by Eli S. Evans
Today, let’s consider the case of poor Juan. Juan went on a date with a young woman whose name we’ll omit in the interest of protecting the ostensibly innocent. At the end of the date – he had pulled the car up in front of her apartment building – she leaned across the centre console toward him and the two shared a passionate kiss, including tongue. Juan was delighted by this unexpected turn of events, but less so when she invited him upstairs for a cup of coffee. Since no one in their right mind drinks coffee at that hour, her intentions were clear – and though Juan was actively motivated to personally participate in sexual intercourse, having failed to emotionally prepare himself for the occasion (it was only their first date, after all), he feared he’d be unable to achieve an erection, or lose his erection at the crucial moment and be unable to recuperate it, and in that manner become humiliated. Thus, he invented some shabby excuse about having to wake up early the next morning for work (indeed, he did have to wake up early the next morning for work, but this had nothing at all to do with why he was turning down the invitation) and left the young woman with vaguely promises about next time.
Specifically, what he said was: “Next time. I promise.”
A few days later, he phoned the young woman to arrange a second date, a date in advance of which he planned to prepare himself emotionally for sexual intercourse, both so as to be able to fulfil the spirit of his promise to the young woman as well as to himself not have to miss out on yet another opportunity to personally participate in the activity. When the call went to voicemail after five rings, he hung up and called again only several days later.
“I suppose she’s otherwise occupied,” Juan thought when this second call went straight to voicemail, without ringing even once. “Or perhaps she’s somewhere where she’s not getting any cell service. It happens more often than we realize.”
Still, so as not to appear pushy he waited even longer – nearly two weeks, in total – before calling the young woman yet again. The third time being a charm, this time she answered. But in reality, the third time was not a charm, because before Juan could even formulate a greeting the young woman blurted out: “Oh, my God, you HAVE to stop stalking me,” and immediately terminated the call.
Stalking her? Juan contemplated his reflection in the dark screen of the telephone. Insofar as he was opposed to stalking on moral and ethical grounds, if he really had been stalking her, then he owed her a sincere apology. But at the same time, he didn’t think he had been stalking her, and were this the case, then it was she, Juan thought, who owed him an apology, for one should never be subjected to unfounded accusations of having engaged in immoral and/or unethical behaviour.
To determine who owed whom an apology and in such manner choose an appropriate course of action going forward, Juan looked up the official definition of the term, finding the following:
: wilfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person in circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death.
Well then. It was true that he had repeatedly, as in three times, called the young woman, and although Juan did not consider three phone calls separated by lengthy intervals a form of harassment, he recognized the importance of distinguishing between intent and impact, meaning that the young woman may have felt harassed by these phone calls even if he’d not intended to harass her with them, and that her feelings in this regard mattered. On the other hand, the question of whether three phone calls separated by lengthy intervals constituted a circumstance that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death struck Juan as far less subjective. To put it otherwise, the young woman may have truly feared, on the basis of the phone calls, that Juan was going to injure her or even kill her, but such a fear could not be deemed reasonable by any reasonable person. Hence, the matter was settled in Juan’s mind: as his actions did not fulfil both conditions set forth in the official definition of the term, he had at no point stalked the young woman, and therefore she owed him an apology for the noxious accusation – an apology Juan, who prized justice above all, was determined to receive.
Consequently, Juan called the young woman again, now leaving a detailed message explaining why his behaviour did not, in fact, qualify as stalking, elaborating his expectation of an apology, and specifying the forms in which he would be willing to accept it: in person (they could meet in a public space if, unreasonably, she felt endangered by Juan), over the phone (in order to facilitate her own comfort, he pledged not to answer any phone calls he received from her, thereby allowing her to offer her apology via voicemail), or by mail (in the form of a letter or greeting card). Days passed, and Juan received no answer. Perhaps, he thought, the young woman had refused to listen to his message. In order to account for this possibility, he decided to mail her a greeting card of his own (the only card he had on hand was a sympathy card he’d bought for his hairdresser following the death of her hamster, but never managed to send), inside of which he had written out, in tidy cursive, more or less the same message he’d left on her voicemail. When another several days passed without reply, it occurred to Juan that perhaps the young woman had not opened the greeting card but even gone so far as to toss it straight into the recycling bin. With this in mind, Juan hired a young man to present himself at the young woman’s door dressed in a gorilla suit and sing out a version of his message set to the tune of the old American standard “Yankee Doodle.”
Following this visit from the young man in a gorilla suit, the young woman filed an actual legal complaint against Juan, who was summarily arrested for what he understood to be the crime of stalking, booked and released on bail (albeit under strict orders not to contact his accuser, nor come within three hundred yards of her), and some months later brought to trial, during which the aforementioned voicemail, sympathy card, and gorilla were all presented as evidence by the prosecution.
“But these things happened after I was accused of stalking,” Juan objected (he had completed an Introduction to Law course by correspondence while out on bail, and was representing himself in court), pounding his fist on the table. “Therefore, it would be absurd on its face for them to be taken as proof of the same.”
Despite these objections, Juan was soon pronounced guilty by a jury of his peers, as a result of which verdict he fully expected to be sent to prison and, once there, regularly beaten by fellow inmates wielding socks filled with batteries. But as it turned out, Juan had been accused and thereafter convicted not of stalking, as he initially believed, but of “stalking,” in scare quotes, an altogether different infraction the only punishment for which was humiliation.
Well, this story seems to be getting quite long at this point, so to sum it all up, suffice it to say that it was because of his desire not to become humiliated that ultimately, Juan became humiliated – and my friends, isn’t that just the way life is sometimes?
About the Author
Eli S. Evans writes story after story. Scour the internet (or this web magazine) for other examples of his work. Buy a small book of small stories, Obscure & Irregular, from Moon Rabbit Books & Ephemera, or the larger book of even smaller stories forthcoming from the same just in time for no one can quite say for certain which holidays.
Detail from Greg Rosenke: Broken iPhone Glass, 2021 (Unsplash).