After a long day of work, it is time to return home, walking the same streets as every night. The sun has already gone down and the street lights begin to flicker, announcing the darkest hour of the day. You advance without much attention, you already know the path, each ramp, each corner to turn, you even know where and when you should take small jumps to avoid puddles.
There is little left to arrive.
There are others like you returning home, some cross your path, others go in the same direction, you enjoy appreciating the moment in which each of them changes their route and stops existing on your return home. You notice another ahead, it does not come towards you, it advances ahead of you; At first glance, the other has nothing in particular, another one returning home after a long day of work. You continue to move behind your transient companion, who moves ahead of you, the two of you moving together in the same direction. You watch him cross the street in the same place that you regularly do, turn left at the corner that you will turn left in a little while. Now you find it intriguing to know where he will be headed, will he be a new neighbor? Will his destination be one of the houses near yours? or is it just a coincidence?
You are paying too much attention to it, perhaps it is the boring routine or the need to look for something to distract yourself, as you have done other nights: count how many stray dogs you meet on the road, how many lights are still blinking before you get home or just walk without stepping on the lines between the sidewalk tiles; and you notice that the other continues in the same direction; you turn it into a game: guess when the other will turn aside.
Now it’s a race!
Who will reach the finish line first?
You advance and advance more, paying more and more attention to the figure, discovering other details that you had not noticed before; you notice his clothes, his shoes and even his suitcase are familiar to you; the textures, patterns, colors and shapes are very similar to the textures, patterns, colors and shapes of the clothes you wear (perhaps too much so). You try not to be too intense with that thought, it’s illogical; maybe the game has become too much for you, it would be good to think about something else, distract yourself with something else.
-From the pole, there are still cables hanging from when a truck passed and brought them down. No one has come to repair them.
-Don Enrique (the bitter old man), still hasn’t finished painting the gate of his house. He’s been painting it all week.
-Doña Julieta forgot to put inside her small and annoying dog that barks outside the door.
-The magazine stand is already closed. You can see the old and faded prints in the windows.
But you know you’re kidding yourself… you haven’t stopped thinking about the other who keeps walking in the same direction you’re headed.
You increase the speed: the best thing will be to outflank and leave all this behind. But with every stride you take, he seems to take a stride too, as he will unknowingly try to match your speed and not get caught up.
Your thoughts get weirder:
Is that me?
You no longer hear the dog barking, the cars and the noise of the city are silenced, there is no one else on the street, just you and that other person in front of you. You keep thinking and observing every detail of the strange character that interrupted your tranquility and took over your route: his way of walking, the way he holds the briefcase, even the curved shape of his back is the same as your curved back that for so long you have tried to unsuccessfully straighten.
You begin to mistrust the other.
Even when you try to think about other things, the thought is still there, it haunts you, it obsesses you, it feels like a burden, your steps are now heavy; you slow down your walk, you stop, you crouch down and look down to inspect the laces of your shoes, you know that they are well tied, but you use it as an excuse to give time and space to the other and not be your problem anymore.
You stand up and look up, the other is still there, as if he too had stopped for a moment and then resumed his walk.
Am I that other?
There are only a few houses left to reach the final destination, it comforts you to know that this trip is coming to an end and soon you will be at home, you will be greeted at the door by your children and your wife will hug you, you will leave the briefcase on the old sofa to take off your shoes: the best part of the day.
Three houses and an empty lot in the middle.
Now you feel anxious, it excites you to reach the exact moment when the ungrateful goes away from the house and gets lost in the dark night, beyond your route to stop existing.
You slow down, you get distracted looking for the keys in the right pocket of your pants, for a moment you forget everything, as if it were something from the past, you look up, you freeze: the other, a few steps ahead, stops right at the house’s door.
Slowly turns toward the door, takes his hand out of the right pocket of his pants holding something small and shiny…
You turn slowly, trying to get a better look.
The door of the house opens, laughter: two small children run out and throw themselves at the man’s legs, followed by their mother who smiles as she approaches to hug her husband.
You feel a cold that surrounds you, you remain still, there is no light in the street, only the small bulb of warm light on the door that lets you see the dark shapes hugging. You shake your head and lift your right foot and then your left with difficulty, resume walking slowly, without taking your eyes off, cross in front of the house where he is received, you continue walking, look out of the corner of your eye trying not to lose him. but the other man’s face is already hidden between the wavy hair and the woman’s neck, and just before you lose sight of the scene, the woman raises her head and looks directly at you, and her gaze makes you feel for an instant, that she knows you.
You continue walking, and you walk away, the light from the door is no longer enough to light the way. You don’t look back, you don’t hear anything, not even the laughter of the two small children, there are no others on the way.
Now you are the other, walking with no destination after a long day at work.