he lounged outside of joey's
cigarette dangling from his lips,
wearing a blue hat and a
white shirt that stood in stark contrast
to his dark skin and hair.

i caught a glimpse from the end of the block,
briefly considered crossing the street,
but didn't want to admit to the panic
that was welling up inside me.

as i approached, i slowed down
without even meaning to, hoping
that he wouldn't see me, or
that maybe he'd go back inside.

- no such luck.

when i reached the restaurant,
i sped up as much as i dared
while still holding on to the hope
of remaining invisible.

he watched me. i kept my eyes
on the sidewalk, my heart
beating in my throat, nausea
threatening to overcome me
as i hurried past his languid form.

i forced myself to breathe calmly
and kept my hands at my sides
so he wouldn't know how afraid i was.
i could feel his eyes burning into me,
and when i glanced over my shoulder,
he was still staring silently.

when i was far enough away
to feel safe - past the bakery and
the cigarette store - i fell apart,
running my hands through my hair,
cracking my knuckles,
telling myself again and again
that it was over now, over.