You just cannot enter into an obsession lightheartedly. Obsession begins as an interest and escalates into an all-consuming heat that encases all the flesh in hot, winding flashes of uncontrollable desire. At least, that is what obsession meant to Carmen. Life was debased to simply delving between her obsessions, and there was no going back now. How could she ever go back to the days before she was addicted? Addicted to him?
He was the cause of this all. His defying indifference made it all the worse. Every morning she imagined him; she pretended that he dressed and went to work to build a life for the two of them. This was her fantasy. Her Angel would one day rise up from his vast ambivalence and confirm to her that life was worth living. Her existence was pale by contrast. He was all that mattered.
It would seem ridiculous to most, so she did not reveal her feelings to anyone at all. There was no need to receive commentary on what she already had decided in her heart. She was his, therefore, he must be hers. Simple.
Seeing Angel exit the front door of the apartment, Carmen hurried herself to her local delicatessen as she had just then decided to get some smallgoods. There was no obsession, it had gone way beyond that. She didn’t admit to herself that she was following him, so she felt no guilt. Carmen bustled out the door, taking little time to even make sure that she had her keys and her purse. Her life didn’t matter. She felt romantic, passionate, full and in bloom when she thought of him. She had raised her pursuit of him to a crusade; a worthy adventure, for which she would suffer anything or do anything in order to gain his approval.
The door of the apartment building next to Angel’s swung closed and a lone figure in a black coat began her pursuit down the street. The wind blew strongly across the pavement and Carmen struggled to keep her coat shut, holding it together with one had and she fished for her dark sunglasses with the other.
This was no game to her. It was a way of life. These days it was easy to be obsessed. She knew his phone number, yet she had never called (actually, she had called but she’d never spoken). She knew his bank details, she knew which internet sites he visited, (shopping network, international soccer and others less savoury), she knew him and knew of his life as if she had some part of it…well after all, she did.
Underneath the black coat there was a normal woman with an unhealthy mind. The flesh over her bones was white and delicate, strong and supple, but no one saw the little things. No one sees what we do to our bodies in private. The freckles and sunspots from sunbaking at 13, the stretch marks and bad teeth from bingeing and purging at 15, the STD from unprotected sex at 19 and of course; the gentle scars that riddled her arms from forays into ‘cutting’ and self mutilation at 25. Her body was a temple, and it bore the scars of her obsessions with life.
Carmen was a normal woman today as she rushed through the streets. She could not have been more ‘normal’ if she tried. Even obsession was normal. Even not being normal was ‘normal’.
She caught a quick glimpse of his flaxen hair. There he was! From the corner of her mind, a voice told Carmen, that a goal had been reached, a triumph had occurred. Keeping at a safe distance from her angel, she let delicious thoughts enter her head that circled in the blood-red of her mind. The love she felt for this man rushed and pulsed into her subconscious, she felt giddy with his presence, drunk on his divine love.
She had caught another fleeting glance of her hero and she began to close in on her target. With steely eyes she watched as the graceful figure swung the door of the deli closed; she waited until someone else had entered and she stopped and pretended to search through her purse. Waiting for just the right moment, she pushed the door open with one palm and noted the familiar jingle of the deli door chimes.
There he was. Resplendent in his blue shirt and neat haircut he seemed to be the only thing of value in the dim light of the suburban shop. She watched with bated breath as he worked his way through the place, stopping to sample this and that; lifting a ripe tomato to his lips, fondling a selection of packaged coffees and then exquisite chocolates from a faraway place. He was a sensory pleasure to her, he was a sample of purest heaven! Even being this close to him sent waves of electricity down her spine and smelling the clean, manly scent on his neck drove her into passions that had never been matched.
She had replayed this moment in her mind a million times. He turns to her as if looking to a forgotten face, he smiles, he searches her eyes deeply. In a moment of recognition he speaks to her, soft words, beautiful syllables. That’s only in her dream, that’s not her reality, although it might as well be for Carmen; the woman obsessed.
He was the nominative recognition of her life’s focus. The dream had been created, there was no thought of a reprieve. Her skin was down and dirty with the guilts of her day and her brain throbbed with the hurt of times forgotten and past. He passes to the counter and …what he glances toward his laudatory suitor.
