Therese Gramercy . . . the girl named Trees

Flower Detail

The Watchers

When you are a pretty one, slender, long hair, attractive smile, your life is not your own. You never know who is watching you, and I can guarantee you, that you are very seldom truly alone. We might casually label this behavior watching, some of which is frightening, when we call it stalking, and some of which is innocent, perhaps simply someone admiring a graceful girl or a handsome man from afar. Sometimes, such an admirer might even be someone who cares enough about you to wonder if you have been murdered and call the police.

In my days at college, I was so excited about everything I was learning, and I had the opportunity to go to a special convention. We were all trying to carpool and find ways to get there and hear all the lectures. One of my fellow students offered me a ride. That was great! I told him I would give him the directions to my house so he could pick me up. He told me he didn't need them, that he knew where I lived. I was so happy to have a ride to the convention that I didn't think about what his words meant at the time. You know it meant that not only was he watching me at school, but he had followed me to the parking lot and even followed me in his car to see where I went and found out where I lived. While at the convention, this realization came into my mind, and I was glad that I still lived at home with my parents and that everything would be OK, but I tucked a quiet warning away into my memory.

There was a man sitting behind us on the bus. He had been reading a magazine all that time, hours upon hours. When we arrived at our far northern destination, he walked past me and bumped into me on purpose. He hadn't been reading a magazine at all, it was just the cover, with no interior pages. He wanted me to see that, while I was standing there alone waiting for our friends to get the car so they could help us with our luggage. I told my boyfriend when they returned with the car. We knew right then that it would never be safe for me to take a long bus ride like that all by myself, so I missed my girlfriend's wedding back home.

When you are in place that is unfamiliar to you, you know to look around and to be cognizant of your surroundings, but what about when you are moving around your own neighborhood? To work and back, to the store, to pick up your mail at the common mailroom, to go to your car? This man knew my entire routine. Who knows how long he had been watching me, but he was finally prepared and decided to make his move. I drove in to my apartment complex and parked my car in my assigned space. He drove in behind me and parked around the corner close to the mailboxes. I walked toward the mailboxes unaware. He walked straight on past them like he belonged. When I came back out of the alcove, he was waiting for me, a flasher. I don't know what might have happened next, for he thought he had me trapped and that I would turn back to the empty parking lot. But I knew my boyfriend was at home, in the very next building and I pushed past him and ran. He took off to his car, I made it safely to our apartment and we called the police. It was embarrassing to recount that situation for the two male policemen, while my boyfriend sat there beside me. They were polite, but in their eyes I could see that they thought sadly to themselves that this not fair to such a sweet girl, but also, that they could see why I had been picked. They had heard the same story before, and they knew it would happen again, to me or to someone else. I varied my routine after that, and to this day, even though I live thousands of miles away, I still tense up when I see a small blue truck with a camper shell on the back.

Once I lived in the far unit on the backside of an apartment complex across from a freeway off ramp. It seemed like a good choice, quiet, private, not so many neighbors, but it was just too close to that freeway off ramp, and it gave a view into my life to those who waited at the red light. Sometimes men would honk at me when they saw me sitting on my lounge chair on the deck. Some even honked at me when I was inside my home at my kitchen window just doing the dishes. A really nice man lived across the way from me. He was a tattoo artist, including pioneering the tattooing for breast reconstruction, such an incredible thing in those days. He used to watch out for me, but he couldn't be there all the time, could he? He wouldn't be able to protect me if one of those “freeway watchers” got a little crazy and came after me and he wasn't home at the time. Even though it was a gated community, I realized that I had better move, and I did.

The security guard at an office building where I worked was watching me. I was a new employee and forms had to be filled out to receive your security badge, so he learned my name. I had a brand new home phone number, it wasn't even listed yet. He called information to learn my number, and there was no phone listed for me. But he also worked part time for the phone company, so when he was at that job, he accessed the records for new listings, found my number, and called me at home. I was shocked. He seemed to think there was nothing was wrong with what he had done. I called the phone company and requested an unlisted number. They told me there would be a charge. I told them that was not a problem, I just needed a new phone number right away. While they completed the order over the phone with me, I told them what had happened. They told me there would be no charge for my new unlisted number.

One evening, a girlfriend and I were driving home in my tiny car after having dinner downtown. Some teen boys in another car stopped next to us at a light. They were staring at us and smiling like they thought that we were really cute, we laughed to ourselves how darkness can take years off your looks, for we were far older than they were. The light turned green and we drove forward. We made a turn to go home. They pulled behind us and made the same turn. We made another turn, and they made the same one. We realized that they were following us and that we had better not go home. We kept on going and made another turn, so did they, and another turn. We looked at each other and knew we couldn't stop this situation on our own and drove straight to the police station. When they saw our destination, they took off, and we could only hope that they realized it wasn't funny and that they never did it again. No wonder the OnStar button was invented, it's not only helpful when your car has been in an accident, but maybe the inventor thought about how it could be helpful in situations like this one, to help the police find you, just in case you can't make it to them.

