Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Plea of Sanity

To be titled:  Basket-Case, or the Intrepid Fool, or the Overconfident Man, or, I can’t Get Started.

I was driving across the Gay street bridge on June 16, according to the documents; I was coming home from work. Generally I work the night shift. As Henley Street Bridge is the main bridge and has been under reconstruction for many years now, this route is my preferred and efficient one home. Halfway across the bridge, a girl is coming towards me on a bicycle, in the very close and narrow partitioned sidewalk to my right. Even in a blur she is stunning, and indeed my head snaps involuntarily in her direction to survey her beauty. I then loudly and reflexively call upon God and the sacraments in a couple of different ways. This woman on a kind of silly bike with a white basket looked like Maribel Verdu, the foreign actress, and sort of like my old Venezuelan girlfriend! And has long well muscled legs and some memorable posture! In short I was exceedingly happy and not dumbstruck. That sort of beauty really makes me smile.

I told myself I would try to meet her, if possible and I had the nerve and I saw her again. This is the kind of thing I’ve done about a dozen times in my life, and not anything I regretted until recently. If I am rebuffed in any way, then I make sure the attempt is over, and the result is I’ve been slightly humiliated and only feel abashed, a bit. I’ve in fact been lucky enough to have fulfilling and joyful relationships with stranger-women I approached in a public place.

The next day, according to both the documents and my memory, she’s again riding along the bridge and I’m driving along towards her. And my departure from work is somewhat random. I’m permitted to leave whenever I am relieved by the morning shift, and they arrive between 7-7:45am. So, against significant odds because I of course have often chickened out in such cases, I drive a ways until I can turn around, and make my way back towards downtown, not knowing where she may be. I park near the post office because it is the only place in my ignorance I even know where I may: the spot is next to the library and post office and I‘ve owned a car for only one year of my life. I head towards the beautiful post office building and there she is, having just deposited mail in the mailbox. By the time I am across the street and stepping to the sidewalk, she is riding nearly by me. I say something generally like this to her.
“Miss, I’m sorry to bother you …”  .(and here, I confess, I don’t even know what I said to her, it was either …).  “…but can I talk to you for a minute,” or “but I just think you’re really beautiful, etc.”

I have no firm recollection because I was nervous and it was a more or less unprepared overture and she was in transit and not stopping. But she turned and smiled very nicely and said “I’m sorry I’m going somewhere..” or “….I’m sorry I have to be somewhere.”  Something politely dismissive. I wish she’d been even a little mean, freaked out, or more dismissive. Because never in my life have I twice asked out or tried talking up a stranger who had told me, “no thanks,” or “Leave Me Alone,” or been freaked out or quiet or just walked away. This was my very first time trying to meet a cyclist.

So I made the admitted and indecorous mistake of trying to meet her one more time. According to her report, this was the next day and it very well could’ve been. It would have been sometime within 7-8 days, but I seriously do not know for certain at this point. There were several other much more important things occupying my mind around then, and they were stressful enough. Along Chapman Highway on my regular route home again, she is riding on the left this time, same heat and humidity, same miniature outfit of athletic shorts and whatever passes for a young woman’s t-shirt these days, same basketed bike. To my lasting regret I turned the automobile around and drove back and parked in front of the Professional Building, across the street from the defunct hospital on the river. Logically she would be taking this route. I left music playing, probably in an attempt to be casual, and held my basketball in my hands and sat on some steps, messing with the ball a bit, definitely because I was a bit nervous. When she finally made it to that point I stood up and smiled and at least as respectfully as I would approach any stranger in the street here in the friendly south, said something like,

“I hope I didn’t bother you when I approached you (yesterday.) I’m not crazy I just wanted to talk to you.”  (For all I know I may have got to comment on her beauty, but for certain I did assure her I was not crazy. In hindsight, possibly not a word one should use in this situation. To this day I have no idea what she heard, but I do know what she claims she heard at some point during our “encounters.” We will get to this demented and outlandish and career-ruining claim soon enough, and it’s the dirty evil crux of the story, as far as I’m concerned.)

But whatever impression these words made I can’t really say, aside from the fact that she looked at me and then continued speeding along. There was an obvious look of alarm and concentration on her face, but not a word. I was basically dumbstruck, this time, myself. ‘Well, I never,’ I thought. The rudeness. Couldn’t even say Go Away. Well, it’s just as well, I did think, she’s doubly obvious in not wanting anything to do with me. But how terrible that she would behave with such fright and horror, how sorry and surprised I was. What a small and perhaps necessary murder of the ego it had been. Onward and home we go, and off I went, ridding her from my mind, and preoccupied with thoughts of aging and how I needed to get out more and stop being such a hermit and maybe I might meet somebody in an easier and more normal way. It had been at least two months since I broke up with my girlfriend.

