zig-zagging from block to block and every turn he made the woman also made. Instead of following someone, he suddenly realized with horror that he was now being followed!

He finally slipped into a building and then left the building from the back alley entrance. He managed to elude the woman. He made his way back to his apartment building, constantly looking over his shoulder, and entered the building from the back service entrance. Not wanting the woman to know where he lived, he did not use the front entrance as usual in case she was still somehow watching him.

The next day he was out walking looking for someone to follow when he detected the red-haired woman following him again. She was once again wearing the gray trench coat and beret. Once again he tried to elude her by taking an erratic path but she managed to stay behind him.

Without following anyone and being followed instead, Trevor suddenly found himself walking past the line of homeless people. He read the whiteboard and in red marker the message read, The end has already passed.

Trevor stopped in his tracks. What the fuck? he thought to himself. He had no idea what that message meant. He turned to see the red-haired woman walking towards him. Pulling a wad of money out of his pocket in order to drop a twenty in the old man’s hat, he quickly realized that all he had was ones, fives and hundreds. He peeled off a hundred dollar bill and dropped it into the hat.

For the first time, the old homeless man looked up from his book. He did not smile or say anything. He merely looked Trevor in the eye.

Trevor then turned to see the red-haired woman getting closer. He quickly turned back to see the homeless man was now once again reading his book. He then abruptly turned and walked off, oblivious of the grumblings of the other homeless people.

Eventually he was able to lose the woman and make it back to his apartment building. Riding the elevator up to the ninth floor he realized that his hands were shaking. Trevor was seriously confused. It seemed as if his life had been turned inside out. He was not only confused but a little scared.

Once in his apartment he poured himself a tumbler of very expensive scotch then went to the window. Looking down at the street far below he saw the red-haired woman standing on the corner across the street from the building. And she was looking up directly at his apartment!

The glass was tinted so she could not see him but instinctively Trevor jumped back a few feet. Very slowly, he inched his way forward again and looked down to see that the woman was still there.

Trevor’s hands were really shaking now. What the hell was going on? Was he in some kind of danger? Who was that woman and why was she following him?

With tumbler in hand he began pacing his apartment. He had no idea what was happening or what to do. Was it now unsafe to walk the streets? Would he have to move? Would the woman show up at his door with a gun to blow him away? What crazy story did he get mixed up in?

And furthermore, what the hell did that mean; The end has already passed?

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