Sunday, July 24, 2011

Crazy Nutjob Stalker Tried To Foil My Honorable Attempt At Passing The California Bar Exam

*Note: This is unfortunately a true story and I recount it only now in honor of the upcoming Bar Exam on July 26, 27, and 28. GOOD LUCK CLASS OF 2011!!

It was mid-May 2010, although later she would assert that she had been harassing me since January of that year. I had just finished my very last exam of law school and it felt pretty awesome. Now the only thing looming over my head was the three day beast in late July that would determine whether I became a successful attorney or that kid on the side of the road holding out a cardboard sign with a scribbled out sob story replete with religious overtones in order to evoke the sympathies of passersby.

Ah, but I already digress! Anyway, that Thursday after my last final I was looking forward to a weekend of graduation celebrations, short-lived as they may be. As an avid procrastinator and one who has made a private career out of living in the present and pushing the future as far from the forefront of my mind as possible, I wasn't even thinking about the following Monday that would find me back in the classroom, enduring five hour lectures courtesy of Barbri, for the next two months in preparation to sit for the California Bar Exam. It was the last thing on my mind.

That night I was at a bar with my roommate and another friend, taking full advantage of my newfound freedom, when I got a call on my cell phone from a 'Restricted' number. Now at that time, I had absolutely no qualms about answering 'Restricted' calls. In fact, I almost always answered them because the curiosity would just kill me otherwise. So I took the call and the first thing I heard was a woman’s voice calling me a fucking bitch. Me? I’ve been called narcissistic, cavalier, and apathetic with nihilistic tendencies, but never a bitch! I was somewhat shocked and not entirely sure I heard her correctly. But she ended the call immediately thereafter, leaving me to wonder what was going on.

It was loud in the bar and I had had a few drinks that night, but nonetheless, I was pretty sure that she had called me a fucking bitch. I told my friends what had just transpired and they both expressed the opinion that it was a wrong number, a simple mistake. I agreed with them initially and decided to brush it off. After all, it must have been a mistake; there was no one that I could think of who had any cause to call me such derogatory names. So I shrugged it off and went back to drinking and laughing and celebrating with my friends.

The next night there was an awards banquet for all the graduating law students at my school. I was getting ready to leave when I got a call from none other than ‘Restricted’ once again. At the time not really recalling the night before in any great detail, I answered the phone with a good-natured ‘Hello?’ The caller just hung up. I started to get this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind of feeling you get when you feel like you’re in some kind of perceptible danger.

A minute went by and I remember the feeling getting stronger. The phone rang again, and again it was from ‘Restricted’. Now as an aside right here I must state that I absolutely abhor the label ‘Restricted’ in this context. It connotes a level of doom because the caller is not only unknown but also classified. These days, I all-out refuse to answer any ‘Restricted’ numbers, my own innate curiosity be damned.

I was annoyed at the persistence of the caller but I answered it again in the name of investigation. Again the cowardly caller hung up without speaking. By that time I was starting to realize that nothing about the exchange was random or a mistake in the usual sense of the word; it was purposeful and intentional. The phone rang once more another minute later. I was really irritated by that point so I answered the phone by emphatically declaring that the charade was getting ridiculous. Instead of hanging up as she had done on the previous two occasions, she responded with what became her trademark saying, “fucking bitch.”

I was taken aback but I quickly recognized the voice as the one from the bar the night before. I had heard her correctly after all. I requested to know who she was and what the meaning of all the harassment was. I’ll never forget her reply to that question, a sinisterly spiteful “Oh, you know exactly who this is.” It was chilling, truth be told. Her voice was bloodcurdling cold and slightly sociopathical in sound. But I truly had no idea who she was or what I possibly could have done to her to deserve that kind of treatment. Before I could express that sentiment to her though, she promptly cut off the call.

I’m not going to lie here, I started to panic a little. As an avid watcher of Criminal Minds and as a past law clerk at the prosecutor’s office, I know full-well what terribly, crazy and insane things people are capable of perpetrating given the right motivations. I wasn’t pleased at all that now apparently one of the many nutjobs in this world had decided to set her sights on me. Admittedly, I tend to be a bit paranoid by nature, so to have someone actually threaten me in no uncertain terms was more than a little disconcerting.

From that moment on, I started telling my friends and acquaintances all about it so that if something did happen to me, the police would know where to start looking. I was pretty sure at the time that the situation would escalate; she didn’t sound like she was at all finished harassing me. And she wasn’t. But for the rest of that weekend, for whatever reason, she left me alone. Unfortunately though, she was just getting started.