A flash of fear electrified Carmen’s heart. There was no place for lassitude, there was no sacrifice for this moment. He began the agonizing pace towards her, crossing the small boundary of vacant air that had kept them separated until this moment. “Not now!!” Her confused mind leapt with the guilt and fear of what was so obviously laid out for the world to see…she had been watching him, maybe he knows. He was so beautiful and so special and probably so important; she was just pitiful in comparison. No chance. When she looked at him, she saw no human components, no bad teeth or mismatched clothes, no inappropriate family or crappy job. When Carmen stared at this man, as she had done for the past eight months of her life, she saw lust itself.
She could only see his beautiful jaw line and how she longed to kiss it. She could only see herself stroking his hair and loving him so much. She would become his pleasure. She was made for him. She saw herself making him happy and becoming his wife, his lover and she saw herself captured forever as part of his life.
She saw them making passionate love; that’s the only thing that would keep her satisfied, taking all of his wonderful energy for herself, becoming a whole person by the completion of one man’s love. All she wanted was a worthy man, and he was this…all and more!
Unbelievably he came towards her, inescapably, she was trapped near a corner. He paused a step, just a single step from her form and he reached up, up to a space that was just above her head.
“Excuse me…” he said, curtly as their eyes locked for a second. He looked at her without the warm and embracing manner that she had wished for, but with a quick, confused flash of unfamiliarity, that almost mocked her superior pursuit of pleasure.
Her mouth opened in an uncontrollable gape of mortification. She stared blankly at him for a second and ducked, rather ungracefully, underneath his outstretched arm, brushing past him as she fled out the door.
She quickened her pace after she had covered the first block away from the little delicatessen. This was a disaster! In halting, chicken-legged steps covered in black stockings, she whimpered pathetically to herself as she rode the lift back up to her apartment. Failure. Ruin!
Carmen loped back up to her apartment and sat on the couch, still in her coat. She sighed a pathetic sigh and thought about Angel. Soon her thoughts drifted from the embarrassment of what had just happened to the potential of what still could be. Carmen got up. She felt drunk on something even though she was sober. Her hands drifted up to her breasts, covered by her ugly, cheap dress, she felt a flush of warmth inside.
Two steps and she was in her bedroom, lying on the bed, stockings around her knees and her dirty fingers between her legs, the whole time entertaining thoughts of Angel, Angel.
In her fantasy he bursts through the door of her small apartment. He doesn’t say a word but strides towards her confidently, knowing without words that she is ready for him. He doesn’t say a word as he pulls her tights smoothly off her white legs and cups her entire mound of Venus in his manly palm.
He wants her.
He breathes lustily in her ear. “Oh Carmen,” he says, “Be mine. Be mine.” Angel tears off his shirt and with no more words to say he is hers. In her fantasy Carmen is his equal, not his stalker, his pet, his minion. In Carmen’s fantasy she knows he loves her. The wave of warmth washes over her like a cloud of chloroform, making her mute and dumb for one minute of pure heaven.
But then she opens her eyes.
She’s still alone. She felt a moment of horror and shame once the emotions and sexual desire had passed, she didn’t know what to do. Carmen needed to mask her feelings, otherwise they would leap out of her chest and beat her to death! How could she control these awful feelings that were building up inside her? Her breath quickened, her pulse started to race. She felt hot all over her face and prickles formed at the back of her neck. Her clothes felt itchy, she felt as if she wanted to run at a million miles an hour or sleep for a hundred years in a deep, coma-sleep; she didn’t know which.
Back in her youth she would have been able to cut her delicate skin to release all the feelings. But now as an adult woman of 35, she couldn’t succumb to the childish ways of times past; she had a professional job, an overbearing and elderly mother and a whole host of responsibilities and things that she needed to be present for. What was Carmen to do? She recognized her symptoms as the beginning of a panic attack. She sat up.
Still on the bed she pulled off her stockings and threw them on the floor. She unbuttoned her dress and drank a sip of water from the glass beside her. Carmen breathed deeply; one…two…one…two. It didn’t make her feel any better and she burst into tears; great hacking tears that fell in warm dollops across her heavy cheeks.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! She thought to herself. But Carmen could not face the facts. In her mind Angel knew her; he was coming for her someday. Someday soon. All she had to do was wait. Patiently and calmly. She might not have been able to cut, or purge but there was one salve that she still allowed herself; vodka. Carmen almost never drank, but unlike the pills her doctor gave her, unlike the breathing exercises her psychologist gave her, the alcohol worked every time, and quickly, to calm her down.
