hard and clear.

I think it’s time for me to write a big story. I’ve been mulling over how to do this. I’ve started and deleted a lot of entries here, and they always get deleted because they’re too angry. I’m not angry anymore. I’m very, very clear. So I think I’m going to start here, as kind of an outline and a way to speak my truth. You get to write about what happened to you, because it’s your story. And there’s an African proverb that goes: Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter. For awhile now, I’ve been letting the hunter tell a story from his angle. I just figured: that guy wants to tell himself and other people lies about what happened, believe untrue things about me, fine let him. My hope was that he’d weave himself a big enough, satisfying enough, story that he’d heal, find something else to obsess about, and move on. But it doesn’t really seem to be happening.

Quite frankly, I would like the crap to stop. For awhile it kind of seemed to, and then I effed it up by writing about it here a few times because I saw something online that upset me and now we are off and running again, which I’ve been promised by my therapist, 100% of my friends, and several Internet resources would happen. This entry is going to be the Big Kahuna of forms of contact, and so I do realize doing this is going to make things really bad for me for I don’t know how long. I’m anticipating a lot of self-righteous attitude and ego defense response and having to field a lot of disturbing stuff in my email, my phone, my social media. One reason I’ve written about it here is that it’s really hard to see someone saying things about you and calling you names when you know they’re not telling the truth. I’m much better off emotionally when I avoid his part of the Internet, because I can pretend he doesn’t exist. The problem is every now and then I see something in my Twitter feed and I go look, because schadenfreude I guess. The situation this has created is upsetting and depressing; like, I was really into watching the show The Expanse and growing my Sci Fi knowledge and love, but now all of what has happened has left a bad taste in my mouth. I just don’t have the heart to care about Sci Fi right now. I just want to go back to women’s fiction and mainstream lit.

Let me be clearer about what I’ve been through, so you understand.

In October, I ended a friendship. The friendship was very very intense. By intense, I mean the individual wanted a LOT of contact. Texts and phone calls every single day, as much as possible. Listen: I don’t even talk to my own mother once a week (sorry, Mom). I do have friends I hear from every day, and it makes me happy. I love getting a “hey, how’s your world?” quick text once a day from someone, and my heart is too, too happy because I know someone out there cares and is thinking about me. But honestly? If we’re truly friends, we don’t HAVE to talk EVERY day. I know you’re in the world, and you love me, and I hope you know I know you’re in the world and I love you. We’ll talk. Eventually I’ll hear from you and if I don’t, then my fingers work too – I can text or email or call you. Friendships are about trust and taking care of each other. Friendships are about communication and support but also not placing unfair expectations and responsibilities for YOUR feelings onto someone else. Ditto love relationships. Is what I’ve learned over the last almost-44 years I’ve been on this planet.

This person didn’t want that. This person wanted nearly constant contact, and when his needs weren’t met to his expectations guilt trips were laid and sometimes just outright jealousy. These were issues long, long before October. We had conversations about it, tense conversations about it, in which there were arguments over what a good friendship really looks like, and I was told I was wrong. That good friends speak EVERY day, multiple times a day, all the time. I disagreed and still do. It was stifling.

The other thing that was going on with the friendship was that the other party didn’t want it to just be a friendship. The other party was hopeful the friendship could flourish into something much deeper, more sexual in nature, a relationship-kind-of-friendship. To be completely hard and clear, I did things that contributed to this hope. I used the word love. Because if we are friends, I do love you and I am often willing to tell you so. I was also very, very angry at C and leaving my marriage and I did and said things that weren’t appropriate and didn’t honor the marriage I was in. This gave the other person a lot of hope and, at the time, I don’t blame the person for going way down that rabbit hole. I feel guilty and bad about that. I wish I’d been a better person.

Over the summer, I came clean with the individual and told them where I was at emotionally. I didn’t want that kind of a friendship with him. I didn’t feel the attraction for him that he felt for me. I felt horrible about it. I valued him and his friendship tremendously, and he told me the friendship mattered more than anything so he was going to shut off those feelings and just be my friend.

That didn’t really happen, because every now and then stuff would start or things would be said and I’d know: he wants more than friendship. And I was fielding Twitter DMs and almost daily phone calls. I started to worry he was addicted to me…or whatever idea of me he’d built in his brain…and it got suffocating. We started having conversations about it, arguments with the theme “what is friendship,” and I said some really reprehensible things to him. When I say reprehensible, I mean I was bitchy. A lot. Particularly when he’d come at me in the morning – I am NOT a morning person, do not bring me your issues before 2 cups of coffee and 10 AM.

