I had been aware of the man in the corner of my vision for an hour or more.
Dark, but not a native.
He wore no hat and I could see that his hair was deep in retreat above his temples. A thin man, slightly stooped, with a delicate formality to his walk. I’d passed the rows of vendors and bought what I needed. Short conversations, greetings. Bargaining here or there—surely that’s the price for a dozen?—slowing, shifting, turning. But always I could feel the presence out beyond my shoulder. The man never came close enough to hear or to speak: he merely kept in step as I moved.
And I am not someone accustomed to being followed. Lord, you’d die of the tedium.
In the sheds I bought myself a hock of mutton and a pound of potatoes. No, Mr Ross, I am cooking for myself, same as last week. Mr Ross shrank back into his shell, tortoise-man. While he wrapped the meat in long muslin, further out the dark man let the sides of his eyes inform him.
I forced a conversation with the woman who had broad beans. Veda, Vera, Thea. I didn’t want the beans: I wanted to convince myself I was imagining things.