A very weird thing happened to me.
1. It was incredible and confusing.
2. I can't tell anyone I know.
3. My name isn't really claire.
I was kidnapped... or something more like held prisoner for almost a day and a half. I got away, but I’ve kind of freaked out over it and as if it wasn’t bad enough, now I’ve made things worse. My life is spinning totally out of control and I have no idea how to stop it. I just want my life back. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try.
I’m 26. I'm an illustrator. I live in New York City and I'm engaged to a wonderful guy. We live together. I’ll refer to him as Colin (not his real name) because sometimes he reminds me of the character Colin Firth played in “Bridget Jones’ Diary.” He’s so patient and loving and understanding and he’s also Irish-American and doesn’t the name Colin sound kind of Irish or something? I love movies, especially independent films, and I’m always thinking of the people in my life as characters in films. Or vice versa. Life imitating art and all that.
I really love movies. That’s one of my main passions in life. I love how seeing a really powerful film can take you out of your every day life and transport you to a completely different state of mind. I love how some films affect me and how that feeling can last for hours after I watch it. I even have certain movies that I use to change my mood. I have some I watch to cheer me up, some I watch to inspire my creativity, even some I like to watch before a business meeting that make me feel confident and kind of kick ass. I love how a film can influence my emotions that way. I guess I’m susceptible to it.
But back to Colin. We actually got engaged only 3 months after we met. He told me he knew that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and I realized I felt the same way. I guess it was a bit sudden, but he said that he felt there was no point in being cautious and pussyfooting around and waiting to see if I felt what he felt, so he just came out and said it. Emotionally daring and romantic as hell. I was really swept off my feet. I guess it just happens that way sometimes. Being in love is wonderful.
That was two years ago. We have been saving up for a nice wedding, but it takes time. So we haven't taken the plunge yet, but as far as my feelings go, we’re already married. I know he's the man for me. I would rather die than see him hurt. Sometimes I feel like I need to protect him. He’s so... not innocent exactly, but... nice. He’s so nice, and so sweet, I just want to shield him from the ugly realities of life sometimes. I wouldn’t hurt him for the world.
But I will. I have to.
In my job I do all sorts of artwork, mainly paintings or drawings for magazines, books and films, and to make ends meet I sometimes do storyboards. Since I’m a big fan of independent films and I go see lots of them at the several great art houses around town, I tend to meet people who have similar tastes. Like film students.
A few days ago I finished some storyboards for an NYU film student. She was one of those kids with too much of daddy's money to throw around on their student projects. She hired me to storyboard a short film she was doing. I dropped the job off to her at an editing suite in the NYU building on Broadway where this she was working on some project. The student that had previously been using the editing room was just in the process of leaving. The guy was gathering up his project and fooling with stuff in the room as I was going over the storyboards with my "client.” He kept staring at me. It was making me really self-conscious, because he was staring at me really intensely but trying not to seem like he was staring. Kind of awkward. I left after I was done, hoping to catch the elevator quickly, but this guy came walking up to the elevator while I was still waiting for it. So we rode down together. To be polite, and also to break the awkward silence I was feeling, I asked him what he was working on. He asked if I would like to see it. Of course he did. I said sure, sometime. What was I going to say?
He wanted to show me his film project right away and I couldn’t think of an excuse not to quick enough so we went back up in the elevator to an empty viewing room and he showed me the rough cut of his student film. It was really strange. It made me think of "Boxing Helena" or "May", but it was a bit less coherent. Like those films, it was about obsessive love and dismemberment with a hint of cannibalism thrown in. Pretty weird stuff, but it was done somewhat humorously. Maybe you’d call it wry humor. The camera work was really nicely framed and the pacing was very static in a Jim Jarmusch kind of way and I told him so. Turns out that isn't by accident, he's a big fan of Jarmusch's films and thought it was cool that I got that connection. We talked about films a little bit and then, since I had to get home and get more work done that day, I said goodbye and thanked him for showing me the film.
Listen, I know how things go. I’m not some simp. I made very sure that in the course of conversation I threw in a couple of references to my fiance, Colin. Nothing too overbearing, but enough to let this guy know that I wasn’t single or available. I’m always careful, as you have to be these days, and I don’t want to have any messy misunderstandings. I prefer to be very up front and honest. I really do. So, just to make sure you understand, I was not flirting with this guy. It was nothing like that.
Thing is...that encounter…it wasn’t anything very unusual. Nothing odd, really, except he kept looking at me intensely the whole time. Like he was trying to study me or something. I guess I didn't think it was as odd as some people might have. Being an artist, I suppose I've done the same thing to strangers on occasion. If I was trying to embed in my memory how they looked, or a certain gesture they had, or what they were wearing to be able to sketch them later I guess I might have seemed a bit creepy to them.