There was a company president who made sure I knew he was watching me. He used to grab my boss's recorder and make suggestive comments that I would hear later when I transcribed the tapes. This made her angry and she told him to knock it off that she didn't want to lose the best secretary she ever had, and she would try to erase the comments, but once in awhile one got through. We traveled a lot. In one city, we had a couple of rooms strung together as a temporary office with an empty room attached where people could take a nap when they flew into town. One time this was the president. When he woke up, he came into the “office” to answer a call and told me to go next door and get his socks. I set down my work and did as I was told. I could easily find only one sock and started searching more thoroughly. It was taking too long and I started to worry, so I tore both beds apart, even the one that he had not used, still no sock. I was feeling very uneasy and decided I had to go now. There was only one place left to look, his briefcase. I walked back into the office and handed him both of his socks and sat back down to do my work. You should have seen the look of shock on his face. More importantly, I knew that he was one watcher who had crossed the line into dangerous territory.

In a different city, I locked myself out of my apartment one day. I thought I had my keys with me when I went down to the laundry room. This was long before the days of cell phones, so I knocked on a couple of my neighbor’s doors to see who might be home so I could use their phone. The man who lived across the way asked me what was wrong. I lived in a second story apartment, my sliding glass door was open upstairs. He climbed the tree and walked through my apartment to let me back in. I learned that he was a photographer, and also that he had broken ribs. Yes, a man with broken ribs had just scaled a tree to let me back into my apartment. Later on I would learn how attractive he thought I was, and realize that he had been watching me, the pretty girl across the way.

One Saturday night there was mayhem at our apartment complex. Our neighbor's girlfriend had left him. He was angry when he saw the note and he put his fist through the glass window pane of the laundry room, and as he pulled his arm back out, he sliced it, really sliced it. He started knocking on doors for help, but few people were home, it was Saturday night. But we were home, and heard all the knocking. We heard someone run up our stairs and knock on the apartment door across from us. There was no such thing as 9-1-1 in those days, and that girl lived alone. My boyfriend was concerned, so he opened our door to see what was going on. There was our neighbor, he was drunk, he was trying to hold his wound to stop the bleeding, but he was not doing such a good job of it. There was blood down his arm and dripping everywhere. I dashed into the bedroom to throw on my jeans while my boyfriend directed him back down the stairs and to our car. My boyfriend started driving, while I sat in the back with our neighbor and applied pressure to his wound. We did not take him to the closest hospital, but to the one where I worked, a little further away. Our neighbor was a pianist, and I knew the best surgeons in town were at my hospital. They helped us immediately, and we waited in the E.R. while they treated him, then admitted him to the hospital.

Back at our apartment complex, the photographer neighbor came home. He saw blood all over the place. He wasn't sure what had happened, but the thickest blood trail of all was up the staircase to my apartment. He called the police. Luckily, we arrived back home from the hospital just after the police came to investigate and told them everything that had happened. And that is the night that I realized, that not only was this man watching me, but he was watching out for me too, and it mattered greatly to him that someone might have harmed me, or worse.

I can go on and on with more stories like these, but I think you see my point, someone is always watching you, but there is one more thing. You don’t have to be a pretty one for stalking to happen to you, it can happen to anyone, at any time, of any age or gender.

Not all of those who watch you wish you harm, but not all of them wish you well either. Vary your routine once in a while, don't be paranoid, but do pay attention to your surroundings and to your sixth sense. If you do not feel comfortable, take note of it, and be observant. Also, realize that this watching can go both ways. After all, if someone has all of their intent focused on watching you, can they be fully aware of their own surroundings enough to know if someone is watching them too? In these times of cell phones with cameras, I do believe that those who would stalk others are no longer safe to think that they are alone, that no one is watching them, not now that their actions can be so easily recorded. They would be wise to think twice about such pursuits.

Technology can be your friend, but it can just as easily intrude on the privacy of others, so be respectful of others in its use. Question your own intent when watching others, make sure it stops at casual observation, polite admiration, or neighborly concern over something that seems amiss and that it does not travel past the line of respect to voyeurism. Lastly, next time you are watching a pretty girl, say a little prayer for her, now that you know that her life might not be quite the fairytale that you daydream it to be, and if she notices you watching her, and moves away, you will understand why.