Since I've moved to Franklin, I've really enjoyed this new phase of my life. However, I've made a real effort to focus on the positive. I've got so much to be grateful for, but I'm not going to pretend that everything is perfect. One thing has been truly odd and more than a little scary.
I love sitting on my little patio. It's small, and I've filled it with potted plants. It looks out over a small courtyard that has oak and dogwood trees and each patio has shrubs planted in front of it. I have a view of the sunset through the line of pine trees that separate this complex from the one behind it. There's also a big utility pole with wires running from it, but I choose not to concentrate on that.
There's another building that is perpendicular to mine, and a neighbor who also enjoyed sitting on his patio walked over and started a conversation. He wasn't bad looking, and the conversation was a little odd and a bit poetic. A few days later, he asked me out on a date. I had a "don't do this" feeling, but I also realized that if I don't start accepting dates that feel less than perfect, I'll never have another date. I should have trusted my instincts.
The day after that, he came over and knocked on my door. When I opened it, he sort of walked on in. My patio door was unlocked. He told me that he wanted me to know something and then proceeded to drop his pants. What he wanted me to know was that he had a sore on his penis, "just in case I was interested in sex." I was thinking, "Oh, God, I'm going to get raped," and wondering if I could reach the solid marble ball on the book shelf -- a convenient, heavy, blunt object. I was also talking and explaining that he had the wrong idea.
He immediately apologized, acted embarrassed and left. He avoided me for a few weeks, and when he spoke to me again, he was appropriately apologetic. He started coming over and talking to me when I was on the patio. He'd stand outside the shrubbery and talk, and his conversation got stranger and stranger. He started bumming cigarettes and would climb over the railing to get them and talk to me. I want to point out that the railing is a couple feet above the ground, and climbing over it takes some serious agility.
As his conversation became more and more disjointed, he told me that he was schizophrenic, had been addicted to various drugs in his past and was desperate for someone to love him. He told me that he was my new husband. I was getting seriously nervous. I tried to stay polite but remain a healthy distance from him. It didn't work. He started knocking on my door four or five times a day, and I got to the point where I wouldn't answer the door. I started looking to see if he was outside before I'd go out on my patio. One day, when he saw that I was inside, he stood outside and repeatedly called my name until I answered him. I compromised my life because of his actions. I felt stalked, and I couldn't stand that.
One night, other neighbors whose balcony overlooks the same courtyard came to my door. Seeing it wasn't the other neighbor, I opened the door. They wanted to make sure that I was okay, because they had seen a man crawling over the balcony. I explained the situation and told them I was calling the police.
The police stayed on the non-emergency line with me until officers arrived at my door. I told them what had happened that night, and what else had been going on. They told me they were familiar with my neighbor and asked me if I wanted them to talk to him and tell him to leave me alone. Of course, I said yes, and after that night I started keeping a log of any incidents.
It worked for awhile. He walked over one afternoon to my patio and asked why I'd called the police. I told him honestly that I thought someone had been trying to break into my apartment. I did not say that I thought it was him. He said, "I'd never do that. I just wanted to get a cigarette butt from your ashtray." Then he backed off and said that he needed to keep his distance from me. A few days after that, my bakers rack filled with plants was covered with white powder, and my plants started dying. I found the blade of an industrial box cutter and chunks of wood in my window box. Another day, he spread out a blanket in the courtyard and laid down facing my patio doors. I just closed the blinds and decided that if there was one more incident, I was going to request a restraining order.
After I got back from my trip to Florida, I noticed that he wasn't around. It was a relief until another neighbor told me that he had threatened and chased another resident in the complex with a butcher knife for complaining about the volume of his music. He was arrested, charged with a felony after the guy he chased refused to agree to a lesser charge. That night, I broke down, trembled and cried all night. I've since heard that a judge has ordered a psychiatric evaluation, and I pray that he gets the help he needs.
I saw his family move his belongings out of his apartment. I'm enjoying my patio without fear now. I'm also wondering why I seem to attract wounded people. This neighbor was not the first, just the most extreme. I don't want to lose or even hide the compassion that I think might be the drawing card, but there's something more here, and I haven't even begun to figure it out.