Throughout my life, several people have been a little too interested in what I do and where I live, but one person scared me the most. Fifteen years later, just thinking about it still makes my blood run cold.
Marc* fell hard for me in college, even though a relationship wouldn't have worked out for us. One day, in the dining hall, he plunked his tray next to mine and pointed to a tall blonde who was still in line.
"She just asked me out," he announced.
"Well?" I replied.
Marc muttered something about her not being his type, then changed the subject.
Over the next few weeks, Hazel*, the tall blonde, seemed to suddenly become acquainted with all of my friends. I didn't think much of it at the time, but before long, she was inviting herself everywhere my friends and I were going.
"Why is she even here?" I asked my friend Noelle* one night while Hazel was in the ladies' room.
"I sure as hell didn't invite her," Noelle snorted. "She's kind of annoying."
And, well, she was. Hazel had appalling manners. She frequently interrupted people and always had to get in the last word, even when it meant raising her screechy voice. I caught her trying to steal from me — cash, jewelry, even my keys — multiple times. She whined about everything and constantly pissed and moaned about growing up in a trailer in a lower-middle-class suburb, even though several of my friends were no better off. Worst of all, her cold, soulless eyes gave me the creeps.
Before too long, the oversharing began. I had no interest in hearing every gory detail of someone else's sex life, but Hazel was very fond of bragging about her experiences. When Marc was around, she took particular glee in relating all the sexual favors she'd personally given out while still in high school.
Eventually, it worked: Marc started sleeping with Hazel. I thought he was insane, stupid, or both for getting involved with her. Marc's roommate Jack* agreed with me, but Marc just brushed us off.
Meanwhile, Hazel's rudeness became outright nastiness. She made vulgar jokes about my ethnicity. She falsely accused me of faking an injury and a prolonged illness for attention. And she constantly made me out to be a spoiled rich girl because I had a car (an old sedan), nicer clothes than she did (I had worked in a clothing store), and I got to go home to a house with a concrete foundation on semester breaks.
Everywhere I went, there was Hazel, glaring at me and making vile remarks at every opportunity. More than once, I had to stop myself from entering a room or turning a corner because I could hear Hazel angrily ranting about me, often accompanied by Marc asking her to stop.
Then, a pattern emerged: she'd disappear and reappear in a different outfit.
I didn't notice the significance of this at first. In fact, Jack pointed it out to me.
"She was wearing a green t-shirt and jeans earlier, right?" he said once.
"Well, what are you wearing now?"
"A black sweater, a white t-shirt, and a red skirt," I answered, confused because he could clearly see that. "Jack, what are you getting at?"
"And what did she change into?"
"A gray sweater, a white t-shirt, and a magenta skirt." I started realizing… "Oh my God. She's trying to copy my clothes."
Jack explained that Hazel's bizarre behavior was all about me. The jealous tantrums, the vicious comments, the clothing changes, the way she treated Marc — he believed she was angry about the life she had, and was fixated on me because, to her, my life was perfect.
"She's obsessed with you," he concluded.
I'm not a psychologist, but it made sense. (Incidentally, I became acquainted with a psychologist a few years later. She agreed with Jack's assessment, but disagreed with Jack's other theory that Hazel was secretly in love with me.)
Hazel took the creepy copying even further, cutting and dyeing her naturally honey-blonde hair to resemble my chestnut-brown hair. More than one of my friends compared this to the film Single White Female.
I used to take one particular staircase to a certain class, since it was slightly out of the way and always empty. Then, one day, I received an anonymous phone call warning me not to use that staircase. The caller wouldn't tell me her name, but before hanging up, she added, "Don't turn your back on Hazel for even a second."
I never did find out if Hazel really was planning to push me down a set of stairs or if she was just shooting off her mouth, but I never used that staircase again.
I wasn't the only victim of Hazel's escalating obsession. She became increasingly angry with Marc if he talked to me, and before too long, she was physically assaulting him for doing so. Jack told me she was controlling, manipulative, and verbally abusive in private.
