That's me. A stalker. I didn't know I was a stalker until a couple of weeks ago, but then I found out that I'd been one for two, maybe three, years. Someone I'd known for a long time told me.
Make no sense? Of course it doesn't. But then, gossip doesn't have to. An idea doesn't have to for it to take root in people's minds and shape all of their subsequent responses to a situation.
What I learned from this person, and confirmed with others because the revelation was so appalling, was that somebody I'd been friends with, but had stopped seeing, had told mutual acquaintances--most of whom we knew through work--that we'd stopped talking to each other because I was stalking her.
A bare-faced lie, but what does that matter? Those who knew me well knew from the beginning that it wasn't true; but everybody else--sadly a much larger number than the number of my intimates--took it either as a possibility or the very truth.
Which we all do, to be fair. Most of us would prefer to believe a lie than the truth because the lie tastes better. It has more spice. It appeals to the base side of our own nature, which is attracted to destruction rather than creation.
And yet, as symptomatic of human nature and social intercourse as lies and gossip are, it's hard to be so tolerant and understanding when it happens to you. I've been going around for the last two or three years wearing a label of creepiness and possible danger that I don't deserve.
What has that done to my reputation with the people I know? How has that affected my relationships? What friendships that might have blossomed died on the vine because people thought they knew something worrying about me? Don't talk to him, two weeks from now he'll be outside your window at midnight watching you sleep.
If I sound angry, it's because I'm angry.
My first question would be why, despite the human tendency to believe the worst in others, the people who believed what she said didn't view it through the prism of what they knew about her. She was crazy. Lovely, but nuts. Lived in a parallel universe; and all of them said it, both to her and behind her back. She made up boyfriends. She thought everybody with a penis wanted to fuck her. She saw bad spirits sitting on good people's shoulders. She wouldn't touch anybody but her dog because physical contact was the way Satan transferred his evil.
Oh, and she talked to her dog down the phone.
I did ask her to sleep with me once. But I never stalked her. She always called me, sometimes three, four, even five times a day, to tell me about her men and her mother and God, to advise me to give up Buddhism, which was another mask of the Devil, and repent to the Lord.
Most of the time when she called me she asked me to call her back because she had no credit. And like a fool I did it. If I had all of the money now that I spent on calls to her I'd be able to quit work and write into my dotage.
I say "like a fool", but I was a willing participant in what I thought of as a very close friendship. I even bought in, at times, to her pathological belief that the world was victimising her. That work and other people were trying to do her in. I have a paranoid relationship with everything else also. But paranoia is a conditioned, infantile response to complex situations and allows of no personal responsibility for what happens. I'm trying to grow up little by little. She was not.
Every day somebody new had hurt her. Every day somebody had spoken to her badly, treated her like a child. Every day somebody was trying to force her out of a job. "I'm finished with her," she would say about whoever the latest aggressor against her purity and good intentions might be, even when it was her own mother. The phrase always struck me as rather childlike.
But our closeness began to pall with its unremitting intensity, and its weirdness. I began to hate the fact that she was constantly insulting me. That was supposedly in jest, but it disguised a lack of sincerity, I thought; a disinclination or even an inability to go deeper. "The reason Bruce doesn't have a woman is that he looks like a tramp who should be sleeping in a bus station," she told somebody once. Ha ha.
I began to think, actually, that the real reason I couldn't find a partner of my own was because everybody who might conceivably have some interest in me thought I was sleeping with her. Which I wasn't. Nor would I have wanted to, other than for strictly animal reasons. A God-botherer who thought anti-bacterial handwash was mankind's greatest invention was never really my cup of meat (to lift a phrase from Bob Dylan).
So I asked her to sleep with me for a variety of reasons, some of them basic, some of them complex. I wanted a fuck, yes (it had been a long time since Ruth). I wanted to force her to get real for a change. And I wanted her out of the way as well, so that somebody, if they were out there, would have the green light to love me. Some of us operate on more than one level, you know.
As I suspected, she gave me the "I don't feel about you that way" speech. Which was fine. I was free now; and it was with quite a bit of relief that I stopped calling her.
When we did talk again, months later, it was at her instigation. When we stopped talking again it was because I was bored. Her space travels no longer charmed me in the way that they had; and I no longer wanted to be at war with the world. I was too tired for war. Too depressed for war. Too fucking lazy, actually, for war.
In addition, her perorations about this or that person and this or that institution victimising her seemed a little crazier than they had before. It seemed to me that her and reality, who had always been uneasy bedfellows, were headed for a rather messy divorce. I had been through all that with somebody else and I couldn't face it again.
She contacted me recently, after another long period of silence. Asked for the addresses of all the people we knew who'd wronged her. Said she was going to do something "not strictly legal" to equalise things so that she could move on in her mind to the next phase of her life. I told her I couldn't do that. She then bombarded me with calls and messages for days, realising possibly that she'd scared and revolted me, and wanting to get me back onside. I ignored all of them.
But it got hard when I had company. They wanted to know who the lunatic was who wouldn't leave me alone. "It's ****," I finally said to a close friend, who'd known her even longer than I had. "Oh, that prick-tease," said my friend. "Bruce, you're gonna have to stop being so nice and just tell her to fuck off. People like that just don't get the message."
So I texted her. Politely. Said I no longer had any room for her in my life. "It won't be enough," said my close friend. "You've got to be blunt." But I couldn't. After everything I still couldn't do that, which is something I'm proud of and irritated by in myself simultaneously.
At least for now, my message has turned out to be sufficient. The calling at every hour of the day and night has stopped. Though I wouldn't be surprised if it resumed someday. Though I lock my doors and windows before I go to bed each night.
It was while I was getting over the psychological pressure of having a nutter trying to inveighle me into some kind of revenge attack against people we knew that I learned I'd stalked the nutter all those years ago, poor benighted victim of life that she was.
You can believe which side of the story you want.