It’s no secret the room I grew up in contained a gun cabinet. It was locked, but I knew where the keys were. Being a small child, there wasn’t much that interested me inside of it. My father’s 9mm was loaded and kept out in the open in his bedroom. The handgun issued to him for work was usually resting on the kitchen counter inside of his gun belt. I never touched them, unless told to. They weren’t mine and in our household, you didn’t mess with things that didn’t belong to you, or else.
As kid, I was picked on all the time. I mean, who wouldn’t want to make fun of the chunky nerd with the crooked teeth, bottle-glass thick glasses, big nose, and out of date clothing on? I was an easy target. I rarely talked back. Growing up, I learned that if I talked back to my parents, I’d end up with a split lip. So I generally kept quiet and pretended it didn’t bother me. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. Couldn’t talk to my parents, didn’t have any other relatives I could lean on, and if my friends wanted to earn points with the cool crowd, they’d chime in with the laughter and insults. Some friends, eh? They would usually apologize a week or so later and I so desperately wanted and needed human companionship that I always forgave my “friends.” Still, I always felt like more of a loner with no one I could really trust.
Around age fifteen, I started to find myself and in doing so, found my real friends. You know, that group of outcasts who dressed in mostly dark colors and listened to music that wasn’t played on the radio. I got into The Cure, Morrissey, and anything produced by 4AD. Many of my friends were into punk and soon grunge came along. We hung out, listened to music, bitched about our families and teachers. All those things teenagers do. One of the guys in our group of friends got signed over to the state by his mother. She didn’t want to deal with him anymore. I felt compassion for him; I knew what it was like to not be wanted. We started hanging out while his social worker was looking for housing for him. Soon, he became my first boyfriend. I did my best to help him out. Brought him food, polished his shoes, did his laundry; I even brought him a Christmas tree. However, nothing I did ever made him happy. He frequently lashed out at me over the smallest gestures. Strangely, he told me many times that I needed to lose weight and cut my hair. At the time, I was a size 8 with a 36DD chest. My braces had been taken off, I wore contact lenses, and although my skin wasn’t great, I was a pretty attractive girl. There was no need for me to change the way I looked.
No matter how nice I was to him, he was always angry. I couldn’t win. Because I grew up in a household where people flew off the handle over nothing, at first I didn’t see how inappropriately he was acting towards me. However, soon the rumors of him cheating on me started and I had enough. We broke up. Weeks later, he apologized and we got back together. Then it happened again. We broke up and got back together several more times. The last time, he had become so out of control with his violent aggression that I was becoming afraid of him. Some of my teachers saw him yelling at me in the hallway at school and were worried about me. I told them I had broken up with him for good so there was nothing more to be concerned about. Little did anyone know what was to come.
Every time I turned a corner, there he was. I told him over and over I didn’t want to talk to him anymore and to leave me alone. When I drove home from school, he followed me. Eventually, he started trying to run me off of the road. My friends were frightened for me. They started driving me to and from school when they could. One day at school he grabbed my best friend, threw her up against her locker and told her that she better see to it that I went to the prom with him or she would be sorry. In the same week, during my French class, he came up and beat on the door. My teacher asked me what that was all about in front of the class. I said, “I don’t know. He’s crazy.” She said, “Well, you need to go out there and tell him that if he does that again, I’m going to write him up.” Although I didn’t want to go out there, I did what I was told. Out in the hallway, I repeated her words and he said, “I’ll write HER up.” I came back into class and sat down. He walked up to the door and hit it again. My teacher looked at me and said, “Did you tell him?!” I said, “Yeah, he said he’d write you up.” She started to storm out into the hallway, paused, and then came back in and shut the door. Perhaps she did that because he was over six feet tall and built like a football player. She wrote something on her desk and then proceeded with class. Well, French teacher, you sure showed him. And thanks for having my back.
A few days after that, as he and I were exchanging words next to my locker, I took his stuff out of my locker, placed it on the floor and said, “I asked you to take this stuff out of here a month ago. Don’t put anything in my locker. I don’t want anything to do with you.” Later that day, the VP called me into his office and basically blamed me for my ex-boyfriend’s outbursts saying I needed to “get it worked out.” I asked why he hadn’t been placed at the alternative school for teens with discipline problems. The VP took some sort of offense to that, as if I was telling him how to do his job, and told me to “just to worry about my own actions” and to go back to class. Great. Good to know I can go to the administration for help for a guy making threats against me and my friends.