Come Monday morning, as I was settling into the desk to embark on my very first day of bar exam preparation, my phone buzzed and I remember feeling a chill of panic as I looked at the caller. It was Ms. Restricted. I didn’t answer the phone; instead I turned it completely off. I didn’t even want her to have the satisfaction of hearing my phone ring and knowing that I would receive a missed call from her. It was no doubt especially irritating for her as I didn’t have a voicemail at that time. So by shutting off my phone, I literally made it impossible for her to harass me. Of course, it also made it impossible for anyone else to reach me, but I figured that was okay since I had to get serious about studying anyway.

So I placed my phone away and resolved to concentrate on the screen in front of me as the portly professor began to lecture on torts, a subject by the way that I hadn’t studied since the first year of law school and would inarguably be rusty at. In fact, I would come to learn more about torts in that Barbri class than I ever learned during those first two semesters of school. It is actually quite surprising the amount of information you can’t retain in two years, but I suppose that’s a digression for another time and venue.

About a week went by with my phone being completely shut off and it finally occurred to me that my parents might wonder what was going on. After I spoke briefly with my father, I hung up the phone.  But just as I was about to turn it off again, Ms. Restricted called. At that point I was thinking “Holy Fucking Shit” this nutjob must have been calling me non-stop because I don’t believe in coincidences. I answered the call with the idea that I would talk some sense into her. She accused me of sleeping with her boyfriend, not once but continually, hurled a few choice insults along those lines, and then hung up before I could get a word in.

Quickly I turned the phone back off and threw it down. Paranoia was then majorly coursing through me. I found myself wondering if Ms. Restricted was somehow able to discern when I had turned my phone back on. I questioned what kind of a nut she was.  The idea she could have that information was really frightening. I immediately jumped over to the window and scanned the outside area for suspicious people but I saw none. Still I wasn’t convinced that she wasn’t lurking around nearby, so I drew the blinds shut and decided to go smoke a bowl to calm my nerves.

When my roommate arrived home that evening, I updated her on the situation. She thought at the time it could be the girlfriend of Josh (names have been changed), a guy that I casually dated a year earlier. She rationalized that it was Josh's girlfriend mainly because we had recently run into them both, and the girlfriend was acting oddly juvenile. But I expressed a fair amount of doubt in that scenario. What kind of a special nutcase would hold a grudge for more than a year? And since she wasn’t even his girlfriend at the time I was seeing him, it didn’t make a ton of sense that she would be Ms. Restricted. But we didn’t dwell on it long.

Skip ahead to mid-June. My phone had been more or less shut off for close to a month, much to the chagrin of friends and family trying to get a hold of me. I decided it might be time to test the waters by turning it back on and seeing if Ms. Restricted was still lurking about. My curiosity was a factor in that decision but I also felt like I was keeping up fairly impressively with the Barbri interactive pace program and could do with a little distractive nuisance. Besides, if she continued the harassment, I could just shut my phone off again.

For the first few days that my phone was back on, I received no annoying ‘Restricted’ calls. So I was thinking maybe she gave up, or in the alternative, figured out she had made a mistake in harassing me in the first place. But I came to find out one afternoon that that wasn’t the case at all. I was sitting in class waiting for the lecture to begin when I felt my phone buzz. Sure enough it was her, Ms. Restricted. She was back. I turned to my friend sitting next to me and showed her the screen of my phone. She knew all about the prior harassment and offered to answer the call. I reluctantly allowed her to do so. But in hindsight, that was a mistake. Apparently thinking it might be funny to poke the unstable nutjob, my friend teased her about the boyfriend issue that was obviously a sore subject. My friend said something to the extent of “Oh yea, he was so good, aren’t you jealous,” before she promptly hung up on Ms. Restricted.

I immediately knew it would be a big problem.  Ms. Restricted was definitely going to up the ante now. I was far from amused. I asked my friend why she had to kick the hornet’s nest and raise some hell but she just shrugged in response. Not even thirty seconds later, Ms. Restricted called back. Now that my friend had basically announced my guilt thus stripping me of any further deniability, I knew I couldn’t answer the call. Ignoring it didn’t work; Ms. Restricted had become enraged. She called about four times in a row before I finally had to shut it off once again. Then I chastised my friend for her unhelpful meddling. But I let it go soon thereafter as the lecture began and the topic was property. As far as the MBE was concerned, property law was my undoing. I had to focus.

That night, I turned my phone back on and was instantly bombarded by calls from Ms. Restricted. This woman seriously had no life. She obviously made it a full time job stalking and harassing me. I don’t see how any man could possibly be worth that much strife. Anyway I finally relented and answered the phone, stating immediately, and before she could get a word in, that I had no idea who she was or who her boyfriend was.