So I am not completely blameless. I was far too open with my friendly love, far too much of a doormat to really be firm and speak up about where my boundaries were, and then I started to talk bitchy and it made me feel like complete poop, you guys. I just don’t talk to people like that, even the most annoying. It is not in my nature to be a bitch. I wouldn’t want someone to talk to me like that, and so I am reluctant to do it to others. In fact, I was SO bitchy, that one time a friend (hi, E, this is you) and I had a disagreement and I got that kind of bitchy with HER. And I thought: oh, Amy…oh, Amy. What is this effed up situation even doing to you. This is not you. You don’t talk to people like this.

So that’s kind of the background to what happened to me. Started out as friends, everything was awesome but I was in a super bad and weird and angry place and I allowed things to happen that I shouldn’t have. He developed feelings for me I couldn’t possibly return, and wouldn’t have even under the best of circumstances.

By October, it was completely messed up.

He became jealous of other friendships I had. He’d insert himself into as many conversations on social media as he could. Everything I did and said there, he commented on. In addition to the constant running DMs and daily phone calls. It was so, so intense.

One night, we were on the phone and for no reason, I simply couldn’t breathe. He was going on and on about men on the Internet, about how creepy they could be (ironic) or something like that. I literally couldn’t breathe. I think, looking back on it, I was having a panic attack. At any rate, I got off the phone as fast as I could and I sat in the chair breathing hard and fast and trying to still my brain. I could not breathe. And in that moment, I just knew: I don’t want to be in this friendship anymore. I don’t think it’s healthy for him or for me, and I don’t want to be in this friendship anymore.

So I ghosted him. I blocked him on Twitter and just was going to stop talking to him. I don’t know where my head was at, really, except maybe in stifled/can’t breathe panic mode. I mean, obviously, I was going to have to clue him in on the fact I didn’t want to be friends anymore – you can’t be friends with someone for several months and then just abscond. That’s not fair.

But back in August, I’d actually tried to take a break from the friendship. I’d asked for a 7 day break, so I could get back into the swing of things at work and in the hopes that some time off would help him reset and refocus and not want a love relationship kind of friendship, just a platonic friendship. I wasn’t going anywhere; I just literally needed a break. Some quiet time. His response to that was to scream at me, to call me nasty names. It was scary and upsetting and completely not anything I expected from him. He’d always been so calm and seemed so gentle. This was like Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde kind of stuff.

He calmed down, came back, apologized profusely, blamed his behavior on someone else, and swore up and down he’d banished that Mr. Hyde forever and ever and I’d never see him again. And so I forgave him, let him back in, and we went back to being friends. But you do things, you say horrible things like that, and they stick in people’s minds and souls, so maybe it flavored things for me. And he started back up on the platonic-friends-but-secretly-hoping-for-more-one-day thing, which was frustrating and perturbing.

In September, I wished him a happy birthday and told him he was a blessing to me. At that time, he was. In spite of everything he said in August, in spite of constantly needing to have contact with me every single day multiple times a day, he was. I don’t say things to people I don’t mean. So when I used the word “blessing,” it wasn’t October, I wasn’t in panic attack mode, and I obviously was able to deal with the demands and expectations he had of me and the friendship at that time. By October, however, I was in high high stress mode at work, I was grappling with personal life issues, and I just couldn’t deal with anyone else’s needs beyond Miss M’s. And one night on the phone, I literally could not breathe.

Remembering what had happened in August, when I was screamed at, called names, and he threatened to go to everyone I interacted with on social media and tell them what kind of person I really am…do you understand why I’d be reluctant to come out and say: Hey, I need to end this friendship immediately? That, and I was in the middle of an amazing amount of stress on my end. I knew he was going to be hateful.

He was confused and hurt by the ghosting, and I felt terrible. And because of what happened in August, I was a bit cold when I did respond finally and let him know what was going on – I told him I didn’t want to have anymore contact with him, and further attempts on his part would be considered stalking and harassment. I was cold, but also very firm. I was also terrified about getting screamed at, and so I was bracing. And yup. That’s exactly what happened.

I didn’t save or document the ensuing flurry of hate texts because they were incredibly upsetting and confusing, but I did block him from my phone after about 10 of them. So he was blocked on Twitter, blocked on my phone. He started to go through 3rd parties to send me messages. I got a pleading poem via a lady who was a mutual contact. I was notified by a man who I barely knew telling me a close relative of my former friend was very ill and near death. That was really upsetting, because I didn’t know if it was really true – he’d never ever indicated to me that person was that sick and frail, so on my end it looked like he was either making it up, and either way he was using it as manipulation to get me to talk to him again. I still don’t know how grossed out I want to feel about that.

