Summer Stalker: Part of Your World

Look at this stuff
Isn’t it neat?
Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?
Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl
The girl who has everything?

Let me preface this post by acknowledging that I don’t come off very well in it. Some might even call me a little scary, and see echoes of Fatal Attraction in my behavior. But screw it, I think it’s hilarious, and I’m big enough to poke fun at my past now and then. This is the tale of the summer that I stalked a guy in my Abnormal Psychology class. The jokes write themselves.

It must have been 1995 or 1996. I was home for the summer and taking a course at the local college in order to graduate early. It was Abnormal Psychology and I could have written the damn textbook. Our teacher was a big, brawny bearded guy with a motorcycle and chaps, a somewhat gruff voice, a mane of hair that was slowly moving backward, but a generally sweet countenance ~ a veritable bear’s wet-dream. But I was not hunting bears, my gaze rested squarely on the cute guy in the front row, with the goatee and a bit of a slight frame – the dorky type of guy I often fell for. He wore a baseball cap and long basketball shorts. Yup, I knew how to pick them. Hey, in the corn-field stretches of upstate New York in summer, the pickings were slim.

The class was dreadfully dull, and I’m always wary of teachers who use Hollywood films to illustrate real-life conditions. (In this case Ordinary People with Mary Tyler Moore…?) Anyway, my focus was on the kid in the front row, whose name, oddly enough and yet fittingly, escapes me. He was, looking back, far from anything special. Most of the guys I’ve had crushes on have proven remarkably unremarkable. There was just something about each one of them that endeared them to me. Sometimes it was a simple act of random kindness, usually not directed at me for any specific reason, to which I attached unreasonable significance. Sometimes it was more direct – a knowing glance and smile, a subtle but definite arm around a shoulder. In this case, it was a poster of The Little Mermaid in his bedroom.

Look at this trove
Treasures untold
How many wonders can one cavern hold?
Looking around here you think
Sure, she’s got everything…

How I came to see his bedroom is where the embarrassing part comes in, well, a few of the embarrassing parts, because there are many. In class I listened intently to discover his name, peering over his shoulder to see it, to no avail. I think I finally obtained it by returning early from a break and rifling through his bag. Yeah, that was me. And that was just the beginning. If you think that is the least bit intrusive and wrong, stop reading now because you’re not going to like anything that follows.

Having procured his name by whatever means necessary, I began some old-school investigation. This was the mid-90’s and we didn’t even have an internet connection at home, nor was there FaceBook or Twitter or extensive electronic trails to follow. I used a phone book. An actual yellow-paged phone book. I found him in Mayfield. Prior to this, I didn’t know there was a Mayfield, or how close, or far, it might be to Amsterdam. But there he was, or at least his family was, so I had my friend Ann come over to do a little *67 action and give him a call. The first step was finding out whether he was gay, and these things had to be done delicately.

Ann has always been a hoot. She took to the task with drill-like precision and dedication. I crack up to this day when I picture her dialing the number and putting on a serious face as she began her spiel, “Hi, this is a reporter from ‘US News and World Report’ and we’re doing a little survey. Would you mind answering a few questions for me?”

I was on the floor in hysterics. Where the hell did ‘US News and World Report’ come from?! Was that even a real thing? She then went on to ask three general questions before getting to the heart of the matter:
What is your age?
Where are you located?
What is your occupation?
Would you consider yourself gay or straight?
And then she finished, “Thank you for participating in this survey. Good-bye!”
I don’t know what we were thinking. And I can’t believe the guy stayed on the phone and answered. Oh, the answer was straight. Not that it mattered. I reasoned that if he was gay he probably wouldn’t say it over to the phone to a random reporter from ‘US News and World Report.’ (Which begs the question of why we even called, but that would make too much sense for my frame of mind.)

The next step was checking out his home. Don’t ask me why. I got a map of Amsterdam and the outlying areas from the local gas station. Is that as ridiculous as it sounds? I think so. (Again, we were pre-internet, and part of the fun in these things was the act of having to work for an outcome – the journey was just as important as the destination.) There was a summer mission now, and I threw myself into it with crazed determination.

I suppose I could have followed him home from class one night to see where he went, but that seemed a bit extreme. (I’d save it for later…) Instead, I followed the map, plotted a course, and prepared for an evening of surveillance. Donning an outfit of black, and a hooded cloak that flowed about me (What? You don’t keep a hooded cloak on hand?) I got into my parents’ Blazer and headed off into the country.

On the dusty road where he lived there were no street lamps. This boded well for the task at hand. With the cloak of darkness, from the night and on my back, I could slip in and out of the shadows unseen. The house was on the left, and I drove a good length past it and parked on the side of the road. After the long drive, over which I grew immune to the roar of the engine and the blaring Madonna music, the silence was striking. I sat there for a moment, adjusting to the darkness and the quiet, and then I made my move. There were one or two other houses around, but no one seemed aware of my presence.

I was quick and deft, like a cat – no, a panther – with prey in sight. I ducked below the first windows in front of the house and went around to the side. I peered into the bedroom – his bedroom. An unmade bed with childhood sports sheets was pushed against the wall. A few trophies stood on a chest. And a hand-painted poster from a local production of The Little Mermaid hung on the wall.

What would I give
To live where you are?
What would I pay
To stay here beside you?
What would I do to see you
Smiling at me?

That’s all it took. My mind raced wondering who he might have played – Sebastian? Eric? Flounder? And how in the hell do I even know these characters? The words and the melody of ‘Part of Your World’ came into my head. It was a phantasmagoric Disney moment, as visions of fairy tale wonder paraded before me. I felt like a princess about to be swept into the arms of my goateed prince. He’d take me in his arms and set me down on his basketball sheets and… well, I was getting ahead of myself. And I was still outside of a strange house in the middle of the night, somewhere in Mayfield.