She of course didn’t buy my ignorance on the matter even though it was actually authentic and sincere. But instead of hanging up this time, Ms. Restricted somehow found a little confidence and began chatting with me. I told her that I believed she was mistaken but when she said “Lux, please…” I realized that I was in fact the person of interest to her. That was a shocking moment; I really started freaking out. Until then I had been under the assumption that she had the wrong person. But the truth of the matter was, I had wronged her somehow. It may have been something small and insignificant, but in her eyes it was a wrong nonetheless. Because I didn’t want to have to spend the foreseeable future looking over my shoulder and wondering if every woman I came across with a scowl was Ms. Restricted, I decided in that moment to try to mend fences. I knew it was going to be hard when I had no idea who she was or what she was under the impression I had done, but I was going to try nevertheless.

I immediately demanded to know who she was and who her boyfriend was, but she refused to divulge the information. I asked her how I was supposed to stop seeing him if I didn’t even know who he was to begin with. She had no answer for that. Instead she proceeded to engage me in an hour-long guessing game, one that was never actually resolved in that phone call. In the midst of the game, where she gave me clues (I wish that were a joke) as to her identity, she also concocted a crazy story about how it wasn’t really her boyfriend that I was sleeping with but she was calling on behalf of a friend. Of course I didn’t believe it; I don’t care how good a friend I have, I’m not going to stalk someone for her. I called bullshit on her, but she was insistent.

In life I have sort of learned that a lot of battles are not worth fighting. This includes battles with crazy ladies who may or may not know where I live and what car I drive. So finally I just stated that I believed her. At the end of the conversation, she alluded that the calls would end now that we talked. I was wary of that statement, particularly because nothing really was resolved, but I accepted her promise on face value anyway.

And the calls did stop. But then they resumed. It was T minus one week until the bar exam. I was on the last leg of the marathon and the calls from Ms. Restricted picked up again. I was already freaking out about the test: did I study enough, will California Civil Procedure rear its ugly head in one of the six essays, will there be crossovers to deal with? I was trying to cram as much information into my head as humanly possible. The last thing I needed was this crazy, persistent nutjob back on the horizon. But there she was, like an ugly stain, making herself known five or six times a day.

It got to a point, I want to say the Friday before the exam, where I just decided that I wasn’t going to allow her to make me fail. I didn’t want her having the last laugh. Nobody deserves to get the last laugh except me. So I became determined to pass, of course I was always somewhat determined, but her diligent harassment spurred me on even more. I wanted to be able to assert wholeheartedly that she wasn’t able to faze me at all.  So for the next two days, I focused solely on preparing for the exam. I honestly didn’t think about Ms. Restricted at all, except once or twice in the form of a criminal law hypothetical. I imagined what kind of criminal and civil laws she was violating and what kind of arguments were supported by the facts at hand. It was extremely helpful in studying and the bar exam went off without a hitch. I was pretty confident after the final performance test was written and they called time. There was no possible way I could have failed.

On November 19, 2010, I found out that I passed the bar exam. So fuck you stalker! Some might say she gave it a valiant effort but mine was stronger and more impressive.  I have since found out Ms. Restricted’s identity though I won’t share on this forum. She was someone that I knew and it was a situation that she blew way out of proportion in her own mind. I never slept with her boyfriend or had even the mildest interest in doing so. To this day I still believe she is an unstable nutjob though she eventually did apologize for the harassment and I accepted it graciously. Regardless, I take a certain amount of solace in the fact that while she did make me uneasy and slightly more paranoid than I’m accustomed to during a time in my life where I needed anything but that, in the long run she wasted a lot of her own time and energy on a futile endeavor – harassing me – and that’s time she will never be able to recover. It turns out there really was a woman out there (potentially more than one in fact), who was sleeping with her boyfriend. All that time she spent stalking me, she could have spent stalking the other woman. When we finally spoke and all things were revealed, it was that little fact that she expressed the most regret over.

In closing, I am telling this story now only because the upcoming bar exam has reminded me about it. Also, it was a very odd thing in my life that has further awakened me to the craziness of people in this world. But despite the certainly large number of nuts out there, in the year since this all happened, I can honestly say with a straight face that her disgracefulness is thus far unrivaled.

The least so I hope.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Little Scary-Ass Dinosaur Creatures

The young and eager officer pulls the car up to the curb outside the police station with a quick maneuver. Detective Donovan announces that this is a fine spot and opens her door to exit. The officer cuts the engine and leaves the vehicle hurriedly, probably to aid Detective Donovan in my transfer. But I’m not going to my demise willingly. She instructs me to get out of the car as she makes her exit and holds open the door. I don’t respond in any way, causing her to make an impatient hand motion at me and repeat her request that I exit the vehicle. I decline to move. Get out of the car, she commands, tapping her foot and sighing impatiently. That’s not going to work. I shake my head vehemently back and forth. If I remain in the car, I can’t be locked up in a dark, windowless room with nothing more than my fading high to keep me company. At least in this car I can still see a vestige of freedom.