So I had a friend who’s a palliative care nurse get in touch with him (a) to help if it really was true and (b) to ask questions to determine if it really was true. She told me he cried on the phone with her about missing me, which broke my heart. I never meant to hurt him that much, and I certainly don’t want anyone crying over THIS mess. So I emailed him, told him: please don’t cry over me, I never meant for that to happen. I also told him I was really sorry about his relative’s illness, and to let me know when the person passed away so I could send sympathy. You know, like a card or something. I didn’t mean we were going to restart a friendship. He’d called me a liar and said I had no integrity. He’d screamed at me in August and again in October. He needed constant contact and validation from me. Why in the world would I go back to that? But I was trying to make it easier, and I don’t want anyone crying, and I know how it feels to lose a loved one, and at one point we were good friends and you don’t have to be an a-hole just because you don’t want to be friends anymore.

But then he started emailing me good morning messages, after I’d told him I still wanted very very limited contact. Like, I’ll be in touch when that sad event happens. He responded by neither respecting nor honoring my boundaries. In addition, I talked to some people who told me: NO CONTACT. Zero engagement. I was told: Amy, you cannot ever talk to this person. What he is doing, what he has done, is really scary and obsessive. Contact will just keep him hoping. When I google-researched it, the Internet agreed. (For the record, so does my therapist, a qualified mental health professional.) So I went back to no contact. And then a week later he claimed his relative died, and sent me that message via a 3rd party. I have combed the internet, trying to find an obituary, and I can’t. So I don’t know. I made a donation in the person’s memory, because I said I would send sympathy. I sent him notification of that donation in a desperate attempt to appease him and make him stop calling me names.

Here’s what I’ve gotten to deal with since then:

*Multiple Twitter accounts, under anonymous names, set up with the sole purpose of harassing me there. Shaming me, calling me names, making veiled threats to publish things I’d shared with him in confidence. The worst one was when he used my marriage – which I’d talked to him about – to hurt me. He said even C hadn’t been able to take the kind of horrible person I was, and had left me. Which was a really disgusting lie. Sometimes he’d use the accounts to cajole and promise that he really didn’t mean all the hateful things, and that he was going to go away and leave me alone so I’d feel safe. Then he’d change his mind and come back scary and creepy. If I gave ANY indication I was aware of the account, he’d get agitated and go further. If I blocked, he’d set up a new account. It was relentless.

*Comments on my blog. Sometimes angry, sometimes pleading. I had to turn off comments there, and I’ve turned them off here because he left an upsetting one for a previous entry. I also got comments from strangers telling me I need to go back to my husband. I don’t know if those were legit or not. They were very strange, because seriously. The only time I’ve ever interacted with strangers on that blogspot blog was when I was writing about the show DIG. Otherwise, only my mom and a handful of friends read it.

*Oh my god, you guys. Emails. So, so many emails. I can’t even guess how many I’ve blocked. Sometimes the emails are apologetic and coaxing – he’s sorry, he just hopes I can forgive him and maybe one day we can at least follow each other on Twitter again. Sometimes the emails are angry and hateful. I think the most upsetting one was the hate email I got on Halloween –  it was from “Actor Bravo,” and it went on and on about what a terrible monster I am, how cold and cruel and vindictive. I was sent the email every hour on the hour for about 3-4 hours straight, until I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom sobbing and shaking. I didn’t know when it would stop, and it felt like he was absolutely outright stalking me, certainly bullying me, and he’d do this forever and ever and I’d never get away from it. I’m getting upset right now, thinking about it.

Sometimes the emails are just random and weird. Once, I was sent an anonymous email with a link to an article about sexual attraction, noting he thought it seemed right up my alley, something I could blog about. Also, the person doesn’t really get how people work – he thinks it’s a compliment to send people my way…have them follow me on Twitter, or DM them to check out my tweets and my blog. To the point one of those people just emailed me to say: Hey, uh, this kind of got creepy and I thought you should know. So now I’m anticipating getting social media messages and emails like that once in awhile.

*One Sunday, I unpublished and almost deleted my public writer Facebook page. He private messaged me there, relentlessly, all morning. Because, see, Facebook notifies the sender of PMs that the person has read what you sent. So I’d see it, he’d see that I saw it, and then send me another one. Every single time, because he was growing more and more excited about the fact I was reading what he was writing me. It was traumatic – the closest term I can come up with for how that felt is emotional rape. I wasn’t responding. I clearly didn’t want to talk. He kept talking. No. Please stop. No. He simply wouldn’t stop, while I frantically tried to figure out how to block someone from contacting me on that kind of Facebook page. Then I got all depressed and unpublished the thing, marking it for deletion, because how many other Facebook accounts would he set up to contact me there? I eventually re-published it and decided not to delete. More because you know. Just keep blocking. Don’t give a person that kind of power over you. That kind of thing.

