When I was 21, I moved into an apartment in a St. Louis suburb with an acquaintance. Julie and I had left our our small, southeast Missouri town to try and make it in the big city, and a mutual friend had introduced us. We were both poor, both looking for a roommate, both looking to hold hands to make the jump. We hit it off enough to rent a place together in the safe suburbs of that big city.
We’d only been in the apartment a few months when the phone calls started.
I’m halfway through this book by James Lasdun, a teacher who has been stalked and cyber-stalked. Landun’s story is so chilling I can hardly put it down. His former student, Nasreen, seeming to look for support, a mentor to read her manuscript and be introduced to an agent, is not who she seems. She starts small, but soon sends dozens of emails, sometimes threatening, per day. Mr. Lasdun admits to points where he could have, should have, might have seen something, done something, but it’s no use. He is no match for this woman who has set out to ruin him. Early on, he writes, “My point here is to illustrate my continued feeling of affinity with Nasreen, my sense of being on her wavelength, sometimes uncannily so; but also to introduce the idea of a certain porousness in her sense of who she actually was. Harmlessly manifested here, but foreshadowing a more troubling, and then threatening, amorphousness of identity that began emerging not long after.”
Mr. Lasdun’s book is a tedious read, as he combs over every fine detail, but as a reader you are forgiving in this because it’s the adding up of these small details that foreshadow the monster to come. Of how Mr. Lasdun’s communication with Nasreen, even the most benign-seeming chatter, spiraled out of reality, and of how Mr. Lasdun and his family barely survived her.
For Julie and me, the phone calls always came in the middle of the night, until they didn’t. From the start he was looking for Julie and he seemed to recognize her voice because if I would answer, he’d say, “Where’s your friend?” At first he didn’t say much to her, but over some weeks he got more talkative, more sexually graphic and cruel. We assumed it was some guy she’d rebuffed in a bar. No big deal. He would go away eventually, right? We didn’t panic until one evening he called the minute I walked in the door from work. I was the first one home and the phone was ringing when I opened the door and for the first time he didn’t ask for my friend. He said, “I like that blue dress on you.”
That’s how we learned he was watching us.
We called the police, and within the hour two uniformed men showed up. They sat on our couch and looked bored as hell. He wasn’t overtly threatening us, they said, but, well, depending, they might tap our phone, blah blah blah. We got the message. They thought we were just young girls looking for attention. The caller’s attention. The (male) policemen’s attention. Attention.
The policemen took our statement and left. From our 2nd floor window, we watched them get in their squad car, and we could imagine them laughing and rolling their eyes at us as they drove out of the parking lot.
Our stalker kept calling. Julie started having the most horrific nightmares and would run into my room, screaming, in the wee hours of the mornings. We were terrified.
We finally moved and changed our phone number. The calls stopped.
Have you ever been stalked?