That night I got an email from this guy. I'll call him Jeremy (not his real name either) but his student project that he’d shown me reminded me a little bit of the indie film "May" that stars Jeremy Sisto. Plus that fact that he was tall and slim and had dark, curly hair, it just reminded me of the actor. So anyway, he said in the email that he got my email address and my business card from the other student that I had done the storyboards for. He wanted to ask me about doing some work for him. He couldn't afford to pay me but asked if I would be interested in perhaps collaborating on a new short film project. I wrote back that I was flattered, but I was too busy and too broke to work on anything speculative. I figured that was the end of it.
He emailed me a few more times with questions about different things concerning films, minor things, you know? After a while he asked if I would just meet him for coffee and give him some feedback on some ideas he had. He said he didn't mind coming to my neighborhood downtown and after he asked really nicely a couple of times, I thought, well, it’s only coffee. I gave in and met him at the diner across the street from my building. I felt kind of bad for him, actually. I figured maybe he was here from out of town going to school and didn't know that many people. I mean, c'mon...I did think it was a little odd, but not that far out of the ordinary for New York City. I've lived here for quite a few years and it's a pretty strange place in general. You learn to make allowances for odd behavior.
The point I'm getting at is that nothing this guy did set off any major warning bells. He was just an interesting guy to talk to and maybe a little intense and awkward, but that was all. I had mentioned up front that I was engaged to a wonderful guy. Like I said, I’m careful. So, we met, we talked for an hour or so about films, he gave me his contact info and I went back home.
Colin, my fiancé, works nights and is also going to college. He has class four days a week and works six nights a week, so most of the time when he's actually home, he's asleep. Just as he was that afternoon I met Jeremy for coffee. I told him about the meeting when he woke up and we went across to the same diner to have dinner that evening. We eat there a lot. The guy who owns the diner showed me a backpack and asked if my friend had left it when we were in there earlier. It did look like Jeremy's so I said I would call him and ask. My fiancé left for work after dinner and I called Jeremy. Turned out it was his backpack. He said he didn’t know where he had left it and was very happy I had called to let him know where it was. He wanted to come down to get it right away, but by the time he got downtown the diner would have been closed. I was going out to see a band that night who wanted me to do a CD cover for them. The bar where they were playing was not far from Jeremy's apartment so I offered to pick it up from the diner and drop it by.
Now the weird part starts. Well, I mean the REALLY weird part. I rang the buzzer to Jeremy’s apartment and he buzzed me in the front door. There didn’t seem to be an intercom, so I walked up the 3 flights of stairs to his floor. At the end of the short hallway I saw that the door to his apartment was slightly open. It's not uncommon to do that here in the city when you are waiting for a friend you’ve buzzed in to walk up, but I didn't know this guy so I was a little cautious. I just yelled hello from the door and he called for me to come in. I cautiously stepped in, leaving the door open behind me. Jeremy was in the kitchen just a few steps down the hall and I went as far as the kitchen doorway and set the backpack down and said I had to get going. He responded by handing me a cup of hot tea. He said he fixed it to thank me for bringing his stuff by. I should have left right then. But I didn't. Trying to be polite, I made one of those errors in judgment that you always think about later and wonder why you did it. I went in and sat down on the couch to drink the tea.
Jeremy sat down in a chair across from me and said he had something important to say but didn't want it to upset me. Okaaaay. He confessed that he was in love with me ever since he had first seen me. I pointed out to him that it had only been 3 days ago since we met and told him that he had to realize that his being in love with me was a bit hard to believe. I was trying to be nice, but now I really wanted to get the heck out of there. The conversation had turned creepy, creepy. I said I was sorry, that I was very much in love with my fiancé, that he was the love of my life, and I really had to get going as I looked for someplace to set my cup down.
I’m not trying to pretend that Jeremy isn’t attractive. He is. In a dark, intense sort of way. And we obviously have a lot in common. But I want to make it very clear that I was not tempted. I was not attracted to him. I really did nothing wrong, even in my thoughts. Colin is my world, my love and everything I could want. We’re happy and I don’t play games with that.
So then, basically, what happened was Jeremy just wouldn't let me leave. I got up to go, setting my cup down on the floor next to the couch. He got up quickly and stepped into my path. He started trying to talk me out of going. I was still, foolishly, trying to be polite. He actually just seemed a bit pathetic to me. I guess I still felt a little sorry for him. But I stepped past him and headed toward the still open door. He rushed by me and shut the door leaning his back up against it. He was trying hard to convince me to stay and hear him out. As far as I was concerned I already had and I just wanted to go.
I was starting to get a little nervous by this time but I was still trying to reason with him and stay calm. I’ve never been very good with confrontation. I just never know how to handle it and this was so unexpected, too. I always end up wishing everything could just be nice and calm and logical. When I’m in an argument or a bad situation, I just want to get away. Far and fast. I hate getting into messy confrontations. I avoid them like dog poo on the sidewalk.