It was spring time and the weather was nice, so after school one afternoon, my best friend decided to put the top down on her convertible as she drove me home. Of course, there my ex-boyfriend was, following us. He pulled up beside her car and started throwing things at us. A cup, coins, a slice of pizza, and I don’t know what else because he began swerving his car at us to run her off of the road. We pulled off, put the top up on the car, took some back roads and she dropped me off, obviously rattled. A week later, he did the same thing, except this time, he had heavier artillery. He got in front of her car with his car and tossed the items back at us. He threw nuts and bolts and then a bottle that came straight for my best friend’s head. These items are potentially deadly when propelling at you at 55 miles per hour. We pulled off at her aunt’s house and called her father. Her dad called the police. We filed a report. It turns out, what my ex-boyfriend did is a felony offense. The police came to the school to arrest him the next day and the VP lied and said he wasn’t at school. He skipped school for a few days, but when he came back, my best friend and I called the police from the payphone in the school lobby and told them where they could find him. He was led out in handcuffs and never returned to school.
A couple of months later, I went to the trial with my best friend and her parents. Where were my parents, you ask? Why weren’t they concerned about their sixteen year old daughter? Well, clearly they didn’t give a shit. So I relied on the victim’s advocate who had been assigned to our case to help me out. At the hearing, he told us that my ex-boyfriend wanted to make a plea agreement. They wanted us to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor of assault and battery in exchange for asking the sentence to be six months in county jail. If we didn’t agree to that, he was facing a minimum of five years in state prison. My attorney said that if I sent him away for five years when he was just 18, that when he was released, there was a good chance he would come after me to punish me for putting him away for so long. So we agreed to let him make the deal. Before I knew it, the judge suspended five months of the six month sentence and said that if my ex-boyfriend came into contact with either of us, he would be sent back to county jail for the remainder of the time. I looked at my victim’s advocate who looked away from me. My ex-boyfriend was taken away and we walked back to our bench. I said, “That’s not what I agreed to. He was supposed to go away for six months. That would take him through most of my senior year in school. He’s going to be out before we know it. He’s going to come after me again.” My attorney said there wasn’t anything he could do about it, but not to worry, that the restraining order would keep me safe and to call him or the police if he approached me again.
Ten days later, my ex-boyfriend called me on the phone. I said, “You’re not allowed to contact me. It’s in the restraining order. How are you even calling me? You’re supposed to be in jail.” He laughed and said, “They let me out on good behavior. I’ll see you soon.” I hung up the phone and collapsed on the floor crying. This is never going to end. He’s going to kill me, I thought.
He began stalking me again. He drove past our house multiple times a week. Turned up at parties where my friends were and made threats with a smile on his face. It got to the point of where I couldn’t do anything or go anywhere because I was too afraid. There it was my senior year in high school and I couldn’t have any fun. My best friend stopped hanging out with me. I suspect her parents told her not to because they were afraid of what might happen to her if he showed up. Other than seeing my friends at school between classes, I was pretty much alone again. My brother (who had recently moved back into the house) set me up on a date with a friend of his. Who turned up while I was out at the movies on my date, but my ex-boyfriend, of course. I went to the security guard and told him what had happened. He told me to call the police. “You can’t help me,” I asked. “No, I’m just here to look threatening. I can’t actually arrest anyone. Go call the police,” and he walked away. In tears, I went to a payphone and called the police. They claimed they couldn’t do anything because the case and restraining order had been taken out in the neighboring county and to call that police precinct. So I called them. They told me they couldn’t cross county lines into Lynchburg. I thought, you’re the police! Help me! Talk to one another and send someone to arrest this guy! But they wouldn’t. They each told me to call the other district. So there I was, seventeen, afraid, and the people who were supposed to protect me, couldn’t lift a finger. I asked my date to take me home. Needless to say, we never went out again.
One day, my ex-boyfriend showed up at my parents’ house when I was there alone. I heard the distinctive putter of his crappy car in the driveway. I grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen and went into the hallway. He started trying to break in. I ran into my parents’ bedroom and grabbed the loaded 9mm. I walked into the living room where he could see me and I took the safety off of the gun. He swiftly turned and left.
