Weeks are passing without word from Stalker. Unprecedented. I savor the peace. But then I wonder.
His last words to me — “I will kill every man who ever touched you. I will kill you. I will kill every man in your family. I will kill your brother-in-law. Do you doubt me? The next time you see me, one of us dies!”
Possible explanations why I have not heard from him for weeks:
1. He is already dead.
2. He has come to his senses. He has sobered up, realized his folly, and given up on me. He is too embarrassed about his behavior to call me again. He is respecting my boundaries, finally.
3. He is slowly making his way cross-country, stopping along the way to visit every man who ever touched me: to intimidate, harass, or otherwise make miserable or harm. To kill?
4. His sore throat and hoarseness that didn’t go away after two weeks developed over the months into throat cancer and he has lost his voice — through surgery, or disease.
5. He refused treatment, is dying, and is too weak — in any sense — to call. Or he wants to spare me the pain of watching him die.
5. He is fine but he hates me so much he won’t even call me anymore to tell me how much he hates me.
What are my options? The thought of him suffering — first, yes, the part of me that has suffered because of him says Yes! Good! His turn! Next, my humanity surfaces, I would not wish harm to a fly. Finally, my love wins out. If he is suffering I want to go to him, to comfort him, to beg him not to die hating me. To let him know, he does not die unloved.
But not talking to him for so long — it’s been like quitting an addiction. Like an alcoholic, or a tobacco addict — if I take one, if make one phone call to him — I could be completely hooked again. And it could be lethal this time.
I start setting the burglary alarm when I go to sleep at night. Just in case.
* * *
Summer of 2009
We’re on the phone. Stalker is in the Bronx; I’m in Portland, Oregon. He continues telling me about 1974. I don’t interrupt him to ask if he has the recorder on. I don’t want to disturb the mood. I hope he does — we try to record it all. But what to do with our documentation? How to transcribe so many hours of conversations, with the nuggets buried unpredictably? “We could get a college intern,” I said. “An intern could get some college credit for the project, for transcribing and cataloging.”
“Do you really want someone else hearing some of those tapes?”
He’s right. It might be over the top. But I’m surprised to think he would be turning shy. No, no. It must be my sensibilities he is thinking of. But our conversations are Art. And the best art goes beyond the pedestrian constraints of privacy. Isn’t that what helps make it art? Going where others hold back? Saying what others wouldn’t dare to reveal? Saying it for them?
Stalker takes me back to 1974. Where was I in 1974? I had just run away from the Bronx, and moved to Portland. Stalker was in Richmond, Virginia.
Deborah thought I was in love with another woman, Amy. She was just a girl. No, I wasn’t in love with her. While I was with her, I was missing Deborah too much. Nothing happened with Amy until after Deborah died. And it wasn’t love, it was my clinging to a moment of breath. I was sinking, grasping for any life. Amy held me as I sobbed into her.
But Deborah thought I was making love to Amy. She stormed into my apartment one night. She passed my roommates and their friends, playing cards in the living room. They saw the gun in her hand. The gun she borrowed from her brother. They scrambled. She made her way into my bedroom, and pointed the gun at Amy. I heard everyone in the apartment clearing out, slamming the front door behind them. I got between Amy and Deborah.
I pulled the gun into my belly and said, ‘You wanna shoot somebody, shoot me!” The gun was in my belly a long time. But she didn’t pull the trigger. She didn’t kill me.
I made her promise to give back the gun. Told her never to bring that gun to my apartment ever again. She promised.
How could I have known she would get another? Her father’s ancient Colt 45 — the deadliest weapon on earth?
I should have known, I should have known!
After the horror, came the humiliation! Why didn’t you do something?
I am not a thirty-year-old girl, brilliant, wealthy, beautiful, with everything to live for.
I am a lousy old bum with nothing to live for. No wife, no kids, no future.
If I choose to die — oh, women have a right to choose, kill your children — but MEN don’t have a right to die!
Just let me die in peace. When the time comes. That’s all I ask. Take my ashes to the waterfall. Find yourself a good man who deserves you. I don’t.”
* * *
Is that what this is? Peace?
. . . to be continued
© Barbara E. Berger, 2011, all rights reserved. “Stalker” is a work of fiction.