I looked up from my phone just as he walked passed me. I’m not exactly sure what it was about him that caught my attention. It might have been the fact that he was good-looking, very much so even. He was blond; I could see that from the scruff on his face; tall and well-built with a nice posture. He had confidence. Or it might have been that he was wearing a winter hat and sunglasses, but that made sense though, because it was sunny yet cold. Here, where we are, at this time of year, nothing was really strange. Some people walk around in thick and warm winter clothes; that would be the resident people, and some people would walk around in shorts and tops; those were the tourists. So it probably wasn't that either.
The man was walking with long, quick steps, like he had somewhere important to get to, maybe that’s what it was, or maybe it was the determination in his whole body language, or perhaps it was the bag he was carrying. It was a sports bag kind of bag, in black leather, but it wasn't so much the bag itself, as the way he was carrying it. He wasn't carrying it on his shoulder like most people tend to do, he was just holding it in his hand, with a straight arm hanging down from his shoulder. Still, it was controlled. He held the bag still. It might have been something unnatural about how he carried that bag.
My eyes followed him, like they were stuck, until he turned the corner. He zigzagged his way through the crowd on the pavement, smoothly and yet quickly. Nobody seemed to notice him, but me. Nobody had to stop, or take a step sideways, to let him through. It was like he wasn't even there. Except for me.
Later, I would wonder if I could have done anything to change the outcome. If I could have done anything to stop what happened. Probably not, is what my brain said. Maybe, is what my heart said. Sure, if I had tried, a lot of things would have turned out differently, but most likely not in a good way. In a similar way, but not in a better way. And I had to remember that I didn't know. How could anybody have known? But I knew something was wrong about him. Or at least I had a feeling something was.
The man stayed in my mind for only a few minutes after he disappeared around that corner, something else probably caught my attention, maybe the game I was playing on my phone, maybe another pedestrian, or perhaps the bus I was waiting for arrived. I just can’t recall.
I didn't hear about what had happened until the next day, and even when I did hear about it I didn't connect the man I had seen with it. Why would I? There was no obvious connection, and I had forgotten all about him already. Everybody talked about it; it was all over the news. I, just as everybody else, was glad I hadn't been there when it happened. I almost had been. I could have been. But I wasn't. In fact, I had left the surrounding area not long before it had happened. I was relieved.
I followed the news, as you do when something big and devastating like this happens. I got goose bumps at the thought of how close I’d been, and I felt relief that I was alive. It was difficult to look mortality in the eyes, even though I hadn't actually faced it. Maybe because I hadn't actually faced it. The fact that it happened in my town made me shiver, and the atmosphere in town was thick of sorrow, relief and disbelief. How could this happen? Why did this happen? Who made this happen?
And then I saw it. The photograph on the news. That face. I knew it. I had seen it. But where? I screamed. Loud! HIM!! I cried as I realized I had seen him. The Man! The cause to all the pain and suffering! I had seen him, and I didn't stop him. I had known something was off about him, and I hadn't done anything to prevent him for doing what he did!
Nobody else came forward. It was like he had only existed in my world until the moment he had decided to step out of it. And once he did, he did it with a bang. Literally! He did it with the loud, deadly bang of a bomb in the middle of a train station at rush hour. And I had seen him only minutes before.
23 people injured, 84 people killed.
And I was still alive. I was alive.