The Bald Spot

(2022)   Back

He had a bald spot on the back of his head that was perfectly round, and shone like a polished serving spoon or a chrome hubcap or the North Star. It caught my eye so I followed him out of the station last Tuesday evening. 

He walked down to the main road and turned right - my direction. I kept my distance, always staying about ten steps behind him. It didn't take him long to reach my house, but then he kept going and so did I. It was impossible to look away from his bald spot. That’s when I felt something change between us, our dynamic shift. I was no longer following him - now he was leading me. He got to the end of my road and turned left. 

The man with the bald spot led me through my neighbourhood and out the other side. He took left turns and right turns, waited patiently at traffic lights, and looked both ways at zebra crossings. He never looked back. My eyes were locked on the back of his head, but gradually, in my peripheral vision, I noticed the rest of him. The bald spot was ringed with black hair, flocked with grey; he was wearing a dark blue rain mac and comfortable shoes; he had a purple backpack over both shoulders with an spotty umbrella in one side pocket and a water bottle in the other. I knew even then that there was nothing remarkable about this man, another faceless commuter, nothing out of the ordinary except his inescapable gravitational pull.

The sky turned from grey to grey-pink to black and we walked from the town to the frayed edges of the suburbs: semi-rural, empty avenues and dead-end cul-de-sacs. Eventually we left the houses behind, ascended the slip road to the motorway and walked along the hard shoulder. The bald spot glowed orange under the tungsten streetlights. Sometimes he slowed his pace to cough with a balled hand in front of his mouth, and so I slowed mine, but he never looked back.

My legs started to ache. I wondered how long we’d been walking for - it must be early morning by now. But I knew if I looked down to check my watch the man with the bald spot would disappear.

At junction six we left the motorway for the quiet streets of a seaside town. We wandered through lanes and colonnades, past shuttered shops and locked doors, down mossy steps to the beach. It was almost pitch black, and I struggled to keep sight of his bald spot, which reflected the pale moonlight. He walked on, and didn't stop when the silent tides reached his ankles, or his knees, or his shoulders.

The bald spot disappeared under the water, and as suddenly as it had caught my eye, the spell broke. I stopped, finally, on the knocking pebbles, and my heart sunk. Maybe, I thought, our dynamic never shifted. Maybe this whole time the man had been trying to get away from me, too polite to say anything, and I had chased him to sea, to his death. 

I sat on the beach and waited, though I wasn’t sure what for. In the light of the morning a shining pebble caught my eye - perfectly round and polished by the tides. I took the pebble as a keepsake, and when the sun rose I followed it home. 

Will Dalton is an artist, filmmaker and long walk enthusiast living and working in London. Using the materials of everyday life he explores how our personal experiences are shaped by the places and spaces around us.

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