*I had to call the police. I looked into restraining orders. The police told me I was definitely being harassed and possibly stalked, but until he actually made a real threat to hurt me or someone close to me, or actually came to my home there was not much they could do.

*I’ve gotten blocked phone calls. Repeatedly one day. Even now, when I get a weird number I don’t have in caller id or recognize, I am gripped with fear. I don’t answer phone numbers I don’t recognize, because I’m terrified it’ll be him on the other end.

*Angry texts came through from websites. I didn’t even know there were websites you can send people texts from, but now I do. I spent about an hour one evening in early January trying to comb the Internet to find as many of these as I could and block my number from them.

* He varies between complimenting my writing and this blog and then bashing me on his new Twitter page – he doesn’t use my name, but he has tagged me in some of it on Twitter. I had to delete Hootesuite off my phone because Twitter won’t send the notifications to me, but they get through Hootesuite. He calls me a narcissist user. I am not a narcissist, and I am not a user. I asked to be let out of a friendship, and my request was denied.

Now he’s got his own blog. He may have set it up just because he really wants to write, or he may have set it up because he wants to tell his side of the story. He’s welcome to do that, just make sure he tells the world exactly what he’s done as well, because I’ve got literally 3 files of pages and pages and pages of documentation of what he’s done.

And he’s back on Twitter, after promising me he’d never go back there, he could never show his face or name there again. Well, he doesn’t show his face, but he’s back and he’s trying to re-invent himself. Which is fine. He can be on Twitter and have a blog; it’s a free country. But I can see him trying to interact with people he tried to make hate me, or he just interacts with people he knows I occasionally or frequently interact with on Twitter. It freaks me out every time, because of what he’s done. It feels creepy and threatening to me. I want him to have friends, but because everything that surrounds him is basically a PTSD trigger for me at this point, if you and I are going to be friends, you can’t be friends with him, too. I’m sorry, that’s just where I’m at. My trust issues regarding this are just kaput. He may or may not have stalked me – it looks and FEELS like stalking to me, but he’s not physically dangerous, just completely mental. He has definitely without any doubt harassed and bullied and abused me online. And so if we’re friends, then awesome. You want to be friendly and friends with him? Have a nice life.

I am not naming him here. He’s reading this and I know I’m going to get backlash. He’s going to be reinvigorated and energized by the acknowledgement, angry and self-righteous by some of what I’ve said about what happened, and jesus god y’all. I’m so not looking forward to what’s about to hit me when I hit publish. So I’ll reassure him I’m not going to expose or try to ruin him, just please for the love of god GO AWAY. He’s free to roam Twitter and make new girlfriends to his heart’s content, though it’s all I can do not go to every single female I’ve noticed him interacting with and send them copies of some of what I have. Just so they’re very aware of what he’s capable of if he decides to attach to them. However, I also know he is lonely and desperate for friends, and I’m not going to deny him those however he can get them. And he can be bizarre and creepy enough that hopefully a female with healthier boundaries will grow uncomfortable enough to put the brakes on quickly – the email I got from a random Twitter person confirmed it for me; I did not do this when I should have. Really hoping it doesn’t happen to someone else.

I asked the police officer I talked to about restraining orders, and he said it was really difficult because the person lives in another state, that probably I could easily get a temporary one but then I’d have to go to court after a couple of weeks to keep it going, and that involved court fees. I am tired. And broke. And he lives (thank god) far away. However, I do have a police report on file now and I have been documenting like mad. If you could see the amount of documentation I’ve had to keep. It’s mind boggling. Like, about 12 years ago I dealt with a stranger online situation like this, but that guy sent like 6 emails and set up one blog. As soon as I deleted my blog and got off the Internet, he went away. THIS guy has sent hundreds of emails, set up 4 or 5 Twitter accounts, one blog, sends texts, phone calls…I’ve never seen anything like it.

All because once upon a time I was watching the television show DIG, clicked someone’s Follow button, and shared a bit too freely. And then needed to end the friendship because I couldn’t breathe.

There. That’s it. WordPress says I have written over 3600 words about this, half the length of a long short story. I have tried to be as clear and concise and brutally honest as I could be without revealing his identity and other sensitive information. The people who know him will know who he is, and this is going to be very threatening to him. At this point, I guess I don’t really care what threatens him? He’s threatened me quite enough. I have been threatened and manipulated and lied to and about enough.

Now I may go use the experiences to write a really great short story. Or a collection of stories. Also, remember the hashtag #YesAllWomen from a year or so ago? Yeah, now I get it.