Then one month and approximately ten days later, I’m going into work on a Tuesday afternoon for an overtime shift. The summers are fat with overtime for those in my office who want it. Vacation time at university, all around. Would that it had been, for me. Because this is where Fate began to get even more squiggly, venomous and unaccountably grim. At my office before our shifts, we are to arrive fifteen minutes early for the exchange of information. So between 3:30-3:45pm I am crossing Volunteer Blvd and I am peering ahead of me and lo and behold here seems to be the Spanish actresses’ doppleganger, walking away from my destination. No bike this time, same outfit more or less, this time with sunglasses. I’m unsure it’s even her, and somehow, almost miraculously,  if miracles can be physical convulsions, instances of poor judgment, and extremely bad things at once, while fifteen-30 feet away from her I say,

“ Aren’t you the girl I asked out twice in the street?”

I said this as I walked in the direction she had come from, towards my office. I believe I was able to say the entire almost automatic sentence, but regardless, she took one look sidelong-back at me and then looked immediately forward. With a doubtlessly dumb and sheepish smile on my face and shaking my head, I continued in my undeviated oblique path away from her and towards my office, which was no more than 100 feet away. I still couldn’t quite understand how I could have frightened or unnerved anyone into absolute disdain and mute coldness, because it had never happened before then. I’m a fairly friendly and outgoing person, for a hermit. But it should be emphasized that I was shocked to see this girl on campus and directly in front of my office, and I spoke spontaneously. I had no reason even to think she was a student until that day and she looked to be about 25 (she’s 27). If I had thought it over, I wouldn’t have said anything to her from mid-street, as logically she was attired as a student, and an employee of the university does not want to be mistaken for someone who is messing with any of these confident and even-tempered co-eds. And calling to a woman from the street isn’t polite, in my honest opinion. It was, to my present mind, kind of like a muscular reaction.

Now the very next day, foolhardy Nathaniel has another overtime shift. It’s 6pm and I go out to get coffee and dinner, to take the same route I have thousands of times for this or that reason while at work. I head down the very same sidewalk, headed towards the crosswalk. I’m about 50 feet away when I see that she is walking towards me. I fidget a bit with my wallet in my pocket and briefly consider saying only one thing to her. “I’m very sorry that I frightened you or made you uncomfortable,” etc. It’s a very big deal to me that I’d clearly bothered a woman because of my forthrightness in public, and it still seems wildly unnatural, so to speak. But it didn’t matter that all I would have said to her If I’d even decided to was an apology, because when I looked up from the sidewalk she was on her cellular phone. She was kind of in a holding pattern right around the crosswalk, not looking at me, talking and idling. I interpreted this as an obvious show of disinterest and immediately forgot about saying anything to her.

I took a left at the crosswalk and went and got coffee and dinner. Unfortunately she is standing around the crosswalk. This dinner trip took me no more than 25 minutes. I was coming back with my boxed noodle dinner and my coffee along the very same route, a super-efficient shortcut, underneath the Henson complex by a dormitory and the Social Work building, and I see her still on her phone, basically as if she’d followed my route, and she points at me and announces, “There he is, that’s him.”

As the University policeman approaches me from the front and I become aware of some of his colleagues behind me, I say to him, “This girl thinks I’m stalking her, doesn’t she? I work right across the street, I asked her out over a month ago and I don’t know her. I don’t know her name.” About situations like these one remembers their words a bit better, you see. And in them they can only hope they’re innocent and collected enough, as I was. At the start I was appropriately outraged but not huffy or insolent. I understood I had behaved in a way that was customary for me but not by any means for everybody. I myself knew the girl was unfavorably surprised and displeased by my second attempt on the sidewalk to talk with her. Initially the normal reaction is “how absurd and outrageous” and there’s a show of what might be called fiery indignation. But within minutes I was totally cool and calm and by the end of this twenty minute tarring, this forced period of sitting down and showing and having my credentials checked on by radio, all the police who listened to me were very obviously in my camp. However this happened, I can’t really say, aside from the mistaken falsity and hastiness of the allegation, the mutually admitted facts favoring my innocence, and my self-exonerating place and time on the campus as an employee. My collected demeanor and considered words ended up helping me, also. They let me go after informing me that the girl had filed a charge against me with the actual city police sometime over the last month. He said there was an allegation of kidnapping, or of an attempt, and my jaw did it’s thing by dropping. Being a charge against Mr. X, a mysterious stranger with a basketball, I was not aware of the allegations or the constable’s interest in me. The very kind and objective university police then told me I could expect an investigator from the city police to call me the next day. I went back to work and caught my breath, and expressed my outrage, shock and dismay to my co-worker/supervisor. I told him the whole dirty business, stinting on no detail. We shook our heads and marveled at what the world was coming to, and I failed to understand that as an Iranian Persian, he probably thought I was crazy to pursue a stranger in the street, let alone after she had rode past me on a bicycle explaining that she had someplace to be, with a smile.

