He was still there

He was sitting silently on the floor with his legs crossed, right outside the apartment door. He had been there for hours. I could see him through the peep-hole. The doorbell had stopped buzzing about 9pm. How did he get into the building? The front door from the street opened by a buzzer system or a tenant’s key. I had no phone buzz to ask admittance, somebody must have held the door open and allowed him through.

It was not the first time.

He was there a week previously and rang the bell at fifteen minute intervals before finally leaving at about midnight. Tonight he looked like he was there to stay. I hoped one of the other tenants would venture out into the hall on their way to or from the laundry room in the basement. Nobody stirred. The building was always very quiet it was one of the things that appealed to me about the apartment. I seldom saw my neighbours. We were all out at work every day. Our contracts did not allow for loud music and baths were forbidden after 10.30pm on a week night, in case the running and emptying water disturbed our neighbours on the other floors. There was no restriction about early morning bathing.

The building was four floors high with the owner having his office and living quarters in the pent house. The Janitor lived in the basement and we also had laundry and drying rooms down there. On each of the three floors between these two were four apartments. Mine was on the first floor up at the back of the building so there was no way of knowing if I was at home other than by pressing the buzzer. The large windows in my living room, bedroom and bathroom faced the back garden and there was no access from the street.

I was home early and it was still daylight when he arrived and rang the bell on my inner front door. The only other person to ring that internal bell was the Janitor. I didn’t have the radio switched on and there was no need for lights. I was writing letters to my family and friends back in Ireland so the place was silent. The carpet swallowed any sound from my stocking feet as I approached the door to look through the peep-hole. There was no way I would open that door!

When darkness fell I refrained from switching on any lights so as not to draw attention to the fact I was there. I had no telephone and we had no mobiles in the early seventies, so without going outside I had no way of calling for assistance. Once I stayed inside there was no danger. Staying calm I got into bed.

I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep! I counted sheep. It didn’t work. I named my 657 thousand cousins and was still wide awake. I looked through the peep-hole and he was still there and not sleeping either.

I poured myself a stiff drink and planned what I would do in the morning. In the morning! What was I talking about? It was already dawn. The drink relaxed me and my head grew heavy, I must have dozed off.

I woke with a jump! It was the sound of the door to the stairwell closing that woke me. I went to look through the peep-hole once more and to my great relief the intruder had gone!

My problem was I knew who he was.

His wife worked with me, we got on well together and I really liked her. She had invited me to join them for dinner a month previously. At the time I had no car, there was no need for one since I was within walking distance of work. The wife drove me to her home straight from work and at the end of an enjoyable evening the husband offered to drop me back to my apartment. Accepting the lift, I thought nothing of it, I had lifts before from other friends and there was no problem. That night things were different. The husband once in the car and a safe distance away from his home, made advances that were way beyond the bounds of decency. I threatened to report him to the police and got out of the car as fast as I could. I ran all the way home and thankfully he didn’t follow me.

That was the longest and loneliest night of my life. I felt dirty and damaged. I broke the house rules and ran a bath. No amount of bathing would wash those memories from my brain. I didn’t go to the police. I was in a foreign country, a guest at this man’s home, a passenger in his car, we had drink taken and it was my word against his. He was a married man and back then women were not really believed in such situations.

So now I had decisions to make. I dressed for work and prepared what I would say. It was not easy telling my colleague what her husband was doing. She was not surprised or shocked, but aware that he was out the night before and on several other nights recently. It turns out they had problems in the past and they were surfacing once more. She called for medical help and he was admitted to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. From then on, much as I tried to leave those dark events behind me, my job lost its lustre so I handed in my notice and made arrangements to return to Ireland.

Slowly and with time the memories faded and I was able to live a normal life. Good friends, love and laughter returned and life was worth living once more.

18 thoughts on “He was still there

  1. Nick

    What a horrible experience to go through. And how outrageous that you felt compelled to give up your job and home because of his predatory behaviour. But I’m glad to hear you got over it and it didn’t cause a permanent emotional scar.

    Reply
  2. Grannymar Post author

    @Nick – Staying was a constant reminder. Not moving on with my life would make him the winner. I grew up in a predominantly male world, in all but one place of employment I worked with male teams, The individual mentioned above was the only bad egg I ever had to deal with.

    @Rowan – No need for words, teach you daughters how to look after themselves.

    Reply
  3. Annb

    That is so chilling and you recount it so well, what a terrible experience, I really admire the way you dealt with it.

    Reply
  4. Grannymar Post author

    @Annb – I have lived two thirds of my life since then, had I not ALLOWED myself to move on…. what a dreadful existence that would have been. My reason for writing about it here was to show others that it IS possible to move on.

    @Will – I have not returned, but now I could do so without any problem.

    Reply
  5. steph

    Scary!

    The stalking element of this leaves me feeling very uneasy. I don’t like the thought of you all alone in that apartment with no way of contacting the outside world.

    No Tobias to come to the rescue!

    Reply
  6. Nancy

    Grannymar,

    You had quite an experience there and you are fortunate that you were mature enough to put it behind you when you left that country.

    Can you imagine living like that today? No telephone or computer or any other way to summon help! It is impossible to believe that we were so unprotected in those days.

    Just think how many terrible things happened to women of all ages and how often the victim was blamed for the assault.

    Good for you for being smart enough, even though you knew the person, to stay where you were safe and not open the door to him .

    Reply
  7. Grannymar Post author

    @Steph – The apartment was comfortable, bright and had all I needed. The building was carpeted throughout and the Janitor had all the public areas spotless. He was available if a workman needed access to an apartment and saw to it that no mess was left uncleared. It was not unusual to be without a phone back then. We were not the slaves to technology that we are now.

    @Nancy – Terrible things still happen unfortunately, and often the victim is blamed. We need to take care but not be afraid to live. I worry for today’s young children; they are so over protected, how will they learn to live outside the bubble?

    Reply
  8. rummuser

    Yes, Grannymar, the message is loud and clear. One can move on and get on with living. I doubt very much that there can be anyone on earth without some such significant story to share. Many of them allow the experience/s to become the benchmark for future relationships and become unbalanced.

    Reply
  9. Niamh

    Wow. Grannymar, this is so well and simply written that it seems very real to me, gave me chills to read it. Thank goodness you were able to put it behind you and get on with your life it’s not an easy thing to do under such circumstances xxx

    Reply
  10. Grannymar Post author

    @Magpie – Much too close.

    @Ramana – Life has thrown many rocks my way and I have listened to people say time and time again to me “It is alright for you, your shoulders are broad”! 😆 I don’t have broad shoulders either physically or metaphorically. I learned very very early that you sink or swim. I chose to swim.

    @Niamh – Alas it was REAL! The post was not written for sympathy but to show that it is possible to overcome such nightmares.

    Reply
  11. lilinator

    I read this post this morning and thought of it a number of times during the day. Well done on many counts!

    Reply
  12. Darlene

    I once had a ‘would -be ‘ boyfriend stalk me and threaten to kill me. He actually did try to choke me once. I had put it out of my mind until I read your chilling account.

    We are able to move on, but one never forgets such an experience. You made a wise decision to leave the country because having to look over your shoulder from then on would have been a frightening way to live.

    Reply
  13. Baino

    Very powerful stuff GrannyMar. Very scary situation. I too wonder if the mollycoddled youth of today are equipped for such situations. They also have things to deal with such as drink spiking.

    Reply
  14. Grannymar Post author

    @Darlene – I am sorry to rake up old memories for you. Moving away certainly solv ed one part of the problem.

    @Baino – We have a responsibility to teach our children to deal with all situations without taking away the joy of life.

    Reply

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