Dear Fat Bloke Down the Road,

I’m the first to admit that it would be easier to come and speak to you in person than to draft this letter, but there is a good reason I have elected to contact you in writing. Put simply, you terrify me.

Actually, perhaps ‘terrify’ is the wrong word. ‘Alarm’ might be more appropriate. ‘Disturb’, maybe. Whatever the precise definition, the thought of coming within a few feet of you and holding a direct, one-to-one conversation chills me to the bone.

That’s not to say I can’t speak to you. You’ve heard me say hello to you several times. In fact, I’ve probably said hello more times to you than I have to anyone else alive, and it is for this very reason that I have chosen to write this letter.

I’m going to come right out with it: why are you following me? It was funny the first few occasions I bumped into you in unexpected places, but now – if I’m honest – it’s kind of creeping me out.

Remember that first time – two, maybe three years ago, I forget – when I was out running along a dirt track several miles from where either one of us lives?  I’d covered a fair distance that day, but was still a good twenty miles from the nearest signs of civilisation.

Imagine my surprise, then, to meet you walking at a leisurely pace in the opposite direction. We greeted each other with a polite nod and a mumbled ‘alright?’ and continued on our way, and though I wondered where you could possibly be walking from, I quickly put it down to one of life’s funny little coincidences, and didn’t give the incident another thought.

Until two weeks later, when I met you in the gents’ toilets of a Pizza Hut. The gents’ toilets of a Pizza Hut located one hundred and nine miles from our home town.  You were leaving as I was entering, and though I smiled at our second coincidental meeting in as many weeks, you remained largely impassive, simply giving me another nod as I stood aside to let you by.

By the time I emerged from the toilets – just two minutes later – you were gone.

In the weeks which followed I became more and more suspicious.  It seemed that wherever I went, there you were.

When I went to the petrol station you were there filling your car up. In the supermarket you were at the next checkout, your trolley groaning under the weight of cakes and chocolate. On my way home from nights out with friends I’d pass your house and find you standing on the front step smoking. At 3am! Why were you standing outside smoking at 3am?

On every occasion the salutation was the same: a single nod of your oversized head and – if you were feeling generous – a curt ‘alright?’. One time, during a late night smoking session, you broke with tradition as I passed and commented on how cold it was. It was three o’clock in the morning in February, of course it was cold. If you were cold why weren’t you inside your house?!

Why? Because you were waiting for me, that’s why. That’s what I decided at the time, anyway, and you’ve done little to convince me otherwise in the weeks and months since then.

I travel 65 miles to the nearest cinema and you’re sitting in the row in front, scoffing popcorn by the fistful. I go swimming and you’re standing in the changing room, vigorously drying your crotch like your life depends on it. I pass you on my way into town and then meet you in the first shop I go into. How is that even possible? Do you double back? Is there more than one of you? It just doesn’t make sense any more. Had it not been for the fact that other people have seen you I’d be convinced you existed solely in my head.

I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that time I went to visit my Dad in hospital, only to find you lying in the bed I expected him to be in. For a brief moment I felt an almost overwhelming sense of relief. I thought I had finally reached the end of some twisted, elaborate game, and you were going to be revealed as nothing more than my Dad in a fat suit. But no. My Dad had simply been moved to another ward, and you had been given his old bed, supposedly completely by chance.

Well I don’t buy it. There’s not enough room in the world for that much coincidence. The Universe just doesn’t work that way.

It’s got to the stage now where I’m actively looking for you wherever I go. Will you be sitting in the dentist’s waiting room today? Or at the next table in a coffee shop? Or hiding in my cupboard? I feel like I’m trapped in some psychologically harrowing version of ‘Where’s Wally?’ with no way of reaching the final page.

It’s the apparent lack of motive which scares me the most. Have I done something to you? Is that why you’re pursuing me like some sort of relentless machine? If I have, then I’m sorry. Whatever it was, I’m sorry. Just please … please leave me alone.

Ironically, I don’t even know your name, despite knowing your face better than I know my own. It has reached the stage now when I can identify your slow, lumbering walk at anything up to five hundred yards, though I’ve learned long ago that taking evasive action even at this early stage is pointless. You’ll find me. Wherever I go, whichever way I turn, you’ll find me. You’ll hunt me down, and for what? To nod at me and say ‘alright?’ in a low voice? It seems like such a waste of both your time and mine.

I’d like us to wipe the slate clean and start again. If it takes some kind of rota system in which only one of us can leave our respective houses at any given time, that’s fine by me. I can work with that if it means not having to constantly be on the lookout for you everywhere I go.

As I explained earlier, I don’t know your name. Nor do I know the exact number of the house you live at, as I usually fix my gaze firmly on the pavement when I pass. This would make addressing this letter difficult, however I am reasonably confident that when I finish writing and turn around I will find you standing a short distance behind me, so I foresee no difficulty in getting my message to you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and for the five minutes of relative freedom you have afforded me by doing so. I look forward to never seeing you again for the remainder of my natural life.

Best Wishes,

Barry

An Open Letter to the Fat Bloke Down the Road
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