From the seat of my SUV, I watch him stride from the building. Head high, shoulders slightly hunched from the weight of his backpack. I know he is The One. I can always tell, because I get this zing down my spine, an electric punch that confirms The One I’ve chosen is exactly right. I let the engine idle, pretend to fuss around with something in my console; I don’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to myself. Keep it chill, relaxed.
I know I will get what I want in the end. I always do.
From behind the safety mask of my mirror lens sunglasses, I watch him advance. He stops to chat with a few kids near his age who have huddled around the smoking area. He laughs, Adam’s apple bobbing in his scrawny neck. He rocks back on his heels, forward again. Swings his backpack to his opposite shoulder.
Finally, he continues toward me. I take in the way his shirt clings to his chest and shoulders – you know the look, that I-wear-my-shirts-too-tight-so-my-arms-look-like-I-work-out look. Common among the younger college set. Distressed jeans. Converse. He could use a hair cut. Maybe not. Maybe he is growing it out, trying for a young, punk, rock legend style. Who knows? For my purpose today, it doesn’t really matter.
My breath comes in shorter bursts as my eyes follow his right hand, reaching deep into his jeans pocket and removing a jangling set of keys. I knew it! I was right. I tap my gas pedal – just enough to start my SUV rolling, not quite enough to rev the engine and merit his glance. Caught! He’s looking right at me – I catch my breath and hold it, as if doing so will render me invisible. No..no..he hasn’t seen me. He’s watching that giant eagle soaring past. Breathe deep, breathe slow. My heart begins to decelerate until it is back to a normal rhythm. That was close.
He enters the first level of stairs. Having no idea which level of the ramp he is parked on, I must follow the spiral around, slowly, slowly, watching for him to emerge from the door to the stairs. I focus on modulating my breathing. In my nose, out my mouth, in, nose, out, mouth, in, out, in, out. No rush, I’m in no rush. I can wait. I can do this. He does not come out the door. He must have gone down further. I aim my weapon – er, my SUV, and begin another descent. Adrenaline pumps through my veins, the excitement of what I am about to do thrills me. How many times has this happened? More than I can count. Every time, every time, the thrill of it stuns me. Electricity is all around me; I feel it in the air; I feel it inside me; it spurs me on. I release my death grip on the steering wheel. Relax. I can’t, I can’t relax. I am too close now.
Down the spiral of the ramp, I think I spot him. No, it’s not my guy. Another one, similar style, but this guy is headed in. My guy is on his way out. I smile to myself.
I am filled with the desire to gun my engine, fly down the ramp, and corner him. I hold back. Slowly, deliberately, I curve around the next level. This part – the hunt – is part of the pleasure. I think I see…over there? There he is! Yes, yes! That’s my guy, heading toward his vehicle. I force myself to breathe normally. My hands shake. The moment has come. My eyes dart nervously about in the darkened ramp, but I see nobody here to question me, or challenge me. I lick my lips. I wait.
My chest begins to burn from the effort of deep breathing. I swallow hard. He is taking his time, opening the rear driver’s side door, depositing his backpack; it hits the backseat with a thunk! And he pauses a moment to rub the shoulder that has just been released from its heavy burden. He bends in to retrieve something…..a water bottle. Unscrews the cap, takes a drink. I tap my hand on my thigh, Come on, buddy, come on! Suddenly, I am out of patience. My grip again tightens on the steering wheel. I am squeezing it so tightly my hands turn red, then white. I clench my teeth.
Almost, almost. I can wait.
Finally! He is in, starting his engine. I am so close, so close. I shut my eyes, just for a second, relishing the anticipation. I focus on his red tail lights, two crimson eyes staring into my soul – slowly creeping toward me. Now! Now is the time to make my move.
He shifts into Drive, and sails away. I watch him, just for a second, and then he is out of sight.
Self-loathing rises in my throat. I am disgusted by what I have become.
What I have become….what I am, and now, will always be.
I am a Parking Space Stalker.