Yellow Roses

The time I realized I was being a stalker

Yellow roses lying on the ground.
Red roses would have been too intense somehow.

The reason I sat for two or three hours at a train station was because I was sure there was a misunderstanding. I brought flowers, yellow roses, just as a gesture... of something. I guess to communicate that my intentions weren't threatening. I knew there was no way she wouldn't be surprised, to find me just outside the ticket gate. But surely if I'm holding roses, it could be seen as an attempt to surprise in the best possible way.

I had gone out with her for a few months. I met her on a crowded train. It was on the Yamanote Line, packed with people so that everyone was pressed together and no one could move. She was right up against me, her face within inches of mine, and the only other times I'm that close to a woman is when I'm about to kiss her. How could you not talk to someone that close to you? Of course, it made a difference that she was beautiful. She had huge eyes like an anime character and complexion so smooth it looked like I could have drawn her. We chatted a little, in English because I was very much pre-Japanese at this point, being only a year or so in my life in Japan. It was literally impossible to move my arms for all the people surrounding us. However, I happened to have a business card in my front pocket, and she was wearing leather pants that also had pockets, so with a minimum of movement from my wrist, I was able to pull the card out from my pocket and slip it into hers, and I told her to call me.

Much to my surprise, she did. We went out a few times, with both of us bringing dictionaries on the first date to try to understand each other better. She was fun to talk to, and we were together for a few months, though we didn't see each other that often. Once a week at most. That's not unusual for Tokyo.

Breaking up happened slowly, with her becoming more distant and not returning calls. It didn't come out of the blue. There was this one particular uncomfortable night together at my apartment, a complicated moment of wanting different things in bed. Just awkward and indicative of slight incompatibilities that are enough to derail a new relationship. There were more compounding miscommunications, exacerbated by the language difference. I felt frustrated at not being able to get the thoughts in my brain across to her brain because of the words that got in the way. I felt that maybe if I could express myself better that this small bump in the road could be overcome and we'd get back to the fun we were having before. I spoke to a friend of mine at my gym who was bilingual, and he gave me some key phrases to express my feelings, and I wanted the chance to use them.

But the chance didn't come, she saw the writing on the wall that I didn't, which was that we didn't have any potential beyond just a fling of a few weeks or months. Her evasiveness became outright non-communication, and I felt denied the opportunity to represent myself properly. I felt I was going to be dumped, and therefor judged, for being something other than who I really was.

So, I went down to her station and waited.

And waited.

It was a small station with only one exit, but during rush hour it was crowded enough that someone could potentially walk in front of you and be entirely obscured, so I had to be on my guard as every train let out. It was mentally exhausting.

I might have been there for hours, I think at least two, and possibly three. The rush hour crowds peaked and then faded out. After the first half hour, with each wave I promised myself that I'd just check the next wave and then leave. And then she wouldn't pass through the station and I'd think, "well, I've waited this long, might as well give it just one more..." Being there so long becomes a reason for staying longer.

For every minute of scanning the crowds coming through the ticket gates, there was another five minutes of having nothing to do but think. I guess at a certain point, the impulsive nature that drove me to set this situation up calms down, or maybe even gets bored, and the more analytical side steps out of the shadows. A realization both dawned on me slowly as much as it hit me in a moment. The build up was a slow realization that I wasn't looking at this from all angles, certainly not from her angle. And then when the thought was fully formed, I suddenly saw an image of myself from the outside, a camera looking down on myself standing there with flowers which weren't a gift to celebrate a reality, but a tool to force the imposition of my need for things to be my way.

"Oh, shit," I thought. "I'm being a stalker."

I mean, I don't think I had really crossed the line, I was just standing right on it. But that was only because the opportunity to cross the line was held in stasis until she showed up. I could feel in myself the potential, the rationalizations that could lead to more. I doubt any stalker wakes up in the morning thinking, "aw yeah, what I want to do today is not actually interact with the woman I want to be with, I just want to float around the edges without ever really having her give me the responses I want." Well, maybe some people are truly psychotic, but I think the average guy can slip into stalker behaviour by the simple desire to "fix" things. That's why I was there, putting in the in the hopes of seeing her, because I was sure that if I could just get a chance, if I could just explain things, then I could make things "right."

Even if it were true that there had been some miscommunication, some impression she had of me that wasn't true, trying to fix it by pushing through what I perceived as arbitrary social obstacles is like mending porcelain with a hammer. It's not so much the act of waiting for her with flowers that is inherently bad, it was the expectation of what kind of difference I could make. If it turned out the flowers didn't work, was I going to accept that as being evidence that this situation was unrepairable, or was I going to simply become more insistent that I was still being deflected from being given a proper chance at showing my real self?

I had some notion that if I felt like I had said my piece, that if she really saw me for who I was, but still was uninterested, then I would be able to drop it and move on. But that's only possible if I allow for the possibility that there's something about me that she might not like. Which is easy to say if you imagine something objective and arbitrary, for example that I have green eyes and she's attracted to blue. But it's not like that. How we love is who we are and if someone rejects you for what you offer from the inside, then that means confronting some fundamental ways that I construct my self image. Her rejecting me because of a mistaken impression is indistinguishable from me not being able to recognize a genuine incompatibility. It may not even be that what makes us incompatible makes me necessarily a bad person, merely incompatible with her, but the resistance isn't to the answers, it's to the questions.

I remember distinctly feeling embarrassed, standing there like an idiot, not just in a station waiting for a woman who didn't want me to wait, but also at the crossroads of a whole set of behaviours that I wouldn't want to admit to publicly. Imagine calling a friend and saying, "hey, so, I'm going to take some flowers to go see that girl I haven't talked to in a month and wait for as many hours as it takes for her to show up and basically beg for her to understand my inner feelings." If you can imagine the facial expression that friend would give you, that's how I felt looking at myself. My patience suddenly gave way to a need to get the hell out of that station as fast as possible in order to not be seen by her.

Probably the saddest moment of that evening was on the way home, when changing trains at some underground subway station, I gave the flowers to some random girl. I didn't want to carry them home, that would be depressing. I might have thrown them out, but, and this is a weird detail, that was still just a few years after the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo in 1995, and there pretty much weren't any trash cans in any stations, having been removed in case someone left some kind of bomb or gas canister in them. So there was some woman in her mid twenties standing near me, and I offered them to her. I said, as best I could in my lousy Japanese, that she didn't have to take them, but I didn't need them, and they would just go to waste. After some hesitation, she took them, and I made a point of walking away from her so that she wouldn't think it was some sort of come on. Briefly, and this is what makes it sad to me, I thought that if life was anything like a shitty Hollywood romance, this random girl that I handed the flowers to would be the real love I was looking for. But life isn't a movie, and it's not even just a matter of overwhelmingly unlikely circumstance. The girl I handed the flowers to looked a little concerned, her first priority making sure that I wasn't just some crazy stalker. The same look the girl the flowers were intended for would have given me. Nothing about anything I was doing was creating opportunities for me to find any actual connections.