Ritual Confessions

February 1, 2008

The stalker next door

Filed under: Uncategorized — elissakaren @ 6:47 am

I realize several days have gone by where I haven’t posted about Jack. Unfortunately, he hasn’t gone away. Earlier this week he told us he’d had a falling out with his boss and therefore would be going home to Yakima by the end of the week. To this end, he wanted to get in and get stuff done for us. We decided to let him paint a room as a way to make good on the promise of work, and then hopefully he would be leaving town and so there would be no further commerce with him. We arranged for him to come by on Wednesday evening; Nick explicitly told him he’d come next door when he got home from work and flag him down — and that this would happen around seven. Last night he knocked on the door a full hour early.

“Look, I know Nick said 7:00, but since I’m leaving tomorrow I’d like to get started earlier so I can finish earlier.”

What could I say? It really didn’t matter what I was doing or how busy I might be — he didn’t need me to get started. I let him in.

“I gotta sit down for a minute,” he said as soon as he was in the door, and grabbed a kitchen chair. For the next forty-five minutes he complained about his boss and filled me in on his sad life story. Dad walked out early. Mom died when he was nine. For a full week, he and his 13-year-old brother lived alone. Then he moved in with some abusive relatives and ran away a few years later. Never went past the eighth grade in school. For all these reasons and more, he admitted to having “volatility issues”. Somehow he got onto the topic of other bosses he’s had. The rich lady who tried to seduce him. Another who wanted to get it on with his girlfriend.

Nick came home and Jack tried to draw him into the conversation. My husband wasn’t in the mood. “You have work to do and so do I,” he told Jack without smiling. He brought Jack into the room he was supposed to paint and I hid upstairs for hours until he’d finished the job and left.

This morning, after bringing Charlotte to school, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would be over when I got home. This thought made me linger over coffee at a local cafe, but there was no way I could stay out all day. Sure enough, soon after I returned, I heard his knock at the door. He knew I was home because my car was in the driveway and he’d probably seen me go into the house. Nonetheless, I resolved not to answer the door. I can say the baby kept me up all night and I fell back to sleep, I thought. Or I can say I was in the shower, or in the middle of a phone interview for a job. I’ll come up with something. He rang the doorbell, then knocked some more, then rang the doorbell again. Finally he gave up. But now I didn’t want to go downstairs where he could see me through the window. I was avoiding my own living room, my own kitchen. I was unable to go get a glass of water or a cup of tea. I was hiding in my own house.

Hours later, when I was backing out of the driveway, he came running across the road, waving at me to pull over. I brought the car to the shoulder of the road and lowered my window.

“Listen, I think we’ve got some extra wood left over from this job, so I can put down that floor for you cheap,” he told me.

“I thought you were leaving town tomorrow,” I said.

“Well, I could stay to do the floor. Just measure the walls when you get back.”

“Uh, let’s see what Nick says,” I told him.

I needed to pick Charlotte up at three and be in Portland by five. That left an hour to kill in between. I actually sat there trying to think of where to take her for an hour so that I wouldn’t have to return to my own house. Then I realized I had to return home to reply to a potential employer’s e-mail. When I eased back through my own side door, I felt as if I were getting away with something. But at 4:30, when I needed to set out for our old house, once again he waylaid me in the driveway.

“Hey,” I said, as he neared the car. “I don’t have any time to talk right now because I need to be in Portland by five.”

“Just come over for one second to look at this wood.”

“I can’t,” I said firmly.

“All right, all right. I’ll catch you later, then.”

The conundrum is, as it always has been, how to get rid of him without insulting him. He so clearly has an excess of energy to devote to ongoing enmity. He’s recounted slights received from, and grudges against, people from every sector of his life. I can sense how easily offended he is, how glad to take umbrage. I don’t want to provoke his hostility or resentment — he is, quite literally, too close to home. But I can’t go on like this either.

I’m praying that he leaves town tomorrow. I desperately want him gone.



  1. This is just one of the worst possible kinds of dilemma. Every time I feel badly about being an unapproachable neighbor (as in, barely civil when spoken to), I remember past experiences my family has had with neighbors (similar to yours) and remember how I became such an unfriendly asshole.

    Comment by davidrochester — February 1, 2008 @ 3:44 pm

  2. It’s time to invent a relative who’s lost his job, and is going to do the work you need. No one can turn down a relative with a family to feed.

    In the future you could tell men, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have men in my home unless my husband is here.”
    Works for me. 😉

    Comment by Shawn W — February 2, 2008 @ 4:23 am

  3. Shawn, this is very smart. And you’re absolutely right. The problem is, I was so unsuspecting the first hour I met him that I brought him into the house to show him all the different things I wanted done. I had a misguided sense of security knowing he was the seller’s cousin and employed next door. So it would be hard to turn around after two weeks and say I suddenly have this policy. (Although I will be implementing that policy with all contractors in the future!) Also, just from conversations he had with my parents and with us over the first few days, it emerged that we had no family out here. I might make something up about a friend who offered to do work in exchange for writing help… like, I’m writing a business plan for him and he’s putting down the floors for me.

    Comment by elissakaren — February 2, 2008 @ 4:56 am

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