Jeremy was trying to convince me that we were fated to meet or something and that we were soul mates and all that crap. I told him firmly that he was mistaken, that it was all in his head because I was already with the most wonderful man in the world. I said that I was sorry about his feelings and I reached around him and tried to open the door. When I got close to him he tried to kiss me. I shoved away from him and said I was going to scream and he said he was sorry and tried to calm me down. I told him he had to let me leave right that minute or I was going to start screaming. He looked so hurt and so shocked then that I felt like a complete dork, like I was over-reacting. He looked like he was going to cry. Almost, somehow, I felt like I was the one being unreasonable. Which I know makes no sense. But he just kept talking to me seeming all calm and rational, but very earnestly trying to make me understand his point of view. That he was in love with me. His completely crazy point of view. And I knew that. I did.
It makes me feel so strange to even write this, but no matter what I did or said, he just wouldn't let me leave. We spent that whole damn night with him leaning up against the door and me trying to talk my way out in a kind of standoff. He wasn't threatening me or making any moves on me, not even trying to touch me. He just kept trying to convince me that he loved me and were meant for each other and that I would realize that if I would just let myself believe the truth. And I was trying to convince him that he was wrong for, oh, about the million reasons that he was wrong. I even tried to point out to him that the situation was a little too close to the subject matter of his film, the obsessive love type thing, but he told me that was just more proof that he somehow knew this would happen to "us". I did everything I could think of to talk my way out, but he was as dead set in trying to talk me into staying. It was ridiculous. I was afraid to even go to the bathroom and leave the door.
I don't know why I didn't scream for help at some point. I have no real explanation except maybe that he seemed like he was being so sincere and he was just so non-threatening. I guess I did feel sorry for him in a way. My cell phone rang a couple of times and he didn't do anything violent, but he reached out and held onto the top of my purse so I couldn't open it to get the phone out to answer it. It seems so childish, now. So ridiculous. But Colin might have been getting a little worried. He didn’t know that I had stopped off at Jeremy’s. Maybe he thought I was hanging out after the show I was supposed to go to or that I fell asleep when I got home. Colin goes straight from work to class on Tuesdays and Thursdays so he wouldn’t have gotten home to find I wasn’t there for quite a while. But he always calls to check in, so I knew he might be getting worried. Heck, I was pretty worried, too. Because I didn’t know what to do in this insane situation.
Sometime after the sun had come up I had to go or pee my pants. Jeremy pointed me to the bathroom down the hall but he would only let me go in if I left my purse, and phone, outside. I just threw my purse down onto the floor in frustration and went in. I locked the bathroom door and looked out the window, but it only let out onto an air shaft. I looked up and down the shaft. I could see a couple of windows, but they were far away and closed. And dark. It didn’t look like anyone was home upstairs or down. After I went to the bathroom, nervously, I just sat on the edge of the tub and tried to think what to do.
After a while, Jeremy asked if I was ok and then he asked if would I come out. He promised not to hurt me. Actually what he said was he would never do anything to hurt me. I really didn't want to even open the door and face him again, but I couldn't figure out any other way besides becoming Spider-Man and crawling out the air shaft so I finally came out. He had gotten us both glasses of water. I kept looking for an opportunity to get out. But he was being careful about staying between me and the front door. It really was way beyond total absurdity and I was very worried about Colin and what he would think when he got home and found me gone. I really can't explain the situation at all, except to say that arguing with Jeremy was like trying to push your way through a giant marshmallow. He would give but he just wouldn't be moved.
After being at this all night, I don't know how to explain it, but we just had settled into a kind of tense routine. I guess you’d call it a standoff. With me trying to think of new logical arguments to convince him and him countering everything I said. It reminded me uncomfortably of that movie "The Night Porter" at times. But without the mutual attraction. It was just surreal.
I thought about the time when I was 16 and I had a boyfriend who became weirdly obsessed after I broke up with him. He wouldn't let it go and would drive by my house at all hours and show up wherever I went and just basically hang around, hoping for I didn't know what. He tried to pump all of my friends for information about me. This went on for almost 3 years. It was creepy and annoying, though I have to say, I never was scared of him, I just thought he was lame. I even stopped dating high school boys after that. I dated older guys, mostly in their 20’s. Thinking, I suppose, that maybe his age had been the problem even though he was 2 years older than me. Who knows?
I never figured out how to deal with that guy any better than I was dealing with this one. Jeremy just kept trying to convince me that he really loved me and I kept trying to reason with him that his feelings weren’t and couldn’t be real. And the weirdest thing was that I was starting to feel like his intense conviction was warping my own perception. At moments, I started almost feeling like I was the one being crazy, just because he was so completely convinced. Jeremy acted like everything that was happening was totally normal.
