Late July, at midnight. A tapping on my sliding door. Rocks against the glass. The doorbell going off. Over and over. It went on for 16 nights, all of this, sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for an hour. Always between midnight and 1am. Some nights, hidden by my closed blinds, he picked things up from the floor of my second-story balcony and threw them across to the other side. Some nights he saw that my light had been turned off and banged on my bedroom window.
I ignored him, thinking he was some punk who thought he was funny. Then one morning I found a terrifying note on my door and a one-word message on my car. That’s when I called police. For three nights, they tried in vain to stop him. He taunted them, and me. When they finally caught him, they had to chase him down to his own apartment. He lived 100 feet away. He told them I was his girlfriend.
They brought his ID to my apartment. I did not know who he was.
He might be let out on bail. In daylight, on my way to a weekend court office to get a two-day peace order until I could see a judge, I found another message written on my car. “NOT YET.” I had to have the police come again. At the court clerk’s office, a bail bondsman, seeing my state, slid his name and number toward me and softly suggested maybe all I needed was a good dinner. I was too exhausted and overwhelmed to realize he was hitting on me. I’d already spent hours that day trying to find out if I could get out of my lease without a penalty, trying to make sure I had somewhere to go if this man was released on bail, trying to make my boss at work understand why I couldn’t come in. I had slept fewer than three hours and woke to phone calls from the police precinct, asking questions about the report made by the first officer who responded. He had left out important details, lied about what happened to the note I had kept and turned over as evidence after he had told me to throw it away. He was already in trouble before this and was now likely to lose his job. For weeks, commanding officers and detectives from Internal Affairs questioned me in a series of interviews. I was asked to testify in a tribunal hearing to determine the officer’s punishment.
In the days after the arrest, I had to go back to court for a temporary peace order, good for a week. Detectives came and asked me questions, dusted my window and sliding door for fingerprints. I found out that my visitor was also a suspect in three indecent exposure cases, the victims of which were women living in ground-floor apartments within walking distance of my 2nd floor place, who had seen him on their patios, watching them while he pleasured himself. I learned that my upstairs neighbor had tried to bail my visitor out, that police now suspected they were dealing drugs together. I worried that my neighbor might be a threat to me now, too. An illegal cab driver, also apparently a known dealer, also an associate of my visitor, sat parked directly in front of my apartment one day. Officers found him in the upstairs neighbor’s apartment on another night, even though the neighbor said he didn’t know who drove the sedan in the lot.
I did not live in a “bad neighborhood.” What had happened to my quiet, safe home?
Nine days after the arrest, I faced my visitor in court, at a final peace order hearing where he was allowed to question me. It’s a civil proceeding. It works that way regardless of criminal charges. If you want a piece of paper that says he can’t come near you, first you have to stand in a room full of strangers who also need protective orders and tell your story, stand with him six feet away and talk to him. When I saw him walk in, in handcuffs, I had a flash of a memory: him sitting on the front step of the building next to mine, in basketball shorts and a T-shirt.
It was the only time I had ever seen him before.
Separately, the criminal charges were set. Stalking. It took weeks to reconcile the word to my consciousness. Stalking? I had a stalker? I wasn’t famous, I was no one. Would people take me seriously if I said it? Would they roll their eyes, thinking I was being dramatic? Thinking I was flattering myself?
Twenty days after his arrest, I moved.
I worried that the first officer’s mishandled report would hurt us in the prosecution, that my stalker would get away with it and come looking for me, even now that I lived ten miles away, having closed all my service accounts and opened new ones in my new place instead of transferring, so there was no trail from old home to new. To ease my mother’s mind, I rented a PO box instead of getting my mail at home. But he knew where I worked. The information was in the peace order delivered to him in jail.
This is the first of three posts. I have wanted to write about this since I began blogging over a year ago. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.