As I went back out the glass doors I checked the street in front of me for a black Caprice. No sign of it. Fully expecting the ominous car to show up at any moment I hurried away heading south, trying to put as much distance as possible between me and Ms. Cryer’s apartment. After I had gone two blocks, I looked back up the street. Yup. There it was! Or at least there was a dark car moving slowly in my direction. It seemed a safe assumption that it was the Caprice. I turned my back to them and hoped that I was far enough away from the apartment that they wouldn’t notice me. I made an effort to “act natural” as I continued to walk down the sidewalk.
As I sauntered down Michigan Avenue, I reflected on the odds that somebody had seen me leave. My exit had been only slightly less rushed than my arrival. That was a mistake; I really should have taken the time to check for surveillance when I left. I’m not good at the cloak-and-dagger game. I’ve got no experience at this sort of thing.
I would have to assume I had been spotted. Maybe even photographed. I had better keep on my toes. I looked behind me. Nobody was following me on foot, and all of the cars were moving more quickly than I was. The Caprice had turned off at an intersection behind me. I would have to do the best I could to note the cars as they went by and try to determine if any were using the circling trick.
As I walked (and watched cars) I reviewed my conversation with Lisa Cryer. It hadn’t gone too badly. Sure she was annoyed with me, maybe even disgusted, but she was giving me a second chance to explain myself and she said she wouldn’t call the police yet.
I was far enough from the building now that I began to relax. I jammed my fists into my pockets and let the tension leave my shoulders. The sun shone brightly and the pavement was hot beneath my feet. This was probably due to the thin soles on my sneakers as much as it was the warm sunshine. I tend to wear one pair of sneakers as walking shoes, using a separate pair for athletics. The result is that my walking sneakers wear out very slowly and the soles go before the rest of the shoe. As I walked along the street I tried to remember how long I’d had these shoes. I’d bought them the summer between college and graduate school, so that would make them about fifteen years old now. That was the summer I started work at AT&T. I began as a part-time employee in the OS department. My first project involved reviewing source code and testing networking software for bugs. I had liked the work, and perhaps more importantly to me at the time, I liked the people. It was a care-free time for me. I had already decided to go on to grad school and had several more years ahead of me before I had to think seriously about a career. In the meantime I only needed a bit of spending money and a job I enjoyed. For their part AT&T was pleased with me and allowed me to maintain a position throughout my five years of graduate school at Princeton. The arrangement worked well for all involved. My dissertation was all I could handle and I didn’t want a job that would distract from my research, so I continued to work in the software testing department. It wasn’t hard work, nor especially exciting, but it served my purposes.
There was a time when I went through my sneakers more quickly than I do now. I don’t even have a second pair for athletics anymore. I ran track while in college at Berkeley, but no more. I had joined the team Junior year. Originally, I had joined only to give myself a distraction from my studies and from Marsha Banniff. Marsha and I had just broken up, after a two-year relationship. Marsha was a German major with no interest whatsoever in math, engineering, science, or economics. Her interests were romance languages, sociology, and theology. We could not have been further apart academically, and I think we both found this refreshing (I know I did). My interests were computer languages, economics, and discrete mathematics. She claimed the reason for the breakup was that I spent too much time on my schoolwork and that I did not leave time for us. I suspect the real reason for the breakup was that I did not leave enough time for her course-work, as she was the more studious of the two of us. Still, she had a point; both of us seemed to be over-committed and anxious to blame somebody or something other than ourselves. We both dealt with it in the same way — using the other as a scapegoat.
Joining track proved to be a good idea. It gave me an outlet for my frustration. I spent many long hours circling the football field, thinking about whatever crossed my mind. I never did excel in the sport. After two years I reached a reasonably competitive level, but never was a top member of the team. Still, I enjoyed it. I should start jogging again I suppose; I have let myself slip out of shape of late.
A car horn and the squealing of brakes brought me back to the present. A large truck was making a right turn and the car behind it had made the mistake of not heeding the “this truck makes wide turns” sign on the back of the truck. The car had to back up slightly to make more room, thus upsetting the cars behind it. This had a small rippling affect, as the line of six or seven cars each had to back up a car-length, each driver showing his or her annoyance in turn, some more so than others. I slowly approached the corner and paused for a break in the traffic. Somewhere about two blocks earlier I had stopped watching for undercover cops that might be following me. I now quickly surveyed the situation.