I was so disturbed by the whole situation that I holed up in my dorm room as much as possible. For months, I left only to go to class, eat, or run errands off-campus. I knew Hazel wouldn't come to my room because the RA was right across the hall.
As spring began, Marc ended things with Hazel. But when she told him she was pregnant, he took her back.
One night, Marc tapped on my door.
"Relax, Hazel's not here. She went home for the weekend," he explained.
"She won't like it if she finds out you came to see me."
"I really miss you," he said. "Can we talk?"
We walked to a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, away from anyone who might see us and report back to Hazel.
"Marc, do you not realize Hazel is a raging psycho?" I didn't hold back.
"I know," he sighed. "But I can't just leave my child."
"I wouldn't be so sure it is your child."
"Just a few months ago, she was bragging about all the guys she's had and all the things she's done. And she put off getting that sonogram for a really long time," I reminded him. "Before you get stuck raising a child with her for the next 18 years, do yourself a favor and get a paternity test."
Marc let out a heavy, defeated sigh. "You're right. Don't worry, I will."
Hazel was expelled from school a few weeks later. Her parents came to help her move out, and even in their presence, she couldn't resist accosting me in the lobby of my dorm. Meanwhile, Marc was so fed up with Hazel that he took a leave of absence from school and joined the National Guard, just so he could get away for a few months.
Over the summer, I received a phone call from a number I didn't recognize. It was Marc, calling to catch up. Our brief chat was punctuated by muffled smacking sounds. Marc finally admitted he was calling me from Hazel's parents' trailer and that she was hitting him throughout our conversation.
Sure enough, the paternity test proved he wasn't the father of her baby and he had just broken up with Hazel. Even over the phone, I could tell how angry that made her. But she was four hours away from me — what more could she do?
Six months later, as I was driving through the main gate of my campus, I spotted Hazel waiting at a nearby bus stop. She glared at me, unblinking, as I drove past her. I will never forget the look of pure, unadulterated rage and hatred on her face. It still scares the hell out of me.
I never did find out why Hazel returned to campus that day. I hid in an unlocked janitor's closet until campus security assured me she was gone.
But Hazel had one last trick up her sleeve.
I began receiving strange phone calls. The caller's number was always blocked, and the caller never said a word, hanging up after a few seconds. The phone company refused to help me block the calls, wouldn't let me change numbers, and wouldn't let me out of my contract. I received these calls several times a day for 18 months.
I know it was Hazel. No one else would do that to me, and since Marc had called me from her parents' home, she could have easily gotten my number from their phone bill. But, this was several years before caller-unmasking technology was available to the public.
I felt that if I reported it to the police, I wouldn't be able to conclusively prove it was Hazel who was harassing me. As for the tantrums, lies, and bullying — unfortunately, it's not illegal to be an asshole, and Marc chose not to report her abusive behavior. I didn't think there was enough hard evidence to arrest her, and I was afraid that she would probably retaliate if they questioned her. Thankfully, campus security had my back.
For two years after Hazel's expulsion, I was a nervous wreck. I would get startled very easily. I couldn't go to a new place without looking for escape routes (I still struggle with this). And if I saw a girl who looked anything like Hazel, I started to panic. To this day, I am very guarded with anyone I don't know well and keep my home address a closely guarded secret.
Marc contacted me again out of the blue. He'd put the Hazel mess behind him and wanted to know if I'd reconsider a relationship with him. I declined, and asked him not to contact me again. This was partly because of his poor judgment, but mostly because I still harbored a deep-seated fear that Hazel would find him and use him to get to me.
In 2010, I went to a concert with another friend from college who had witnessed the whole ugly mess. As we took our assigned seats, she suddenly said, "Oh my God, isn't that Marc?"
I glanced over to the next section. If it wasn't Marc, it was someone who looked exactly like him, right down to a distinctive scar on his arm. We locked eyes for a terrifying moment — then, he got up and walked through the nearest exit. I didn't see him during or after the show.
If it was him, I hope that was his way of acknowledging everything that happened and respecting my wishes. But I'm not counting on it.