Have you ever felt like you were being followed? That someone was secretly watching you? Until recently, the image of a stalker in my mind was someone who spends time looking at people’s Facebook profiles whom they don’t know. This perception of mine was changed after hearing two gut-wrenching stories of people legitimately being stalked. I’ve based the following accounts on true stories that I’ve heard from friends. I’ve rewritten them in the first person and made them anonymous for the safety of the storytellers.
It was my first internet date; I met him on Jswipe. We had some good conversations on the app. He was cute, sweet, and an intellectual. I was a bit reluctant to go out because he had sent a few strange messages. The most concerning one was when he asked me to meet him at his apartment for the first date. In retrospect, this should have been an immediate red flag, but I wanted to give him a chance, especially since I’ve been stood up twice on these apps and didn’t want to do that to him. I told him that I would prefer to meet somewhere public and we agreed to meet at a bar on the Upper West Wide.
I arrived at the bar at 8 pm on the dot. My stomach was twisted into a million knots, and I was extremely nervous. He walked in. I was slightly reassured to see that he looked like his pictures; he was even a bit cuter in person. He sat down, we ordered drinks, and then we started to talk.
Surprisingly, the first twenty minutes of the date went well. The conversations we had felt natural and I was at ease. Unfortunately, this pleasant mood quickly faded. My date commented on my appearance and called me “extremely good looking.” He started to talk about my pictures on Jswipe and Instagram and describe how cute they are. I felt really uncomfortable. One compliment is fine, but this was completely overboard.
At that point, I didn’t think the date could possibly get more uncomfortable, but somehow, it did. There was a mirror across from where we were sitting. He looked into the mirror and said, “I just noticed something so strange, I think we look alike!” This comment was too much. I did not look like him at all and the way he said it was so creepy. No normal person would ever say such a strange thing to someone on a first date. I needed to escape. I got up and told him I needed to go to the bathroom.
In the bathroom, I sat down and shuddered on the toilet seat. My anxiety started to take control of me. I took out my phone and started to text some of my friends who knew I was going on a date. They all told me to try to stick it out for a few more minutes, but leave if he continued to be creepy. I mustered the courage to leave the bathroom and return to the bar.
When I got back, I was surprised to see he wasn’t there. I assume he’d left and felt free. Except he didn’t. He returned to the bar–he had gone to the bathroom as well.
Without hesitation, he went back to the uncomfortable dialogue. He asked me if I work out in the gym a lot because I have a great body. I couldn’t bear it anymore. He then aggressively placed his hand on my thigh. I pushed it off as soon as possible. To me, this was the final straw. I’m extremely sensitive when it comes to my body. It was time for me to go, and I asked for the check. I made sure to pay for what I ordered; I didn’t want to owe him anything.
After I signed the check, he asked me what my last name was. I told it to him. My biggest mistake.
After he paid, he said, “The night is still young, it’s only 9 pm. Where shall we go next?” I got up and told him I needed to go home and was extremely tired. I quickly walked out the door and bolted down the block to get away from him. This was my first date, and it had been terrible.
On the subway back home, I saw that he had sent me a message on Jswipe saying that he had an amazing time on the date and that he can’t wait to go out with me again. I deleted him from the app. That was it. That was the last I’d ever have to see of him, or so I thought.
The next morning, I woke up and saw I had a WhatsApp from one of my best friends. She sent me a screenshot of a strange message she had received on Facebook messenger.
“Hey, I know this is totally random, but I think you might be able to help me out. I met X last night in NYC and feel really sad about how it went and would like to apologize. If I send you a message can you relay it over to them? I’d really appreciate that.”
I was disturbed. Why was he reaching out to my friends on Facebook? How did he know that she was one of my closest friends out of the hundreds of friends that I have on Facebook? This was next level creepy. It felt like an invasion of my privacy.
I opened up my Facebook messenger and saw that he’d sent me a 3-paragraph message. I couldn’t read it; I was too scared. I found his page and blocked him. Once again, I thought this was the last I’d see of him. It wasn’t.
About a week after the date, I opened up my school email. Lo and behold, he had found my school email. In the email, he attempted to apologize for how he treated me on the date. Needless to say, apology not accepted. At the end of the email, he wrote that if I’m not interested in him, I should respond to the email and tell him. If I did that, he said, he would stop contacting me. After consulting friends, I decided to respond to the email and told him I was no longer interested.
After this email, I have not heard from my stalker. To this day, I wonder how he found my school email and am disturbed that he had the persistence to track me down. Hopefully he has forgotten about me by now. In the future, I plan on being extremely careful about who I go out with or tell my name to.
I took the train home to that stop every day. It made sense to – it’s the closest stop to my apartment. After what happened, the stop no longer feels safe. Each time that I walk by, I worry he’ll see me.
It was just a normal weeknight. I was getting off the train to go home to my apartment. I needed to buy groceries, specifically fruits and vegetables. When I walked out of the station, I decided to stop at a vegetable stand right outside of the station. The produce looked pretty fresh, and I figured I could just take care of my grocery shopping right now. I picked what I wanted and brought it to the man at the counter.
He smiled at me immediately. At the time, I didn’t think twice about how piercing and invasive his smile was. I interpreted it as a friendly gesture. I thanked him and went home to my apartment.
The fruit and vegetables that I had bought were pretty good. I decided to buy from this vendor every now and then. The produce was good quality, and his store was in a convenient location. One time, the vendor said he recognized me. He asked me what my name was, so I told it to him. He responded, “Wow that’s a beautiful name.” His reaction made me a bit uncomfortable. When he rang me up, he gave me some of the produce for free. It was a nice gesture, albeit a bit strange.
The next week, I decided to go back to shop there again. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the smartest idea. When the vendor saw me, he said, “Hello! It’s been so long since I’ve seen you.” He came up to me and gave me a hug. I was so uncomfortable. I got the produce and left. I decided it might be best if I stopped shopping from his vegetable stand.
A few days later, I was getting off the train after my nightly commute home. The vegetable stand is directly outside of the station, meaning there is no way for me to avoid it. When I passed it, I heard him call out to me. I ignored him and continued to walk towards my apartment.
After walking a block, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I immediately turned around and saw it was him. He grabbed my hand, and I got really nervous. He told me that he thinks I’m beautiful and that I must come over to his house for dinner. He asked me where I was going. I lied to him and told him I was heading to Brooklyn. I walked away from him quickly. On my way home, I took a circuitous route so that he wouldn’t see the direction that I lived. I was scared he’d try following me.
After this incident, I reached out to a friend for advice. They offered me to stay at their place for a week, which was really nice of them. I packed up some of my things and moved into their apartment for the week. They lived nearby, but far enough that I could get off at the stop before my apartment. I would be able to avoid the vegetable man.
Eventually, I had to start taking the train to the stop that was closest to my apartment. I couldn’t run away from life forever. Each day when I get off the subway, I walk quickly past the vegetable stand and usually put something on that will conceal my face. I haven’t bumped into the vegetable man for a couple of weeks, but I’m still wary of him. Sometimes I worry that he will pop up out of thin air and approach me. I pray that he’ll soon forget who I am and he will become a thing of the past.