So I get a phone call today that reminds me my stalker. Yes, I had a stalker. Of course, I had a stalker. From the dark side of life, I know everything. The heaven on earth part, not so much.
It happened I was young and single and a new neighbor moved into the apartment just below me.
It happened the new neighbor was part of an experimental program for integrating the mentally ill into the community.
It happened the new neighbor didn’t like taking medication and the initially strange behavior rapidly degenerated to the bizarre.
And it happened that the new neighbor became fixated. On me. Go figure.
Most of the helter-skelter happened outside my front door. First, there was hovering. Then, there was pounding. Later, there was chanting. Endless incantations. Day and night. About me.
There were verbal warnings. There were written threats. I was a very small girl. I had failed self-defense. Twice.
Reporting new incidents to the landlord, the social worker, and the police became a daily ordeal. Incredibly, there was nothing to be done until the predator was caught in the act of doing bodily harm. To my body.
Anyway, one afternoon the hunter was hot on my trail — this time armed with heavy artillery — but got waylaid and attacked a neighbor so viciously that he was left seeing stars. Chicken & Stars. The weapon of choice had been Campbell’s. In the 10 3/4 oz. size cans.
Finally, and to the benefit of all concerned, the stalker returned to in-patient care and my life resumed its regular rhythms.
A few weeks later, however, I answer the phone one evening to hear an overly excited voice exclaim, “Hi Jaclyn! It’s ——— ——!”
It was my former stalker and would-be assailant, calling from the state hospital and sounding like a long-lost relation from the old country newly arrived in America. For me, alas, this telephonic reunion was quite unexpected and most unwelcome.
See, my perspective, this person — now confined to a locked psychiatric ward for the foreseeable future — had made for me a mountain of misery. And it was my efforts that had led to the imprisonment.
The possibility that either of us would desire further contact had never crossed my mind. By the stalker’s delusional way of thinking, however, we were the best of friends.
Following this incident, I suffered a brief bout of viciniphobia (fear of neighbors), but it soon passed into the past. I never imagined another “frenemy” would enter my life, but this is exactly what happened these many years later.
So fast forward to this afternoon. I pick up the phone expecting Tom, my personal Genius from the Apple Store. I have all the many and various iThings, each and every one a lemon. But no, it is not Tom on the phone, it is a woman from my old gym.
At one time we had been friendly, though we had never quite become friends. Oddly, when my health began to deteriorate, she began to contact me on the regular. By email, by phone, even by letter. Handwritten.
Again and again, she would ask how she can reach out, she would ask how she can be a good friend, she would ask me to call and talk. She said she is concerned. She said she cares. She said this is what friends do.
It puzzled me why this woman is making fuss when actual friends and family are making scarce. My Gremma used to say, “yuh leff en deh vuyld leffs vit yuh, yuh cry en yuh cry aluhne”. It is largely my experience you want people in your life, better you should keep your tsuris to yourself.
But I was raised to be grateful for any crumbs of affection that might stray my way. And so I did start to respond, just a little bit. From time to time, I would venture a call, I would leave a message.
She did not take my calls and she did not call me back. Still, if we should bump in the locker room, she would reiterate her apparently insincere invitations.
I felt confused. I felt uncomfortable. I felt really bad. Why would she recurrently encourage only to repeatedly reject? After all, she knew that I was very not OK.
Foolishly, I made contact one more time; an effort to fix this awkward association. I must be somehow to blame. I must have said something. I must have done something. I started to apologize but she started to explode.
She told me that she was a “big girl”. That she decided who to talk. That I was not someone she would give attention.
Already I was thoroughly humiliated, but there was more, there was much more. She just went on and on. I am telling you, a big gift for condescension and belittlement, this big girl. Forgive my reluctance to share the transcript; it would only make me to cry.
From that moment, if we should pass at the gym, we never said anything more than hello and after I left the gym, we never said anything at all. The “friendship”, or whatever it was, was over. No one would go back for more. Not even me.
So today, the big girl calls, out of the blue. It is not clear there is something she wants with me, besides to interrogate what’s doing my business. Our few words are strained; staccato. We have nothing to talk.
Clearly, with my stalker, it was the schizophrenia, a severe psychiatric disorder, that precluded basic emotional empathy and healthy social interaction.
And the big girl? She has some excuse? It’s a mystery. Or maybe it isn’t. But it doesn’t matter. I did not tolerate such a behavior in the junior high school and I am certainly not about to start now.
© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.