In an hour or so, the university police returned. It was the middle-aged officer who took the lead in my initial questioning, and the young attractive female officer who had hovered to my left the whole time and fixed me with an emotionless and slightly contemptuous look as I sat and fumed. By the end of this second questioning session directly outside of my secure IT warehouse-like office, both of these officers were entirely sympathetic and reluctant to manacle me and take me to the hoosegow, but they are entrusted to follow procedure as duly constituted. A woman had been freaked out and approached (made contact with) by a stranger at least three times within a ninety day period, (I assume they had been checking statutes, etc.) and therefore a man had to be summarily removed from work by his own work police and taken to jail. It is not at all a good or easily digested situation but it has the ring of authority and stable societies ruled by law, doesn’t it?

From this point on in my ordeal with the boots on the ground authorities is all academic. I was digitally registered after spending the requisite purgatory in the holding pen with other rascals, who ranged from the completely unconscious to high-strung pantherishness, stalking in circles until the holding pen became too full. Men of every stripe, tee hee. My registered recognition of the Misdemeanor A crime of stalking recorded, as well as my tri-part photograph and inkless fingerprints, I paid my bond with the help of a friend at about 2am or a bit earlier. Inside a huge hive of identical locked cells, I spent the night in my own little cell with my own inflatable mattress and steel toilet and steel locked door, rather than have anyone stick around to take me home/back to work my double shift, because the full process of being “booked” is so endlessly lengthy and complicated, you see, even if the low-paid officials responsible were not having a leisurely ball celebrating the assumption of guilt, right before your eyes. Later my kindly and elderly bondsman suggested that “no one works up there.” And so as not to cause anyone further trouble, I slept in jail: not a big deal. Also, I just don’t know that many people I’m comfortable asking to pick me up at jail at 3am. They mostly have jobs and children, and good opinions of me.

About 7:30 I am retrieved from the klink by one of the best friends I have had in my life, my coworker Walter Sutton. He takes me to work so I can get my belongings and make matters plain with my boss and coworkers. Worried expressions and candid talk all around as I relate my tale to coworkers. They understand both the gravity and the insanity of the situation. The world is falling apart, the total case itself is ridiculously thin and insubstantial, etc. We all know the state university we work at is inclined to avoid any sort of black eye or appearance of liability; queue the bass notes and deep insecurity. Then I go in to see my boss, and tell the whole misadventure again. He is almost entirely sympathetic, and he himself may have been similarly strung up for a cynical and false allegation dealing with spousal relations during divorce, who can say, as that is not directly my business? He tells me that in his opinion I did not commit the disgusting crime of stalking and that it is apparently a gross misunderstanding. He has known me for years, after all, and is aware of the fact that I am a poor candidate for the weird personality type who feverishly wishes to ruin his own life by stalking a client of his own doctrinally bureaucratic and historically face-saving employer. My boss who I have always admired and respected tells me that I can continue to come to work as normal. But he has to tell me about 20 minutes later that Human Resources has decided to put me on Paid Administrative Vacation after all, pending their own investigation. We agree that this is a relative silver lining, and I’m informed that I cannot be on campus until the department of human resources decides if I am guilty of these serious charges, which may result in termination, quite naturally, or unnaturally, depending on one‘s opinion of both statute and honest testimony, as you will see next.

This miserable tale and importunement is nearly at an end, and I can’t thank you enough for reading it and bearing with me. But here comes the drastic and super-gnarly part of it all.

