Her: . . . I started feeling bad about all of this again, is all.
Me: You can’t help feeling sorry for the guy who’s manipulated you, and is currently low key stalking you because he doesn’t have the ability to regulate himself the way typical members of society are able to. I think I’m maybe just pissed enough about the situation for both of us. I leech it out of you.
Her: Can we do some practice scenarios one day? [ . . . ] I need help!
Me: This is what you say in any scenario: Go away, or I am calling the police. And then follow through . . .
I made a friend last summer. He seemed like a nice kid. He seemed a little shy and awkward, but he was a freshmen, and I kind of figured that’s how all freshmen are, universally. That’s how I was. That’s how most of the people I see are in their first semester.
We were casual friends for a while; we’d wave in the halls and chit chat a little.
Then he started walking with me and my friends to my car when I got off my night shifts. Which I was okay with. I appreciated the protection of having three guys walking with me through the somewhat sketchy parking lot.
I wasn’t okay with him getting in my car after I unlocked it, and refusing to get out. I wasn’t okay being held hostage in the parking lot after being at the college for 12 hours, and being so tired I was wondering how I was going to make it home safely.
He started asking me if I’d hang out with him, if we could “go cruising” sometime and just listen to music and talk.
Then when we were up at last semester’s hangout area, he tried to pull me into his lap to cuddle. I played up my energy and acted like I was antsy, like I didn’t want to cuddle with anyone, and I remember it actually hurt my arm a little to pull it from his grasp because he refused to let go.
When I was curled up with one of my girls later, he pouted and stopped talking to me for the rest of the day.
That kept on happening through the entire semester: he would push me for what felt like intimate affection, I would deny it, and he would pout when I would give it to someone else, someone I trusted.
He would take the words of others and twist them to take on a meaning that would benefit him, and he would use it to his advantage, even if it meant setting two friends at odds against each other.
I remember one day I was infuriated. He was harassing me, and I bolted because it was either leave, or stay and yell at him – again. I went to one of my friends who I thought would understand, who I thought would support me.
I was crying by the time I got done telling her what had happened, and she avoided looking at me while she said I needed to be nicer, that he had a lot going on and he was having a difficult time.
I had to leave the study room to cry upstairs, locked in one of the women’s bathroom stalls somewhere in the nearly-abandoned upstairs wing. Because he’d manipulated her. Because she was against me. Because everyone else was going through hell, and I had to bear that in mind, but nobody would even deign to consider the fact that I was going through hell, too.
I started avoiding the group. He made me uncomfortable. I started jetting when I saw him.
He started showing up places he’d know I’d be. He began coming up to my workplace to hang out, which is fine. We all do that; it’s a safe place, but he began to roll his chair next to mine, next to hers, and hover while we were trying to work on down time projects. He would try to talk to us about music, about books, about people, while we were in the middle of working on things our boss wanted done.
It was around this time, around November, that my friend, the one who told me to be nicer, started having to deal with it, too. He manipulated her into his car and he was inappropriately touchy-feely and he kept trying to make us feel bad for not spending one-on-one time with him.
Finals week hit, and he started harassing me again about hanging out, asking why I would hang out with certain people alone but I wouldn’t hang out with him outside of the group.
His timing was bad; I was so tired I couldn’t see straight. I’d been going on two, three, four hours of sleep a night since before NaNoWriMo had started, and I was so worried about failing and my GPA dropping, and half of my friends were mad at me for things I had no control over, and all I remember about that moment was that I got really quiet and I got really still, and I packed my things up and went to the Writing Center because he would follow me anywhere else, and also because I knew that I wouldn’t cry if there were people around to see.
I stopped talking to him when I saw him.
He started showing up places outside of the college, and he would sit down uninvited, and he would mess with my things. I remember one day I was at the coffee shop, and I was journaling, and I was trying not to cry. I was having a really bad day, and he came in and he sat down across from me and he took my lanyard and started rubbing it against his mouth, and I snapped at him a little, but he just put it down and picked up my water bottle and started playing with that, and I didn’t know what to do so I stood up and went to talk to the baristas until he left.
I stopped answering his texts.
He started waiting in the parking lot at the college. It was during the mini-mester, and I got there early so I was already up at work, but I got a call from a coworker who told me he was downstairs waiting, and a little bit later he came up. She asked him if he needed help, and when he said yes, she asked with what.
And he laughed. And she laughed. And I sat over in front of my computer, trying to look busy, trying to act like I wasn’t totally freaking out.
She asked if he had something we could help him with for English specifically, and he said no, and he got angry when she explained that our boss was getting frustrated that people hanging out was interfering with our work. He didn’t let her finish; he blew her off and walked out, and then I sent an email to my boss explaining the situation because I was legitimately afraid to go anywhere alone at that point.
My boss alerted our sexual harassment team. I spoke with the people in charge of that. They spoke with my friend, the one he was harassing too. They talked with him. We thought it was over, that he’d leave us alone and we wouldn’t have to mess with this anymore.
I didn’t hear from him over Christmas break; she only heard from him occasionally, and she typically ignored him.
One of our very close friends, the only person who’d had my back through the entire situation, was still talking to him, though. He said it was just to keep an eye on him, that he was following the “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” concept. He was keeping an eye on him for us, so that we wouldn’t have to deal with him.
The kid showed up one day at the coffee shop, and it was like nothing had changed. He talked to us and hovered over us and trailed us around while we were jumping in rain puddles in the parking lot.
It freaked my one of my darlings out, because he gave her a gift to manipulate her into talking to him, after a month of silence, and the next day I found myself in a conference room with my boss, two friends, and a couple of the college’s Big Wigs.
We talked it out. I was shaking. We think the issue is resolved, or nearly so.
But I’m still scared to walk alone at night.
It infuriates me that I am afraid, because I shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t be afraid walking alone to my car even when the sun is shining, and I shouldn’t be afraid to go to certain places in the college without one of my friends by my side.
I’d forgotten what this feels like – I’d forgotten what it’s like to be so afraid of “maybe” and “might” that it hinders my ability to function normally on a daily basis. I forgot what it’s like to feel like its necessary to turn and leave when I see the person who has me so on edge.
I don’t know for a fact that the kid would try anything. I don’t know that I’m in any actual danger.
But that’s just it – I don’t know.
That’s why I’m scared to walk alone at night now.