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Summer of Love 2009. A phone call: Stalker in Bronx, NY and Baby in Portland, Or.
“Baby,” asked Stalker. “Did you keep your vow to yourself? To never get close to anyone again?”
Yes, I did, I reflected. In Fall 1970, I promised I would never let myself be so hurt again. I would never let anyone see my failings, my inadequacies. I must have walled myself off after that. Better to be whole and lonely than shredded into raw, bloody pieces by someone else’s careless and cruel hands. I must have cast a spell on myself. When did I let anyone back in? The spell lasted . . . thirty years? Until 2001?
I didn’t give Stalker an answer. We hadn’t talked about 2001 yet; his essay assignments hadn’t reached that far. Of course, I did include the basic facts on the spreadsheet; if he studied it, he would spot it. He might figure out a detailed essay was in order.
He plowed ahead. “You will let me in, Baby,” said Stalker. “I will know all of you. You will keep nothing from me. I will love you until you die in my arms — twenty, thirty years from now. I will stay with you, unlike any other man has stood by you. All you have to do is: obey me. Do you believe me? Do I speak the truth?”
Perhaps I could give myself over. Except for that one little piece at the core of our beings that no one ever shows another. Otherwise, how could people survive? But I reserve this thought for myself — a sliver of privacy sliding into the space between our souls.
“You will surrender to me, Baby, willingly. I will settle for nothing less. But you still have a choice. Say the word, and you will never hear from me again.” His voice was calm and low, the words slow, sweating authority and confidence.
Stalker knows how it works; he has studied the art of dominance and submission. Part of me wants to run. Another is too curious to leave. What would it feel like, to stop fighting so hard? To just let it be . . . let it happen? To stop trying to control anything between me and another? To put myself in the hands of an expert? Someone I could trust – a master. To relax into it, to stop defending against life, against others for just a moment? What might that feel like? Maybe it would feel like– relief? Ironically, might it feel like freedom — to give up control?
He’d asked me this before, but lightly, so we could both treat it as a joke — should I take too much offense. Now he sounded tired of playing that game; he was serious and needed an answer. I resolve to try it, as an experiment. Just to see. What harm could there be in this new experience? I will do whatever he says — entrust myself to him. I might never have another chance to try this with a master. I’m excited at the thought: any wild and crazy thing might happen!
“Come to me, Baby. I will tell you what to wear, and give you an assignment to perform on the plane. When you land at New York’s LaGuardia, I will be waiting for you, bearing your favorite pink flowers. Though you will see me for the first time in almost forty years, you will know me. You will see everything I’ve told you about myself is true. From my long arms and knotty, manly hands to my green eyes. From the scar down my left cheek to the ears so big the nuns would grab them to lift me off the ground. I’m no longer the boxer; I am a broken, old man — but I am still alive and I live only to see you. To hold you in my arms. Come to me now.”
Stalker sings to me. The Boxer He penetrates me with a low-frequency thrill.
I will go to him.
“Stalker,” I said. “You kept your vow, too: your vow not to self-terminate.”
“I made a deal with God. My soul for hers.” His voice changed to a sadder, heavier and thicker register. “But I must confess to you. I almost broke my vow.” Stalker paused. “And, perhaps in the future . . .”
Perhaps what? I didn’t ask, didn’t really want to know.
What would I do if something happened? So far away? “Your sisters. You have sisters. Give me their phone numbers.”
He planted this seed of fear and doubt on purpose, didn’t he? Isn’t everything he does –on purpose? At least I would know who to contact, if it came to that.
Months later, I remembered this seed of doubt, the wavering on his vow. So, I had to err on the side of caution. We called the police.
But for now, I have just one more question to ask of him.
“Stalker, what do I wear on the plane?”
. . . .to be continued
© Barbara E. Berger, 2011, all rights reserved. “Stalker” is a work of fiction.