I think I miss my stalker. At least, that was the irresponsible subconscious thought I tried to ignore once I realized I hadn’t heard from Howard in over a year.
This all started about four years ago. I had just ended an awful relationship and was pleasantly surprised when I found that my calloused heart had maneuvered beyond its scar tissue to develop feelings for someone else.
Our courtship was atypical, at least for me anyway. Not being completely healed from my last relationship, I insisted that we have very little sexual contact. It was a move I just wasn’t ready for. He obliged, and what would have been hours worth of mindless sex was replaced by cute dates and nonstop talking on the phone.
An intense four months later, Howard surprised me by telling me he loved me. This would have totally freaked me out if I didn’t almost feel the same way. I wasn’t in love with him yet, but I was truly excited about the journey that would lead me there.
And then, because this is the Wonder World of Shayla, the inevitable happened: Howard's wife called me.
This troubled me for the simple reason that he had neglected to tell me he had one. So, immediately after I hung up with her, I sent him an email that read simply:
“Your wife called me. I no longer want to talk to you. Don’t attempt to contact me. There is nothing I want to say to you. There is nothing that you have to say to me that I care to hear. Goodbye.”
Then I deleted him from my friends’ list, because the severance of any in-real-life relationship isn’t solidified until its ended on Facebook.
Now, I thought I'd made my desires fairly clear. But instead of falling off of the face of the earth, this man proceeded to send me dozens of unanswered texts and emails over the next TWO years.
At first, he would send me texts every few weeks. Casual messages like, “Hey, gorgeous. What are you up to?” that seemed to indicate a severe case of denial on his part.
And then, while the messages came less frequently, they became more unsettling. “Where are you right now? What are you doing?” This was in the middle of the night.
He continued to write me on Facebook as well, but from accounts created exclusively for the purpose of trying to contact me. Of course, I blocked and reported every single one. And, of course, a new one would take its place a few weeks later. That’s when it crossed the line from annoying to unnerving.
I knew his sporadic messages didn’t qualify as the legal definition of the word “stalk,” and they paled in comparison to the very threatening events that many women have had to endure. But, if my obsession with murder mystery shows ("Forensic Files," "American Justice with your host Bill Kurtis," and anything on the Investigation Discovery Channel) has taught me anything, it's that his behavior had the potential to progress into something more dangerous.
I desperately wanted to write him back, something short and to the point. “Leave. Me. Alone.”
But I didn’t, for fear that his warped brain would interpret any reply as an invitation to pursue me more aggressively. Instead, I continued my strategy of not responding in the hope that he'd eventually just burn out.
Then came the moment when I realized that my strategy had worked.
I haven’t heard from Howard in awhile. That was the thought I had a few months ago. But the emotion that accompanied it wasn’t relief or elation like I would've expected.
It was disappointment.
Whaaa? But what about being cautious of putting my whereabouts on Facebook so that he wouldn’t be able to look for me? What about my preoccupying thoughts of being dismembered and complaining about how awkward my torso would look once it was separated from its extremities? Those were legitimate concerns. Weren’t they?
Of course they were. But after guiltily acknowledging that twinge of disappointment, I also had to admit to myself that fear only made up a small part of what Howard’s relentlessness made me feel. The rest was twisted satisfaction.
Logically, I knew it was possible that Howard’s obsession would escalate into something more serious. But I never truly feared that he would become dangerous. I honestly believed that his desperate attempts to contact me were just desperate attempts to contact me.
Because, apparently, the abrupt way I ended our relationship had a maddening effect on him.
Every time I got a message from him, months and then years after he’d last heard my voice, it was further proof that he just couldn’t shake me. It meant he was somewhere, pathetic and miserable, agonizing over the fact that I wouldn’t talk to him. And, because he’s a lying piece of shit, this made me very happy.
See, I had cut him off, which by his own admission, was something no other woman had ever been able to do. He even once referred to his ex-girlfriends as his “Secret Service Agents” because of the dutiful way they accepted harm. (Red flag anyone?)
So, in a way, Howard’s pining away for me for years was redemption for all those ex-girlfriends and all the other women who his misogyny had affected. It was also redemption for me and the unceremonious way I’ve been dismissed by some other men that I have dated. Well, maybe not redemption, but the fact that Howard couldn’t seem to get over me made me feel pretty good.
I’m not saying that I wish he’d resurface again. Nor am I condoning stalking or suggesting that victims should be in anyway flattered by it. Obviously, stalking, at any level of severity, is still nothing less than horrific.
But in this particular case, I look at Howard’s stalking as a unique case of revenge, and I’m glad he got what he deserved.