I wrote yesterday about stalking, about the man who pursued me during my first semester at university despite my consistent and repeated protestations that I only ever wanted to be friends, and then not even that.
I hadn’t written much about the experience until yesterday, mostly, I thought, because it felt like one of those stories that you need to tell completely in order to tell it at all — mining through the letters and the journals and the feelings, combing through the evidence, in order to get it down. And I didn’t really have the energy to do that, nor did I have the desire — it was a chapter more or less closed, something I don’t think about that often and then not with any particular amount of feeling.
But after I wrote yesterday’s post, and after several kind people commented on it, I started to feel something else: like a fraud. The voices started to bubble up, subtly, casually: It wasn’t really that bad. He never harmed you physically. It was a long time ago. You wrote back; you stayed on the phone; you accepted gifts; you participated in the drama, the triangle. You didn’t say “enough” soon enough. It wasn’t that big a deal. You were just kids. You just were – you just are — seeking attention.
Funny, isn’t it, how we do that to ourselves?
No, the guy never boiled a bunny in my backyard. He never held a gun to my head or a knife to my throat. And for that I am grateful.
But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t stalk me. It doesn’t mean that he didn’t ignore, repeatedly, the fact that I told him that we weren’t and would never be a couple, that I wasn’t in love with him, and that I wasn’t the answer to all his problems.
And even though it hasn’t left physical or (particularly deep) psychic scars, the experience was real. And it was harmful, and hurtful, and upsetting. And it was wrong. And I need to own and acknowledge that for my own sake as well as for the sake of all the women (and yes, many men, but mostly women) who walk through this world thinking that the harms that are done to them aren’t real, no big deal. Just kids.
And let's acknowledge this: I’m also grateful that he never had access to a gun. He was sick, physically sick, in pain, with little to lose. He stole a photograph of me from my ex and photocopied it, cut my former boyfriend out of it, pinned it on his wall like I was his sweetheart. And when he decided that I had betrayed him, he drew a bullet hole in the middle of my photocopied forehead and drew blood trickling out of the wound.
So, yeah. What happened was real. Not some photocopied image of an interaction I’ve only fabricated. Not some two-dimensional, black-and-white fantasy where I change the details, cut out the facts, in order to justify my behaviour. I don’t have to apologize for being all right now, nor do I have to apologize for telling the story, for claiming the experience: stalked.
I was. And I’m fine.
And that’s fine, too.