In the wake of my breakup with the Psycho Ex, I moved to an apartment building that added 20 minutes to my morning commute. The extra distance was worth it, as I was determined to keep out of his way and keep the drama at a minimum. The first couple months were relatively quiet. All my neighbors seemed to have a common goal of reclusiveness, until one afternoon when I spotted a young guy walking a puppy with a bright pink leash. Two thoughts immediately went through my mind:
1. He’s attractive. I bet we fall in love in a very sitcom sort of way. I deserve this.
2. He’s a member of the opposite sex. Those are off limits. I am healing.
I did my best to avoid him, but a few days later I was taking Zola out to pee when I heard the sound of a door, followed by him frolicking down the stairs with puppy in tow. He lived right across from me. We were definitely going to fall in love.
The dogs were dying to touch noses, so we made polite conversation. His name was Josh and he’d just adopted Jasmine from a no-kill shelter a few weeks prior. What a great guy.
As I said goodbye, he mentioned something about going to the dog park together and I brushed him off with a “sure, maybe sometime” and thought nothing of it. Half an hour later, I heard a knock at my door. No one had ever knocked on my door, and even though it was daylight I picked up my taser before looking through the peephole. It was Josh, my totally harmless neighbor. I opened the door.
“Hey,” he said. “You want to go to the dog park tomorrow?”
I was so caught off guard that I said yes. I figured he was unlikely to kidnap me with Zola in the backseat, so we made plans to meet by his car at the arse crack of dawn. We spent the morning sitting on a bench in the shade while our dogs chased each other around. We exchanged stories—he’d just moved here from an Army base a few hours away and was going back to school in the fall. He seemed like a sweet fellow with a lot going for him, and he was easy to talk to. After a few hours, we headed back home and I said goodbye before crawling back in bed for a nap.
Two hours later, I heard a knock at the door. It was Josh. Again.
“Hey,” he said. “You want to take the dogs on a walk?”
He seemed a bit too eager, but I decided to give true love a chance. I figured this was karma finally showing up with my well-earned happy ending. As we walked, he elaborated further on his story. He told me about how his first wife cheated on him while he was overseas and that he’d gotten custody of their daughter after they went through a divorce. He glossed over the part of the story where she was taken by the state and told me he’d been railroaded and forbidden from ever seeing her again.
“Jasmine is really the only thing I have in my life right now,” he said.
For the first time ever, I saw the red flags and actually paid attention to them. I steered us back to the apartment, told him to have a good day, and planned on never going anywhere with him again.
The next evening, he knocked on the door as soon as I got home from work. Jasmine sat at his feet, wagging her tail.
“She misses Zola,” he said, “she wanted to say hello.”
I’d known him for less than 24 hours and he’d already come to my door 3 times. That was three times more than anyone else, and a short preview of the next few months. Josh became inescapable. He was living off of student loans and didn’t have a job, so he stayed home all day playing video games. What this meant was that every time I opened my door, he came outside. Every time I took Zola out to pee, he followed. Every time my car pulled into the parking lot, he leashed Jasmine and came out, pretending to run into us.
I saw him more than my coworkers and close family members.
And then one day—he was gone. His car was still there, but the constant encounters were no more. A few days passed before I saw him walking inside with a sad looking young woman. Luck had finally shone upon me and sent him a girlfriend to absorb his passionate attentions.
This was about 6 months into my lease, and right when my naked photo scandal hit at work. I was a wreck, trying to figure out how to respond or react. My brother told me to file a police report, so I drove to the station on a Sunday afternoon. I hadn’t been sleeping and probably looked like a hot mess as I detailed my story for the police officer in the lobby. Afterwards, she sent me home with strict instructions to file for a restraining order the next day.
I drove home, feeling a weird mix of terror and relief. Just as I parked, a police car pulled up. I watched as two officers got out and opened the back for Josh to exit. I watched as they took him out of handcuffs and sent him on his way.
I jumped out of the car to intercept him, curiosity overriding all semblance of intelligence.
“Don’t judge me,” he said with a sheepish smile.
I asked him what had happened and he started in on a long story about “Shannon,” whom I assumed was the forlorn looking girl I’d seen around. Apparently she was only 18 years old and was fighting with her dorm roommate. It was the second week of school and he’d convinced her to move in with him.
“I love her,” he said. “She’s the only person I ever want to be with.”
Her parents had found out about the situation and refused to pay her tuition. They withdrew her from school and demanded she fly back home to Ohio.
“I don’t know how they can do this,” he said, his voice trembling.
“Wait,” I said. “How long have you known her?”
“A while,” he insisted. “We met at orientation.”
This meant about three weeks.
“What does this have to do with the police?”
He looked down at the grass.
“Well, I got really upset.”
I nodded, using my best I-work-at-a-psych-hospital face.
“She was on the phone with her dad, and she was crying.”
I kept nodding.
“So I took the phone and told him that if he took her away, I was going to kill both of us.”
He shrugged, then went on.
“I don’t think I really meant it, I was just upset and didn’t want her to leave. But he called the police, that bastard.”
At this point I took a couple steps to the side, ready to put a locked door between us.
“But I wasn’t really arrested,” he added, as though that would reassure me. “They just took me to this place across town, where I had to talk to a doctor for a while.”
“Where did they take you?”
“It was this big brick building, over by the farmer’s market. I had to talk to a doctor and convince him I wasn’t going to kill her. I told him I was going to the VA every week and taking my medication, which is total bullshit, because I’m not crazy.”
I’d spent the morning at the police station, talking about my psycho stalker of an ex and this guy had been over at my place of employment, lying his way out of being admitted to the psych ward. There was something almost poetic about the constant swirl of absurdity around my life.
“And the worst part of all is that Shannon’s allergic to dogs, so I took Jasmine to the pound. So now one of them is dead and the other one is gone forever.”
Something tells me that really wasn’t the worst part. Thankfully I didn’t stick around long enough to find out.
Have you realized in hindsight that you dodged a dating bullet? Do you answer the front door when someone knocks on it? Tell me about your creepiest neighbor.
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