She went to her Angel drawer. In there she pulled out the bottle of nasty, cheap Russian vodka and poured a large slug into the water glass and chugged it all down in one go. Then she poured another and did the same. She felt woozy and dizzy, but better, much better all of a sudden. Drunk now, she looked inside her Angel drawer again and fingered the gathered contents, piece by piece: a discarded paper napkin with a doodle on it, drawn by his hand. A letter from his bank she found next to the rubbish bins at the bottom of the stairs. A photo she had (silently, carefully) taken of him while leaning out of her apartment window, and best of all, a small key to the top lock of his apartment, wrapped in one of his T shirts she had stolen off the washing line upstairs.
She held the key and remembered the day she got it. She remembered the locksmith that Angel had hired to fix his lock while he rushed off to work, paying the man for his time in advance. Carmen had met the locksmith at Angel’s door, and mentioned that she was Angel’s wife. She knew so many details it had been easy to pull off. She knew Angel’s first name and last name, where he worked, and she carefully and cunningly dropped these tidbits of information casually into the conversation so that the locksmith willfully and uneventfully gave her the key, which she then duly copied and replaced before Angel returned from work.
Pouring a final slug of vodka into the glass, Carmen fixed her stockings and dress and grabbed the key. She bounded out her door before she lost her nerve, her breath quickening with every second. Then she paused. She went back inside and absentmindedly grabbed a letter opener on the dresser. She wasn’t sure why; it was not a conscious thought. She exited again, quietly closing her door behind her.
She flung herself at the old staircase and descended the two flights to Angel’s level. Boldly she stomped right up towards his front door and stood there, panting and flushed. She reached into her pocket and took out the key and inserted it into the lock. Her blood was pumping loudly in her ears, she felt dizzy, she felt the room spin. Turning the key in the lock she gave the door an almighty shove, and as she flung it open she pointed the letter opener, tip-first at the waiting room and yelled at the top of her lungs.
“How could you betray me!?” she screamed at the small figure of a man who quietly sat at his kitchen table, eating a deli sandwich and drinking a black coffee. “How!?” She crumpled and buckled all at once on the floor of his apartment, shaking and shivering, her head bowed and the knife-edge of the letter opener still erect in her throbbing hand. She fell to the floor, a heaving, sobbing mess in awful clothes and stringy hair, never beautiful, never wanted by anyone. She’d show him, how could he do this to her, how?
Huge sobs emanated from this pathetic creature, wet, snotty tears ran to the floorboards as Carmen wiped her greasy nose. Angel was startled, shocked and confused.
“Are you OK?” he asked quietly, not really sure of what else to do. He stood up carefully and walked towards this pathetic creature, and once he was only half a foot from her, the figure burst back into life and lifted her head. She glared at him and grabbed the opener and held the weapon aloft again, shaking. She was like a small child throwing toys at her father, doing no damage but full of anger and unabashed rage. Angel wasn’t scared, but he was extremely confused. He thought he recognised this woman – wasn’t she the mousy little bird from downstairs?
“Hey, “he soothed. “Put that down OK?” He gently took the tiny weapon from her trembling hand and stroked her shoulders a little. She was obviously very upset. Carmen sobbed and sobbed, getting to her knees and throwing her arms around his manly neck, the tears coming thick and fast and the sounds of her crying sounding very indelicate. She was almost having an out of body experience. She was no longer in the room. She held the man as if he was someone else, her father, her teacher, a lover…
“Why doesn’t he love me?” she said to no one in particular, “Why doesn’t he know I exist? Oh God, I feel so sad… so sad. Do you know if he loves me?” Through tear stained cheeks, she looked up at him and became startled by what she saw. She didn’t recongise this man! Who was he? What was she doing here?
Like a frightened child she suddenly got up, and fled, leaving the key and the letter opener behind. She slammed her own front door and hid in the solace of her apartment – shocked at what had just happened. Had she really just done that? Carmen poured herself a hot bath and tried to forget what had just happened, letting the warm, soapy water wash over her body, taking all the traces of her shame away.
* * *
A week later Carmen had a letter in her mail box. She got inside her door and excitedly tore it open, sure that it was from him. Indeed it was, but it was not what she was expecting. At all. She read:
“A Harassment Restraining Order is a court order forbidding the Respondent from harassing and/or making contact with the Petitioner: no contact with the Respondent (including via third person, phone, work, email etc.); no harassment; Respondent is to stay away from your home or workplace…”
Carmen calmly put the letter away, and took out her brand new letter opener and ran a hot bath. By next Tuesday, her workplace had become very concerned that Carmen had not shown up for work for the last four days in a row; it was very unlike her not to contact them.
But no one ever heard a single word from Carmen, ever again.