I didn’t hear from him again for a long time. Friends told me he moved away. After I graduated from college, he tracked me down online. He found where I was listed as an employee on my company’s website. He called the office, told them his name and said he was an old friend. He’d like my phone number so that he could give me a call. They told him they couldn’t give out my phone number, but gave him my personal email address. He started emailing me about every other month for a few months. I never wrote back. During that time, I was frightened by everything. Any little noise outside my window at night flooded my bloodstream with adrenaline and caused me to shake. I walked to and from my car at work with hot pepper spray in my hand. I always checked around and under my car before getting in it. I would go into the laundry room at my apartment complex thinking, if he comes in here, no one will hear me screaming above the sound of the dryers. I was even afraid to go the mailbox. Eventually, the emails stopped. Then, a couple of years later, they started up again. He said he was dying and he just wanted to apologize. I knew he was a sociopath and not to trust his words, but I hoped he was in fact dying.
I moved into the bottom half of a house which had a motion sensor light outside of my door. When I got close to it, about ten feet from my door at the back of the house, it came on. After work one night, the sensor had been kicked up so the light wouldn’t come on. It was very dark without it and pitch black in the woods just feet from the rear house entrance. As I unlocked my door, I heard footsteps in the woods. I rushed inside and locked the door. I grabbed the kitchen table and threw it up against the door. I called my landlord who lived in the top half of the house and he came home. He tried to console me, set the sensor back to the right position and said it was probably all just a squirrel. The next night, I didn’t go straight home, I ran errands just in case someone was stalking me again and came home later than usual. The sensor was in place so I felt a little silly. The night after that, I came home and the sensor was kicked out again. Just as I reached the place where it was supposed to trip and come on, there were footsteps in the woods again. I ran back to my car and drove all the way to my friend Rick’s house. Rick was my ex-boyfriend from a few years back, but we were still good friends. He came over and looked around. He told me to call the police. Of course, I didn’t because I knew they wouldn’t help me. We set the sensor back to where it was supposed to be. For the next few nights, I ran unnecessary errands after work because I was afraid to go home. I came home late and the sensor had been kicked out again so I went upstairs to my landlord and he put it back for me. All the time, assuring me it was just squirrels. The next night I came home, the light didn’t come on, but still I proceeded towards my door, and the footsteps came toward me from the woods. After not sleeping much for a week, and being afraid for years, I was fed up. I looked into the darkness where the steps were coming from, put my hand into my purse, and said with strength and conviction, “If you take one more step towards me, I will blow your fucking brains out.” Whomever, or whatever it was, stopped in its tracks. I went inside, locked and barricaded the door and called Rick. He came over, set the light sensor back, and stayed with me for a bit. I didn’t have any more problems with the light or hear any more footsteps after that night.
Years went by and I didn’t hear from my ex-boyfriend. Eventually, I received a few more emails. Well, I guess you didn’t die after all. I ignored them, but went back to carrying hot pepper spray in my hand at all times; checked under my car every time I walked to it, the whole nine yards. The emails stopped and I didn’t hear from him again for over five years. I felt safe. I changed all of my online social media accounts to my real name and created a LinkedIn account listing my workplace. Before, I had everything in initials or in code. Mostly, because I didn’t want fans of a TV show I used to be on finding me online and bugging me, but in the back of my mind, the fact that I didn’t want him finding me again was always there. Three weeks after I changed my accounts to my name, sixteen years after putting my ex-boyfriend in jail, he sent me a note on Skype. Again, he said he just wanted to talk to me. Immediately after I received it, my best friend Skyped me and I went into hysterics. Eventually she calmed me down and I formed a plan of what to do if he shows up again. That was two years ago. I still expect to hear from him again. He’s probably reading my blog and tweets and planning another way to contact me, like the creep he is.
So all of you out there who have never been afraid of anyone, never been stalked, never been threatened, you can frown on guns all you want. It must be nice to have lived your life in a dream world full of supportive family, love, hugs, and puppy dogs. Some of us need to have the right to bear arms because sometimes justice isn’t served. When we call the police, they don’t come. If no one else is going to protect us from psychopaths, we have to protect ourselves. Should people be able to buy semi-automatic weapons and tear gas? NO. But don’t take away my right to own arms. I truly feel terrible for anyone who has lost a loved one to a violent gun attack. Guns should be to protect, not to assail. I honestly believe I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t had direct access to one when I needed it. To the first ex-boyfriend I ever had, if you’re reading this, don’t. Just go away. You don’t frighten me anymore.
I have better aim when I close my left eye. 2008
Don't worry, I was only shooting a box & a bottle. 2008
Can you see the target? Two bright orange dots.
The aftermath. I'm a good shot.