During the week, Silas brooded on the billboard across the street from his apartment. The advertisement, for an agency that prided itself on delivering customer satisfaction, read “Get an agent who knows where you’re from and where you’re going.” When he first saw it, he had left the building by a back exit, until it occurred to him that this was tantamount to closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. They already know where I’m from, he reflected, and they know where I live, hence the location of the sign. But they are not going to know where I am going. He took to wearing disguises when he went out—a flat cap, dark glasses, a shabby overcoat. Once he was even tempted to wear a discarded clown’s costume until he realized this would only draw more attention to himself. He continually checked to see if he was being followed.
In the end, he knew he would have to move. Unfortunately, his search for a new place resulted in some distressing revelations. The first came when he was shown an attractive apartment in a different part of town. From its balcony he saw, ten floors below, the same sign: Get an agent who knows where you’re from and where you’re going. He tore up the signed lease and left. A small apartment in a private house seemed ideal until its owner admitted that a previous tenant had been arrested for spying on the girl next door. Both were now gone, but Silas remembered the case. He declined the offer of reduced rent, and went to live in a seedy hotel in a back street, a period that led to whispered comments at work behind his back about the state of his clothing and personal appearance. The gossip stopped when he gave his new address as a suite in a luxury condominium downtown, but the apartment number seemed to change every few days. For a time he stayed with an unidentified friend until he moved back to his parents’ house to care for them shortly after his own retirement. It was as if he had returned to the womb. When they died, he changed the locks, installed an intruder alarm system and perimeter lighting, disconnected the doorbell, cancelled the internet, cable, telephone, and daily paper, and re-directed all his mail. Whenever he left the house, he did so at night under cover of darkness.
He lived like a hermit until he died a few years later, mourned by a few former colleagues, his two surviving sisters and a lady in thick glasses no-one knew, who let slip that her name was ‘Richie,’ perhaps her surname. A friend who understood him better than most delivered a eulogy at the reception following his funeral.
“It would be wrong to mark this occasion of the passing of Silas as a celebration of his life. He did not ‘celebrate’ life. He regarded it as a trial. He lived his life on his own terms, and was prepared to take the consequences of so doing. From outward appearances, his may seem not to have been a happy life. He was an outsider, a loner, a man who stood on the sidelines of life, declining commitment, resisting the opportunities he had for the richer life that his circumstances had given him, and dying, finally, alone. Yet he was true to himself. His life had an integrity that few of us can have had. In a society like ours, which claims to value individuality and independence, he made the most of these. Many people today deny that life is a struggle against overwhelming odds, but the course of his life shows us that for him it was just so. His will leaves all of his considerable property to charity. Let us then remember him as an enigma, but in the end, as a serious and thoughtful man burdened by unreasonable doubt and fear, and may this be an example for us all.”