Separating stalkers from spouses

Obsession is the fine line between chick flick and stalker.
To wit: When John Cusack wistfully holds a boom box over his head outside Ione Skye’s bedroom window in the movie, “Say Anything,” we see a real romantic — not a serious pervert.
Same when we hear in our heads the lyrics from the Maroon 5 song, “She Will Be Loved:”
“I don’t mind spending everyday
Out on your corner in the pouring rain.”
Of course, the rest of the song is a tad creepy:
“I know where you hide
Alone in your car
Know all of the things that make you who you are.”
But you get my point. We all appreciate a romantic obsession — certainly I do.
And we’ve all had them. Some of us have even been lucky enough to be the object of someone else’s fanaticism. (Again, we’re not talking the terror of being the object of someone else’s restraining order.) An obsession is invigorating, inspiring, and it really gets the heart pumping. It gives us a reason for living — something new to put on our to-do lists, something interesting to add to the calendar. (Text. Call. Visit. Try not to stalk.)
The most pronounced obsession I’ve had was with, fortunately, the woman who would eventually marry me and with whom I am celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary this weekend. I was 18 when we met, and embarking upon my second semester of college. To this day I can still see perfectly in my mind the way she would stand when we were chatting together, her lips slightly parted — a mannerism that is natural among women who are both attractive and emit (often unconsciously, especially at the age of 18) an erotic charge. There is something wanton and lubricious about lips like that.
Just for the record, men who are obsessed love words like lubricious. It’s that sibilant S sound.
Women who are obsessed, even (and here I am conjecturing) diaper-clad female astronauts, are significantly less comfortable with the sibilant S.
In any case, my wife and I met at a party in western Massachusetts, where we both went to school, and we would date for two weeks before she began to fear I was getting a little. . .obsessed. It wasn’t the roses. It wasn’t even the frequency of the roses. Nor was it the phoning, or the fact that I stood outside her dorm room window with a stereo and extension cord long before John Cusack would try out that maneuver. It was the urgency of all our encounters, and the way I was suddenly dropping the L-word (the one with four letters, not seven) into conversation so cavalierly.
And so one afternoon she went home to Manhattan for the express purpose of getting some distance from me over a long weekend. And I, in turn, did the only sensible thing that someone obsessed could do given her evident desire to get away from me: I hitchhiked to New York City and showed up unexpectedly at her family’s apartment.
Her mother, a woman who has always appreciated the teachings of Judith Martin — a.k.a., Miss Manners — invited me in for coffee instead of calling the police. My wife and I have been together ever since.
This is the sort of story that is lovely for us to recall now on our anniversary. It’s not merely that it has a happy ending. It’s a reminder of the wondrous ways a healthy little obsession can sometimes make us feel alive — and, yes, separate out the stalkers from the spouses.
Happy Anniversary, my dear.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on October 14.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

3 thoughts on “Separating stalkers from spouses

  1. Karen says:

    I went away for 2 wks to Provincetown to create space from my love. He came up in the middle of the night in his van (5 hour drive) & drove by me on Commercial St., I ran sobbing down the middle of the street, waving my arms. This was decades before cell phones-there was no other way to reach him. The rest of the weekend was spent in the back of his van (70’s-foam mattrass “bed”). We married-now divorced…

  2. Ah, Romance! says:

    Congratulations to you and your wife!!!
    The confessions of your younger self showing up at the door of your future wife’s NYC home remind me of a great Roy Orbison song (which is just as great when sung by Cyndi Lauper, too). “I Drove All Night”. These incredible lyrics are for all who are romantically obsessed (but *do* keep an eye on not venturing into restraining order terrority, people – there is something about the threat of jail which make everything so very *unromantic*):
    “I was dreaming while I drove
    The long straight road ahead,
    Uh-huh, yeah,
    Could taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide,
    This fever for you is just burning me up inside!
    I drove all night to get to you
    Is that all right?
    I drove all night, crept in your room
    Woke you from your sleep to make love to you
    Is that all right?
    I drove all night…”

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