A Storyby Joyce Carol Oates
For years Stonecrop, the shaved-headed boy, has been watching Juliet. Not continuously, not every day. But often. She has never consciously looked for him, sensing that she should not, she must not. Ariah has warned her not to “make eye contact” with strangers or any others “who might do a young girl harm.” And so Juliet has shyly looked away, Juliet has purposefully turned away, learning to be unknowing, unconscious. More and more she lives inside music. In her head music plays continuously, coming from a mysterious source as light comes from a mysterious source called “sun”—“the sun.”
Yet, he’s there. The shaved-headed boy. Waiting.
Juliet first became aware of him, the something strange, something special about him, when she was in fifth or sixth grade. The slow realization, gradual as the change of season, that she sees him just a little too often, at approximately the same distance, observing her in silence: on Baltic Street, on Forty-eighth, on Ferry. On Garrison (where he lives in a barn-sized clapboard house at the intersection of Veterans’ Road). Sometimes she sees him when she’s waiting at the bus stop, to go downtown. And outside the public library downtown. Perhaps she sees him most frequently when she’s trailing dreamily through Baltic Park, coming home from school.
Rarely, in fact never, has Juliet noticed the shaved-headed boy watching her when she’s with other people. Only when she’s alone.