I made my way around to the back. The fluttering light of a television was coming out of a pair of sliding glass doors. I edged up to the side of the door and peered in, pulling my hood back a little. The object of my sudden desire was lying on a couch, languidly watching the TV. The screen threw wavering bands of light across his face. I was enraptured.

Where would we walk?
Where would we run?
If we could stay all day in the sun?
Just you and me
And I could be
Part of your world.

Lost in my revelry, I forgot the surroundings for a moment. I backed away from the glass to remind myself of where I was and looked around in the darkness. It was still warm out. There was no breeze. A light scent of freshly-mowed grass hung in the air. In some small way, I was sharing a summer night with him. Our first. I peered in on him again. It was enough just to look. A low rumbling sounded from below. Was this the stirring of my heart, the wild beating of a passion in full bloom? The thunderous sound grew and I looked down to see an enormous black dog resting against the inside of the glass door. It leapt to its feet and began barking and clawing at the glass… Oh shit.

I reeled back and started to run, the cloak streaming wildly behind me. He must have jumped off the couch and ran to the door, because he was suddenly looking out into the darkness and trying vainly to see me, but he did not give chase, nor did he make me out as far as I could tell. (See, the cloak worked.)

Back in the car I regained my bearings. I stripped out of the cloak and long-sleeved black shirt in the heat, turned the AC on and slowly drove away as if nothing had happened. It was time to set the next phase of the mission into motion.

I thought if I could just get him to notice me, if I could jump-start some sort of interaction, he’d seen what a ball of fun I was and be unable to resist my charms. I thought a tight T-shirt and linen pants would do the trick. I thought suspenders might catch his eye. I thought brown highlights… well, you get the picture. And I thought wrong. It would take something more overt, like seeing me in his rear view mirror following him home after class one night.

Don’t judge me. I only followed him down the road until he pulled over into a gas station. I chickened out, turned around, and headed home, but I was hopeful he had seen me – that he knew I had followed. That week I set about to doing what I do when I like someone – friend or paramour: I made a tape mix. I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me…

Along with the tape, a short note:

Surely whoever speaks to me in the right voice,
Him or her I shall follow… – Walt Whitman, by way of Madonna.
It’s your turn… Follow.

Such was what I had written on the track-listing of the mix that I made for him and left on his car the next time we had class. Take a moment to digest all of that and judge all you want – it’s deserved now. Okay – up to speed? I watched him – glimmers of Glenn Close wielding a knife danced through my head – as he found the tape and looked around. I pulled in front of him so he had to follow me out of the parking lot. I turned to go in the direction of my house, and he turned… the other way. Did the dummy even know what was going on? Did he even realize the note was meant for him? Did I really put Samantha Fox on a mix tape? I could not answer these questions – not then, and not now.

There were only a few more classes left. Time was running out and we hadn’t even spoken a single word to one another. I was getting – well, I continued to be – extremely desperate. Like super-short cut-off jeans and a tank-top, it wasn’t a good look for me, but I was helpless over it. After the next class, I decided I couldn’t wait another moment longer. I was going to ask him out.

Now, the wise thing to do would have been to hold off one more week until class was over, in the event that he was uninterested, right? I mean, that’s the sensible schedule to follow, the logical, reasonable course of action, and it would guarantee that I wouldn’t have to see him again should his reaction prove less than positive. Such a simple idea, and it makes so much sense. So of course I didn’t follow it.

That night, after a quick shot or two of whiskey, I dialed up his number. No *67, no faux news survey, just the honest truth of what I wanted. A guy asking another guy out. He answered and I introduced myself, explaining that I sat behind him in class. Amazingly, he knew who I was, and asked how I was doing. For whatever reason, I am slightly taken aback when someone I don’t think has noticed me has, in fact, noticed me. It will always be that way.

I don’t know when
I don’t know how
But I know something’s starting right now
Watch and you’ll see
Some day I’ll be
Part of your world…

I then said something like, “I don’t know if you’re into guys or anything, but I was wondering if you wanted to go out sometime…” Awkward beginning notwithstanding, it was simple and direct and to the point – and it was the hardest thing to say to someone. The worst thing that can happen when you open yourself up like that is a polite declination – but that’s the whole point – it is the absolute worst thing that can happen. And it is the exact thing that did happen.

He said he was flattered, but that he was straight. I thanked him for being so nice, because his tone was one of understanding and gentleness. He said it again, that he really was flattered and sorry, but that’s the way it was. I will say this: I’ve been rejected a few times – and no one was ever unkind or cruel about it. For that I am grateful. For that I held onto the tiny light of hope that people – often strangers – lit in me just when I was giving up on the world.

[Side-note: this does not break my history of never having crushed on a straight guy, as I honestly believed him to be gay. Hello, he was in The Little Fucking Mermaid for Christ’s sake, or at least designed the damn poster – both equally damning in the eyes of outing. I’m being mostly facetious, but come ON.]

It made no matter – whether straight or not, he did not want me. That he chalked it up to being heterosexual was a sweet, and probably truthful, reason for it. There was nothing left to say or do. After two more awkward classes with him, where I avoided and pretended, and he gratefully accepted the act, it was done. I never saw him again.

A few more weeks of summer laid ahead before I had to return to Brandeis. In the ennui of those stultifying nights, I thought of him, and slowly, I got over it. My dreams of a summer fling would have to wait.

{PS – After some of the Madonna Timelines and this entry, the perception of my romantic past must be sketchy at best. One day I’ll write a sweet post about a decent relationship I’ve had, because there were a few, and maybe an anecdote or two about some of the nice guys I’ve met over the years. They do exist. It did get better.}

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