I’m not leaving, I tell her defiantly, adding that she’ll have to kill me first. I watch her face for indications of whether she will accept the challenge or back off. But she doesn’t respond at all. Instead she crosses her arms slowly and then turns to the young and eager officer standing nearby. Go fetch those lizards for me, she instructs him with impassioned vexation. He nods and walks off. I see what she’s doing here; I’m not blind. She wants me to believe that she just so happens to have a bunch of lizards at her disposal inside. I scoff and shake my head, mildly amused by her silly idea of blackmail. While unfortunately it is no secret that I am deathly afraid of lizards, not all lizards just the ones in California, I do not believe that she actually has some in her possession that she can just have fetched on a moment’s notice. That’s ridiculous.

It’s the middle of the night, I point out shrewdly, stifling an arrogant laugh at her expense. You won’t be able to catch any lizards right now, I relay confidently. In response, Detective Donovan smiles and leans down into the car, placing her hands on the seat and looking at me with startling composure and almost bloodcurdling seriousness. She has an all-knowing smirk on her face that is starting to make a great uneasiness grow inside me. My skin is beginning to feel hot and my pulse is quickening. I had them collected earlier this afternoon in anticipation of picking you up, she notifies me in a calm and collected voice. I knew you would give me trouble, she adds by way of explanation, noting that now I have some motivation to cooperate with her.

I smile uncomfortably, desperately hoping that she’s joking with me about all this. But she nods and indicates that she is totally serious. You’re bluffing, I stammer out, trying to sound assured. But the words come out shaky and panicky and not at all as imposing as I had hoped. She nods again, lifting her eyebrows and shrugging briefly. We’ll see, she states, looking away from me coolly and with nonchalance. We will just have to see, she repeats giving me another shrug, oddly calm now considering her anger spell of earlier. Could she actually have lizards somewhere in the police station, waiting patiently to be let loose and freak me out? No, that’s preposterous! Isn’t it?

I crack my knuckles nervously and peer around Detective Donovan to see if the officer is returning with anything. My gut tells me that she is bluffing, that she doesn’t have the type of foresight needed to concoct and carry out a plan this diabolical. But as I catch sight of the officer walking back this way carrying a sizeable box covered with a towel, I immediately decide that I am too scared to find out one way or another. Alright, alright, alright, I yell, raising my hands in the air and scooting toward the door that Detective Donovan still has open for me. You win okay, you win, I exclaim in full, unadulterated surrender. Just call off the lizards, I scream in a full blown panic.

She smiles victoriously and then nods, holding up her hand and wordlessly directing the officer to halt where he stands with the mysterious box. He complies instantly, not moving any further forward and not moving any further backwards. I shut my eyes and rub my forehead, breathing a huge sigh of relief and cursing myself for having a publicly-known fear. It’s an inconvenience like no other, especially when there are people in your life willing to exploit it at any cost.

Okay get out of the car, Detective Donovan directs, grabbing hold of my arm. I swallow once and open my eyes. My heart is still beating really fast and I am visibly shaking from the possibility that there could be lizards inside that box. The relative proximity of any possible lizards in that box is really making me fear my every move. It’s also making me fear what she might do with the lizards, if there are in fact some contained in that box. Taking all things into account, I decide to abide by her instructions to exit the vehicle knowing failure to do so might bring unwanted lizards into my life. So I move further toward the door and the exit with an air of submission. I don’t want her thinking that she needs to get lizards involved in this. The whole fight was supposed to be between me and her, not me, her and little scary-ass dinosaur creatures. Now the playing field is all kinds of uneven and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Complaining rarely does any good.

As I make it to the seat next to the door, Detective Donovan reaches up and pulls me out of the car by the hood of my jacket. She doesn’t even give me a chance to exit on my own accord. I stumble as my feet hit the ground awkwardly and I casually wonder if my ankles will be in pain tomorrow as a result. She scolds me for fooling around but I’m doing no such thing. Because my lower extremities have been basking in a large hiatus of inactivity for quite some time now, they are clearly ill-prepared to function without proper warning.

Detective Donovan grudgingly helps me to my feet before she starts leading me toward the front doors of the police station. I eye the box filled with potential lizards as we pass by the young and eager officer, making sure that he doesn’t exhibit any sudden movements and bring the box closer to me. While it’s dishonorable to even acknowledge, just the mention of lizards can throw my rational mind out the window and I am helpless to combat any of the related physiological symptoms that arise as a general byproduct of that potential lizard proximity. I think it pretty much goes without saying that Detective Donovan is a dirty fighter, drudging up childish information and using it to sinisterly manipulate me. It’s clearly a breach of ethics and she should be reprimanded by her direct superiors and the Constitution.

***Note: This is an excerpt from an unpublished story.  Some names have been changed.  If you want to read the rest, find me a f**king literary agent because I am way too lazy to do it myself.  Thanks for reading. Semi-Colon Parentheses.