And there’s another thing…it isn't like there’s anything obviously wrong with Jeremy. There isn't. He doesn’t look like a psycho. He's tall and good looking. He's intelligent and interesting. He was even acting tender and very caring and thoughtful of my feelings (except for the letting me leave part). If I wasn't already in a relationship and I didn’t know he was completely INSANE, I might have gone out with him.
As time went on, it just got more and more surreal.
I don't know how to explain this, I can't even understand how it happened, but I was trapped in Jeremy's apartment for almost a day and a half. We moved around after a while, Jeremy always keeping himself between me and the door. At some point my cell phone must have run out of juice because it stopped ringing. I was really achy from sitting on the hallway floor and I agreed to sit on the chair in the living room. We sat in the living room. We ate crackers. After a time we stopped talking. Nothing more to say, I guess.
I kept looking for an opening to get to the door and get out, but Jeremy positioned himself in the hallway, just watching me. Watching me with this irritating, loving look on his face.
There was one point when I felt myself getting so tired I couldn’t stay awake. And I knew I couldn’t afford to fall asleep. So I figured I had to act. I got up quickly and tried to push my way past Jeremy to get to the door. He pinned me against the wall and for a minute I was sure he was going to try to rape me but I struggled and started to scream and he didn't. He put his hand over my mouth and he just kissed my hair and held me too tightly for what seemed like a really long time after that. That was really tense and creepy and I struggled and he finally let me go back to the chair.
The end was actually very anti-climactic. He finally nodded off a couple of times and the third time I grabbed my purse, managed to step over him since he was blocking the hall, sneaked very quietly out the door and ran like hell down the stairs and flagged down a cab.
After I left his apartment I was feeling very emotional and confused and scared and really a bit crazy. I was in conflict about what to do. I told the cab to take me to the police station but I wasn’t sure which precinct or where it was and the driver didn’t know either. I thought I should call 911, but I wanted to get far away from Jeremy first. And then I started thinking about what I would tell the police anyway. That I was held prisoner? By someone talking to me? I hadn’t even fought or really screamed. What would they think? What crime was committed? It didn’t even sound convincing to me. It sounded like I was an idiot.
And what I was going to say to Colin after being gone for so long without calling, picking up the phone, leaving a note for him or anything? I knew he must be frantic with worry by then, but I couldn’t think of what to say to him. I kept trying to think of how I could explain what happened, but nothing would come. I was worried that he would be so angry that I would lose him. I needed time to think.
Then…I didn't go to the police. I didn’t go home. The cab driver was waiting, not at all patiently. So, I finally told the cab to take me to Penn Station. I went in and got on a train to Maine. My best friend and her husband live in Maine. And I just wanted to get far away. Escape the nightmare. It was just too much.
It's a long train ride and I slept most of the way. I changed trains in Boston and still didn't call anyone. I didn't call anyone at all until I got to the train station in Maine and then used a pay phone to call my friends to come pick me up. Needless to say, they were surprised. Luckily, they were home. It hadn’t even occurred to me that they wouldn’t be. Wow. Crazy. So crazy.
I still don't know why I did what I did. Maybe some sort of emotional avoidance mechanism? My behavior was very disturbing and getting more disturbing and I knew it. The most disturbing thing was that I kept thinking about Jeremy. Like I was worrying about him and how he would feel about me sneaking out like that. Worrying about my kidnapper? Or whatever he was.
I was worried about Colin too, but it was strangely seeming to me like more time had passed than actually had. My perceptions were all off and I couldn’t think straight. I felt so distanced from Colin. And I was also terrified to have to explain something this crazy to him. Colin should have been my refuge, but I was deathly afraid of losing him over this. I just wanted to postpone it. I just knew he wouldn’t understand. How could anyone?
I'm not explaining this very well, but I still can't understand it either. I must have gone a little nuts. I think I must still be crazy. I'm in Maine right now. I’ve been here for more than a day and I still don't know what the hell I'm doing. I haven’t told my friends in Maine what happened, I just told them that I had needed to get away. And Colin, I did finally call him, and I told him that there had been an emergency with my friends in Maine and I had rushed up to help them. And my cell phone ran out of juice and I didn’t have the charger. That's a totally lame excuse and he is trying to be nice, but he keeps asking me more questions than I can really answer. I mean, I keep telling myself I've been the victim of a crime, but it was so weird and I’m not hurt.
Am I harmed? WAS it even a crime? I'm not injured or anything. But I’m absolutely terrified though I’m not sure exactly why. I’m safe now, right? I'm just trying to figure out what happened and what I feel about it. I just had to write this down so I started this blog. I'll write more tomorrow or the next day.