Two days after this all happens with the tarring and feathering in the street, with the overdue comeuppance of the devious street predator that I have become, a kind and thoroughly old-school Sheriff’s deputy  wakes me up with a lot of insistent banging and knocking at my door. He serves me with a restraining order after telling me “it doesn’t mean you did it.” He then is required to read the brief statement my accuser had entered. It’s at this point that I am as stunned, baffled, flabbergasted, smote down as I have ever been. This is when I realize that the situation, this hideous farce, has passed from an issue of a woman who misunderstood and over-reacted, who I legitimately made uncomfortable but somehow still pursued a case against me when the very mitigating facts should have been made clear to her, to an issue of much worse and more evil magnitude. Because she just lied through her teeth in order to make an “hysterical” charge stick. This can be the only explanation for how she could have come up with the words I‘m about to relate. In my opinion, the two alternate possibilities for these astonishing and bold-faced untruths are that she has a form of mental derangement and believes what she says, or the sort of comprehensive hearing problem that simply causes untold trouble for other citizens. She says that at some point in the street or on the sidewalk, in broad daylight, I said to her,

“I’ve been watching you for days. You don't have to deal with me now but you'll have to deal with me when I kidnap you.”

Of course, nobody talks like that, and kidnappers, I would guess, don’t often make their intentions so obvious. Then there is the question of how very rarely this occurs between strangers in the street, as opposed to within established relationships between two people. So in short, I may be helped by the fact that this woman is so unimaginative and hasty as to have failed in coming up with better perjury and more believable dialogue. One has to wonder if a lawyer or friends coached her to say these evil things, for whatever standard and degenerate reasons such people traffic in.

That’s basically where it stands at the moment. My accuser has shown a bloody, rare interest in crucifying me with lies;  my employer has me on an ominous paid leave without having requested to interview me or get my side of the story beyond whatever is written in some campus police report; and my lawyer very candidly speaks of massive gray areas ahead. She is no great friend of the head district attorney. She confesses that the case is paper-thin and essentially lunatic, but that politics and gender personality insofar as which DA and judge get my case will come into play. The best we can currently hope for is to call in some wily favors of the back-room variety, one could say, and also, naturally, that my accuser will display some kind of unmistakable evil-faced madness at the preliminary trial in about a week. We arrive at the point in life where we see that mountains of the foulest, unforeseeable, flaming excrement are being delivered to one‘s doorstep, and that one will have to pay for the cost of delivery. My accuser insists I cover her legal expenses, of course. And I have no idea what sort of judicial-mindedness prevails in this shadowy process of internal investigation by the department called Human Resources. They will be in touch with this resource at some point, not necessarily even pending the actual court’s findings.

What I’ve done here is take up too much of your time with the explanation of what sort of weird and colossal mess I’ve gotten myself into. I’m unspeakably sorry to have gotten into this shit-storm, and to feel that I need to tell you about it and to ask that you consider helping me. All of it is rotten and I’ve always been extremely independent and self-sustaining. But if the universe arrays itself against you, I think it’s wise to ask the same universe for help.

The trouble with this is that some of my friends will feel bad because they either can’t help me or have misgivings about helping me because they could possibly feel I don’t deserve it in this case. For those in these positions I’m telling you it’s ok and I understand. I can’t comment on any of your questions as to my innocence because that’s your right and your judgment, and there’s a very good chance we haven’t seen each other for years and years anyway. And, very importantly, times are ruthlessly hard right now. Even people without children and other serious mid-life responsibilities are having trouble making ends meet. Don’t feel bad if you’re not in a position to help me with some coin for the barristers and the maintenance of the wheels of state. I’ll be alright and some good will come out of all this high anarchy and low malarkey. But any donation will be repaid and goes directly to the fund marked “Legal.” These funds will not be considered fungible in any way and I am currently looking for an interim job; I can’t say when any contribution will be repaid. I wish I had been the saving type but I’m not: I have a secure retirement plan and spend my money as it comes for the most part, and like anybody else, did not ever conceive of such an event as this, which might quickly remove my job and income from me.

Now I’m done with this dreadful business of entreating you from this public library in the country. I’ll just say in closing that I’ve never stalked anybody and my parents raised me much better than that. This accusation diminishes the gravity of the crime; the accuser appears to have perjured herself not in defense of herself, but probably only of her ego. I can’t imagine what karmic horrors await the person who perjures him or herself in a malicious attempt to ruin a stranger, however they may have regarded the actions of their “persecutor.”

I may be a somewhat slick talker, but I’m not a con artist. I may be bold and even possessed of a saucy gumption, but I’m not aggressive or even impolite, as a general rule. I definitely gave a focused effort to meet a stranger, (who, contrary to her statement, never told me to leave her alone and indeed only spoke that first politely dismissive sentence to me in transit) but I’m not a stalker. Stalking disgusts me and is an act of psychological terrorism, an invasion of emotional security I could never commit. And it’s hard for me to see other than that right now I’m being stalked by all The Furies, myself.

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