I wrote about it, finally. I thought it might help. The story is up here at The Rumpus. A lot of people read the Rumpus. I hadn't really thought of it. I mean, I thought of it when I submitted it there. But, as it turns out, a lot of people do and, as a result, a good number of people have read my essay.
Some of the reactions:
Comments left on the site and in social media range from thanking me for validating their instinct to never live alone, thanking me for giving voice to their fears, remarking on the writing. One woman came up with an elaborate explanation of how the guy must have watched my comings and goings and where he must have been situated in relation to me at any given time. The words "creepy" and "terrifying" come up frequently. A friendly acquaintance said that it was the scariest thing she ever read, and emphasized she was not exaggerating.
I feel bad. Because I made other women feel scared and reinforced that they have a reason to be. But I feel bad mostly because they should. Maybe not feel scared but be aware and be careful and trust their instincts. And know that they might not do these things, even if they are 100% positive they would never do anything like stay in a dangerous environment despite all signs pointing to getting the hell out. I was 100% positive, too. I will never say I told you so.
I feel some other things. First, I have been having bad insomnia again and, after the essay was published yesterday, had the best night's sleep I've had in a long time. I am also experiencing the strange, transient body aches and pains I was having about a year ago. I saw many specialists and none knew what it was. I am quite sure I know what it is. Anxiety mimics many maladies and feels just as bad. Right now, the tip of my right index finger is hard and tender and feels like it might burst. The outsides of my shoulders ache. Walking hurts. Anyone reading might be tempted to diagnose. I have been tested for everything. Really. I still suspect lupus or rheumatoid arthritis but it is not these things.
I question whether I should have written the piece. But I question even more whether I should be writing this, writing here at all, writing anywhere at all. I question to what lengths I should go to feel safe. And the answer - for me - is I should be doing all of these things. I can't hide. I have reason to believe this person might know where I live. But what am I supposed to do? You can't stop living when your life is threatened. You have to make it livable.
I'm still trying to figure out how to do that, and, jesus, I am so sorry I raised anxiety levels and made people uncomfortable and afraid. We should all have the luxury of feeling safe. It should not be a luxury.
To anyone who is here through the link to this site on The Rumpus: Thanks for reading. Thanks for coming here. Know that I thought very hard about putting the link there. But I am a writer and an editor and a person that exists in the internet age and I just saved someone a couple of keystrokes if he wants to find me.
I did have one bad experience. One of the few local people to get in touch is a guy I know - a friend of a friend, I guess. We were friends, too, I thought, and I asked him for help a few times. When I was desperate. He did not help. But he was among the first to comment when I posted the link to the essay on Facebook, expressing his relief at my safety and how he couldn't imagine how I must have felt. Which was crazy. Because he saw that I was unsafe and I told him how I felt. So I said something about it. And he pretty much told me he thought I was lying at the time. Which was over the course of months. And he said he thought I was crazy. And then he pretty much said this confirmed that I am crazy.
So I defriended and blocked the jerk. I do not waste my time. I learned a lot about who's there and not in times of crisis. I hope you never do. Even if people don't startle you with their lack of concern or absolute disappearance. I'm telling you, nobody does what you expect in crisis. On the good side, too. Strangers offered kindnesses that made me cry. Men who learned what was happening begged me to leave them alone in my apartment. They would kill him. That's what they said. At least half a dozen men said they would kill him.
That's not how I wanted to end. There is no end, which I think is the point of this post. I am in my new apartment and I have touched the lock and checked the keys twice tonight. I will go through this ritual again before I go to bed. Which will be soon. I am very, very tired in all kinds of ways.
I want to say a special thanks to the people who got in touch privately with their own stories or some kind words.