I am Scheherazade, spinner of tales — buying another day of safety, freedom and life with another story. I bask in the glow of magical thinking. If I keep telling this story, no harm will come. No one will kick through my door in the middle of the night, brandishing a throbbing fist. No one will be headed south to re-enact Clockwork Orange in Florida. No one will be scouting the streets of Brooklyn for heads in black hats to crush.
My stories will save us all.
So many weeks since I heard from Stalker. Is he still plotting his revenge, or is he actually executing a plan? Is he slowly driving from New York to Florida, taking obscure, back roads to escape detection — in case I’ve alerted the state troopers?
“Florida!” he had said. “Florida is my Niagara Falls! Never utter the word Florida to me again. Three times in my life, it’s been — Florida! I will go there and I will take care of them all. Do not warn them, Baby, or you will have me to deal with. Clockwork Orange is coming, all the way. I swear. I am Conan the Barbarian!” He was bellowing, screaming, pounding his chest like Tarzan.
Where did the bottle come from? He had promised: no vodka when I visit.
The image of him pounding on his chest — I’d laugh except for the fear, except for my seeing his fist smash into the wall. “Ah, that feels better.” He did it again. Bam! My heart jumped once more. “Much better,” he said, caressing one hand with another. He admired his handiwork. He put it up to my face. “Now, kiss the blood.”
Just let me get out of this in one piece. That’s all I ask.
“If I kill anyone, it will be your fault,” Stalker says. “Because you made me do it. Be good, or you will bring harm to those you love. No, do not stand up. Do not go near the door.” He blocks my path, like a guard on a basketball court. I yield. I didn’t study martial arts. I didn’t wrestle. I didn’t grow up fighting greasers twice my size on the streets of the Bronx: five against one; a 1960s car antenna whipped across my back. Stalker taking back control and pounding the greaser’s head into the pavement. “That was my greatest moment. My worst, and my greatest,” he said. Stalker’s nose was broken nine times over the years, his ribs five.
“The bullet has not been forged that can kill me!” I go back to my corner and hope he passes out from the alcohol. Please keel over so I can slip away. Or, you can just die. I don’t care anymore. Just let me slip out alive. Magical thinking.
Now, weeks of silence: another mind game of his? To keep me in suspense, keep me on edge — keep me always looking over my shoulder — with an ear out for the phone, afraid to open my email. Is that it? Or is it that he can’t call? Is he too ill to call? Is he dead, not even 60 years old? Then my heart goes out to the scared little boy who must live inside the drunken, ravaged man. Just let me take care of that little boy, beaten up after school every day, year after year. I remember a special, blond two-year old boy. So sweet. I want to hold him and protect him.
Stalker was such a bright child, he had started school a year early. As the youngest in the class, he would also remain the smallest. The bullies found him easily. He was six years old when Eddie walked up to him and punched him in the face, breaking his nose for the first time. “My father was so angry at Eddie for doing that!” Stalker said. A little pride was in his voice. “And, oh, that did hurt. But I learned quick. Pain is good. It makes you strong.”
“Did you ever kill anyone in a fight?” I asked him straight out.
A pause. “No. I only put them in the hospital.”
I had wanted a new experience, novelty. But, a fighter? Yes, this was a first for me.
Be careful what you wish for . . .
I can’t bear not knowing. I break down and phone him. He doesn’t answer, and his voicemail is full. Each morning, I check online for a clue. I read obituary columns. Death notices. New York — especially the Bronx, Brooklyn. I check for murders in Ft. Lauderdale. In New Jersey. I look for some crazy Irishman on a drunken rampage, screaming my name.
Most of all, I look for Stalker’s obituary. If his dying wish was to keep me in the dark, his sisters would honor it. They wouldn’t call me, and I wouldn’t know he was gone.
I call hospitals. I check for deaths recorded. But I find nothing. He knows how curious I am. He knows I must find out the truth, no matter how gruesome. He knows silence is the worse thing he can do to me.
I get up the nerve to call Florida. Just to check that everyone is alive, with no rapes, no tortures, no murders. But no, I can’t do it. I end the call. I must not alarm anyone. I go back and forth: call, don’t call, call. If Stalker finds out I warned anyone — ah, it would be that much more gruesome, all in my name.
He once showed me his video tapes. “You will watch, and you will learn.” I didn’t want to look, but I had to know what he was capable of.
“He threatens, but he never hurts anyone,” his sister told me. But, she didn’t see the tapes.
Now, not knowing is driving me crazy. Ah, he is so good at this. He wants to be called Master. Rightly so. Master of Torture.
. . . .to be continued
© Barbara E. Berger, 2011, all rights reserved. “Stalker” is a work of fiction.