“Strange,” I thought, while running my hands over the leather seats of a town car shuttling me to and from The Security Brief studio. Grateful someone else was driving, because my brain was off on a lightheaded bender, remembering. “Five years ago, I felt ridiculously grateful to score a hiding place—an unfinished basement—spending several months sleeping on an air mattress, roughly 10 feet away from a washer and dryer, while outrunning a stalker.
Now? Leather seats? Town car? Two (TWO!) bottled waters in a backseat caddy, waiting for the grabbing? Talking about those Dark Years in New York City?”
Reason urged me to just sit back and enjoy the experience, already. Memories, however, took over. They contrasted black leather seats to gray concrete basement. A horribly anxious time, worrying about the additional financial burden—paying rent in addition to a mortgage on the home where my stalker constantly terrorized me. It’s why I didn’t take either of the bottled waters. Despite knowing they were for me, the basement said those small luxuries belonged to someone else.
Reconciling both sides of my story, the despair of the Dark Years, contrasted with great opportunities to talk about the experience … I, ah … just can’t do it. I can compare it to a scene from The Sparrow, a deeply philosophical sci-fi book. Father Sandoz is the only survivor from a mission to a newly-discovered planet. The book unpacks events leading to his trauma, including the series of Jesuit priests attempting to coax Father Sandoz into revealing painful memories. If memory serves (it’s been a couple years since I read it), one of the interviewing priests lost a limb arm in a terrorist attack. The limb loss built and shaped him. A lot of pain and a lot of good came from it. Astounding good. So much good that he couldn’t imagine his life without the tragedy. But when it came down to it, the Jesuit would have rather kept his arm. That’s how life goes: never turning out the way any of us expected it to. So, we take the bad with the good. Recognizing that both sides shape and grow us.
That’s what it’s like for me, post-stalking, post-opportunities.
My motivation for talking stalking? Draw awareness to a notably misunderstood crime. Stalking is difficult to identify. The hardest part of being a victim? Explaining why seemingly innocent actions (or actions that the stalker claims are innocent) are terrifying. Words do not come easily. Actions are explained away. Victims are called hysterical or crazy while trying to explain the terror. My hope is that talking about my experience will aid other victims, giving them a reference so they’ll have the words. Educating others on the signs, so they can give help to victims.
But. After the hubablao from the last time I talked about being stalked and blogged about being stalked, I needed a break. Talking jostled old wounds, and consequently, everything felt raw and sensitive. Those wounds needed to re-heal. So I took a break. A 15-month break, if you’re counting. Allowed those horrible memories to get buried in the backyard.
Consequently, when The Security Brief came calling, it was painful to realize just how completely out of practice I was with telling my own damn story. It happened while reviewing the treatment (an outline) with a producer—who familiarized herself with the story details beforehand—so that I’d be prepared for the on-camera conversation flow. It’s always a bizarre feeling when strangers recite my story details, which became more odd when the producer referred to the police boxes, and did I ever rummage through them?, and …
… memory completely blanked out. Police boxes. Police boxes. What are the police … like the police box in Doctor Who? I don’t remember a big blue … and then my memory, instead of being helpful, lodged the Doctor Who theme in a repeating earworm loop … maybe I should ask for clarity and …
… oh how embarrassing. It was the time that my stalker neatly stacked a lot of banker boxes outside my front door. All were labeled POLICE, in some attempt to goad or frighten or at least pay her attention and … I chided myself, “Amy Neises, you big fat nerd. Can’t even recall your own memories, eh?” With a few hours before another too-nice town car delivered me to the studio, I found a mental shovel. Looking for and unearthing grown-over patches in my backyard. Memories buried 15 months ago.
Coaching self. Exercising atrophied memories. Reminding self of every outrageously horrible thing my stalker did, so that I wouldn’t look like a complete dolt in front of a live studio audience. Being reminded again just how incredibly hard it was to articulate the events, despite prior practice.
Practicing out loud. Rehearsing how to say those words again. Stammering. Head going blank. Uhming and oh, you know a lot. Picturing editing scissors on every foible. Feeling pressure.
Continuing to mutter the words while power walking to Central Park. It was a less-than-48-hour-trip, with only a small amount of hours available to explore that great city. Thinking back to my planned 2001 trip to NYC, thwarted when terrorists hijacked planes and …
… another dark memory colliding with the stalking years. Marveling, This whirlwind trip to New York City is brought to you by: your stalker. Hoping that the good people of New York, overhearing my rehearsing-turned-muttering—The times she followed me. The non-physical sexual assaults. Screaming through my front door. Blocking me from going to work. Dumping smoke into my home. Police stakeouts after she fled arrest. And—would just think I was another crazy on their streets. Asking myself once again, how, how, how do I process the good of being in NYC, along with the horrid events that made it possible?
I wanted to just be in the city.
To have that moment. Those precious few hours. Alone.
Nothing else. Not my stalker. Not the memories. Just me. Just to be surrounded by brownstones. And the city. What a city.
Despite the reason for my being in the city was surviving a stalker, it was neither right nor fair to allow her to muscle into the present. No way. Not any way. She had taken enough from me already. That horrible woman was not allowed into my one brief glance Of New York.
So, shut off my brain. Lost myself in magnitude of the city. Surrounding and engulfing me. Before another overwhelmingly nice, leather-seated town car picked me up for the studio.
Despite my fears, the words came easily. When I left, after the taping, realized: it’s time to restart talking about stalking. Let’s talk about crime and its impact on victims. Let’s help people get help.