When People Watch You

By Nathan Anderson

Featured Image: “Tingletangle” by Edvard Munch

I’m not like those crazy people.
The people that watch me
are real. I can see them.

Never mind the mailman. That blue coat
nearly swallows him. You never know
what’s under there—and he’s, well,
rather strange looking,

like a boy with a bald spot
bent over thick black shoes
and that bag he cradles

like a smooth gray animal
he does not recognize
is dead. Sometimes I believe

he really is a little boy
and I have to stop myself
from running after him.

Isn’t the mind amazing?
I’d like to know
what he’s doing when he’s not
walking through front lawns

or talking to the man
across the street. I’d like to know
what he’s delivering,
if it will require a deep breath

and more wine
than I’m willing to drink. If it’s even worth

the paper cut I’ll get
opening the envelope. And what about
that man across the street?

That man
in his green shirt, always pointing
to my weeds
while his lips are moving.

I know he watches me
get the envelope I’ll cut
my finger on. He’s old, of course,
and uglier than almost anything

I’d like to be close to
without dish gloves or
a bottle of bleach. I often think
he’ll collapse in his green shirt

and expire on the lawn
he never leaves
less than pristine.

I think people are always watching people.

Except when they’re dead.
I’m glad the dead can’t see.
It makes being dead a kind of relief.

At least it would be different.
I imagine I will find a way
not to be relieved.

The afterlife, I’m afraid, will be me
searching for my favorite pair of bifocal glasses.

I’ll never find them—not even in memory,
which by now will have run off
with whatever loss I had left
to hold on to—but the worst part

besides there being no walls where God lives—
the worst will be

not knowing which
nosy little angels are watching
as I stumble around the oppressive edges
of paradise like I’ve
lost my head.

When you lose something,
it’s not so unusual to wonder
if what you’re looking for
is watching you
look for it. Remember how Jesus
stood behind Mary
as she looked for him in the tomb?

Well, if I find in heaven
that my head really is missing,
I’ll use my foot to feel
through a floor of clouds for that stupid thing
my eyes are stuck in, along with my mouth,

which by this time will be calling out

Carol, hey Carol, over here . . .

so that if and when I find my head, I think
my frustration meter will have melted, you know,
from looking so long,

and it will be fun
to kick my head back down to earth like a ball

landing in a backyard, most likely,
where the mailman’s having quite a birthday—

lots of friends over—and cake

and there I am just
dropping in, so to speak, while all the guests

stand there staring
because I’m one of those people at parties
nobody knows.


Nathan Anderson lives in Marietta, Ohio and is an associate professor at Marietta College, where he teaches composition, literature, and creative writing.

Originally appeared in NOR 11.

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