Just now I got off the elevator with a six-foot, three-hundred pound man who lives on my floor of my building. He has a crew-cut, looks like a retired football player and he works out at Gold's. He also bakes a lot of cookies.
A long time ago we had two dates, within the space of a week. After the first one, I was talking on the phone in front of my window and he was watching me from the window in the hall, where the building makes a 90 degree angle. It didn't last very long, but I noted it. Still I didn't pay enough attention. After the second date (I should tell you these were coffee dates or walk dates), I hugged him good-bye and said I hoped he'd call me again.
That Big Chocolate Chip on His Shoulder
I got a blistering e-mail about how men have to do all the work to get dates. That he had already bought two cups of coffee and it was my turn to ask to go for a walk. That he didn't appreciate the tack I had taken, my tone of voice, and so forth.
I added this up with the themes of his conversation. At the time, he was looking for a job. He told me that he had cursed out the hiring supervisor at a company he hoped to work at, because she didn't process his application fast enough. He also told me about his divorced wife not allowing him to be alone with his daughter because he would spank her and she was fourteen, which is not too old to be spanked, according to him. (Like all ex-wives), she was a bitch. And then on the way home from this second date, he told me about going into a gay bar (which he wasn't, or some permutation thereof, I hadn't figured that one out yet) and being in the men's restroom and almost choking a guy to death for hitting on him.
Maybe it was supposed to illustrate his straightness. But that was enough for me. I figure if you're a guy in a declasse gay bar, you should expect to get hit on in the bathroom. I mean, you're there. And I've been in that bar. It is a hit-on-ya bar.
Somewhere in there he left me a phone message that he then asked me not to listen to, because he was so angry. He was very charming about it, but this is Ann T. you're talking to. I listened to it.
In Which John, the Baker becomes Dear John, the Baker
So I sent him a dear-John e-mail. It was about how my life was busier than I thought it was, and that I wouldn't have time for a new relationship. I got a vituperous letter back about being a bitch, dishonest, and insinuating in the bargain--not to mention those cups of coffee that I had sponged off him. I spent a serious hour thinking about giving him a five-dollar bill.
About a week after that, I was leaving the building and he was coming in. He turned around and started yelling at me. He followed me down half a block, yelling that I was a bitch and so forth. I don't run from stuff like this: absolutely fatal to run. I turned around and told him he was done following me. And he turned away.
At the local store, I was friends with a police officer who moonlighted in security. I told him what had happened. I asked him what I should do. "Call the cops," he said.
Well, it wasn't going to be Officer Securidad that got called, you know. So I wasn't going to take that advice.
When I came back to the building, my dear John, the Baker was waiting at the back door with a toothpick in his mouth, and he was not done. He had more to say, and I was going to listen. I faced him off again and went inside. I should tell you it was pitch dark out there, and he was still fit to be tied.
I shook for two and a half hours in my apartment. And finally the word harassment came to me. So I did call the police and said it was not an emergency. Well, they sent two cars. We have really responsive police in my neighborhood. It was one a.m. You could say I over-reacted. On the other hand, I don't like being blocked access to my building in the dark.
I met them outside my building. I mean, they were fast.
"Look, thanks for coming, I'm afraid it's really stupid," I said. "But this is what happened, and this is the kind of mail he's sending."
One of them read it.
"Aw, he just doesn't want to break up with you."
Well, hell. I do not consider myself to be a frivolous caller of the police, but there it was.
"Well, if you don't think it's worth pursuing, then I think that's okay. Generally I handle things. I think it's dumb that I called you."
"Nah, we'll go up and talk to him."
So they did. I have been getting dirty looks from this man for years. He still lives down the hall. I used to listen behind the door before I went outside, to be sure I didn't run into him.
Out of the Deep Freeze
But about two years after the incidents described above, we started saying hello again. Recently he brought me cookies. I find that to be odd, but also maybe it was just a bad time. Still I had no plans to date this guy.
So he wanted to know tonight why I would call the cops on him. He prefers direct communication. But also he wanted to apologize. I accepted his apology and said that I was also sorry it happened. Then he wanted to know why. Because he just wants to know why I did it.
I reviewed. He said he guessed he could understand it, that he's a big guy and all that. But still. And this went on for awhile. Then finally I said this:
"You escalated very quickly," I told him. "You wanted me to talk a certain way, and to act a certain way, and you said whatever you wanted when I didn't talk or act as you wanted. Many of your stories were about hurting people. And then you followed me down the street yelling at me."
"It was only half a block."
"It's a long block. It's even longer when someone's screaming at you that you're a bitch as you walk down it."
I was honest. I went through it with him, I don't know how many times. By the end he was arguing with me. He thinks I didn't like him because he was unemployed. And that's when I got mad.
Somehow again, by the end of the apology, I am at fault for bringing in a third party. He never wanted to date; he never waited for me. Well, he doesn't like it when I'm straight with him, and he doesn't like it when I give him a vague brush-off. All I can do is what I can do.
"I got you back, you know," he just told me. "I told them you were off your meds and crazy."
"I don't take meds." (You'll notice I didn't say I wasn't crazy though.)
"I know, I just had to get you back. I'm on a report somewhere because of you."
He is just one step on my road to agoraphobic tendencies. Not the biggest one. Not the most important one. Not by a hell of a sight.
But damn it.