My Creepy Stalker and Me

Got no clue why this keeps happening.
But I have once again picked up a stalker.

A few years back, when we lived in a quiet neighborhood with lots of trees and a children’s park, I would run every evening on the sidewalk because it was a perfect 1.25 miles once around and along the way, it took me past my parents’ house.

Then some rando started following me. One evening, when my son and I were walking home from my parents’ place, this guy pulled over to talk to us. It was already dark, and we both got a creepy vibe, so we ran and he proceeded to chase us. We had to hide in the back yard of a neighbor’s house so that he wouldn’t follow us all the way home.

I continued to run because I love running, but I adjusted my time to an earlier part of the evening and my roommate, a wonderful guy, starting walking with me. He would hang out in the park so that, in addition to my parents’ house, he would be a safety checkpoint. I always keep my phone on me, in case I fall or encounter rabid dogs… or creepy rando stalkers.

Then one day, the guy showed up again. My roommate texted from the park, warning me that he saw the truck. I continued to run, now on alert when, sure enough, I rounded the corner into the darkest park of my route, to find the truck parked but empty.

Seconds later, the guy stepped out of some shrubs and addressed me. I leapt back, tripped on a tree root, went sprawling, but thankfully, got the fuck away. I ran to the closest house and banged on the door. The young couple who lived there came out and we all watched together as the man proceeded to hide behind the same shrubs he’d recently leapt out of.

I called the police. I took a picture of the guy’s license plate. Then, the couple and I witnessed as the creepy stalker jumped into his truck and drove away.

The couple waited with me until the police arrived. My roommate came to join us and we all gave statements. Slowly, I realized that in the fall, I had injured my shoulder and my knee. I was actively bleeding and hadn’t even keyed to that reality.

The next day, I went to take photographs of the spot where I fell and the stand of trees where the guy had hidden, in order to share it with our neighborhood watch.

And there, stapled to the utility pole, was a printed note that read, “Sorry I scared you and made you fall.”

Oh so he’s polite fucking stalker.

The police ran the plates, only to discover that the man had borrowed a friend’s truck and drove it from a neighboring town. The friend refused to give up the stalker’s identity. We ran the story in our neighborhood watch newsletter, but after a time, life returning to what passes for normal, and the stalker dude never returned.

Flash forward five years.

I now live in an apartment across town with my fiancé. We don’t have a neighborhood watch, but our complex is peaceful and quiet, with a fitness center and access to nice running and biking paths.

Back when I was running on an elliptical in our fitness center, before COVID restrictions shut it down, this guy began to show up at 6:30 a.m. when I was beginning my morning workout. I didn’t think anything of it. I usually went to the fitness center at that hour because I didn’t have to compete with anyone for the elliptical and I could watch Cupcake Wars on mute while listening to kpop.

So when this guy started showing up to use the treadmill, I continued on my merry way, the only change to my routine being the addition of headphones so I could listen to BTS and the guy could listen to the sound of his own breathing, or whatever.

But then he started trying to talk to me. By now, I was running 7-minute miles on this elliptical and would routinely top the machine out. I was practically flying. I was not there to make friends. I would tell him, “Hey, I’ve got twelve minutes to go here. I can’t really talk.”

Yet he persisted. So I adjusted my schedule, coming in at 5:45 a.m. so that I would be well clear of the gym by the time he (or anyone else) arrived.

But oh no… then he switched, too.

And no. Before you ask, I did not report him. For many reasons, but for one, I didn’t believe anything would happen if I did. It’s a fitness center accessible by all residents. He could simply call it coincidence that he was showing up at the same time as me, and besides, maybe past experiences have made me paranoid.

Therefore I stopped visiting the fitness center and started street running instead.

Then one morning, after a run, I was sitting on my third floor patio having coffee with my cat. At 7 a.m. on a weekend, this asshole comes to the sidewalk like he’s fucking Romeo and asks if I would like to go for a walk.

Mind you, people in the apartments below us are sleeping, and he’s yelling up to me like some idiot in an 80s movie. I told him flat-out, No, I did not want to go for a walk with him, ever. Also of note: we were in the first weeks of COVID lockdown. I wasn’t even seeing my parents or my child at the time, and this imbecile wants to take a walk?

All along, I had been telling my fiancé about this guy and how he’d been just not-so-randomly showing up. With growing concern, my fiancé told me to point him out the next time I saw him.

Which is funny, because the next time I saw him, the guy showed up at our fucking door.

I’m an agoraphobic. I don’t answer doors for people I don’t know. Both my fiancé and I work from home, so on this particular morning, my fiancé answered the door.

My fiancé is tall. His shoulders are as broad as Kim Seokjin’s. As a former-Air Force sharpshooter, he carries himself with the easy confidence of a person who can and will get stuff done.

Yet this creepy stalker guy stood in our door, taken aback for certain, but quickly asked for me BY NAME (I’d never told him my name) and fed my fiancé this story about wanting to submit a letter to the editor at the newspaper where I work (I’d never told him where I work), and he thought maybe I might be able to help him do that.

My fiancé told him to look that up on line and shut the door in his face.

You would think that would be the end of it, right? That this weaselly man, having seen my very tall, very intimidating fiancé, would back the hell off.

Alas, no. The other day when I was running, this guy approached me in the parking lot. At first, I didn’t see him because I was running and had my earbuds in. But he stepped from behind a car and addressed me by name.

I believe I actually yelled, “Oh hell no,” and ran away. I run fast, by the way, and I didn’t look back. I rushed upstairs, told my fiancé, but of course, by the time we investigated, the guy had vanished.

Here’s the thing. I’m’ fucking sick of having to rearrange my routine to accommodate for this wacko. I should be able to workout, run, and have coffee on my patio in peace. I have made it super clear that I do not want to be friends. And I keep thinking about the time he showed up at our apartment. What would have happened if my fiancé hadn’t been home? I wouldn’t have answered the door, but that is hardly the point. This guy SHOWED UP AT MY DOOR. He knows my name and where I live and where I work. Like… at this point, I’m not being paranoid. And it’s a fucking problem.

One that I feel powerless to fix.

Here’s why: The police can’t do anything unless he physically harms me. The burden of proof for harassment falls to me, and though I’ve documented all of the times he’s invaded my space, this man could simply say I’m being paranoid, and he’s being friendly. The best the police can do is issue a warning.

My fiancé can and absolutely will deal with the guy. But the thing is, it fucking sucks that he would have to. I am a grown-ass woman trying to run in peace in our neighborhood. I should be able to do so without some weirdo trying to make contact with me during quarantine.

Many helpful people have suggested that I carry mace or a weapon with me while I run. I should not fucking have to. I’m not running in the Rockies here; I’m unlikely to encounter wild dogs or bears. And even if I were to come face to face with a panther, be real. No amount of knives or pepper spray would even that score.

The reality is that the most dangerous thing I’m likely to encounter in this year of 2021, in my serene tree-lined little suburb, is a man.

A stupid, entitled, oddly-fixated man.

Another thing that infuriates me is that running helps me cope with depression and anxiety, but because I have to think of this man crossing my path every time I run, it actually causes stress rather than alleviating it.

I guess it’s good I can run really fast. That’s probably the only defense I realistically have.

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