It was nearly a decade ago when I first met Jeff. Our initial encounter was so uneventful [not so in hindsight] that my teflon mind barely registered it. Blink and you forget him, and forgot him I frequently did. Looking back now, I’m not sure how that was possible.
At first glance, Jeff truly is [or was] quiet and unimposing. He was the very definition of the shy, acne-scarred kid at the party that you only notice if he wretches loudly and publicly. Sure, Jeff would try to insert himself into different situations, silently screaming so violently that he should have been at least noticed, but his megaphone was typically lost in the great abyss in which he called home. A home that sadly, especially for me, he would eventually escape.
Jeff and I had never, NEVER, been close, but for some peculiar reason he viewed me as a big brother of sorts; and it was all my fault for noticing the wretch(er). It was at a party in Charlottesville that a handful of close college friends and I attended. An hour or so into the party, I had been in want of a snack so I left my friends in search of a snack table of some sort. It was then that I observed Jeff throwing up outside into a bush. Aware he had been seen, he looked up and saw me. Busted, both of us. Being the nice guy I thought was, I went outside to give him a hand and ended up driving him home. I thought that would be the first and last time I’d see Jeff.
And for many years it was, until two years ago today that long since forgotten Jeff returned in wretched fashion. It was at a restaurant in the North End of Boston, where my wife [I got married] and I now resided, that Jeff returned to me. Sure he’d texted and called multiple times, because for some reason we’d exchanged numbers that fateful night in Virginia, and even cornered me randomly at other social events due to some friend we must have had in common [WHO!?!]. Anyway, as I descended down steps to the restroom, I was aggressively shoved from behind. Catching the rail as I spiraled down, I noticed a figure disappearing around the corner. Was that Jeff? My mind must be playing tricks.
Two weeks after the episode in the North End, a similar event happened at the Park Street T stop. This time, again alone, I was descending steps from the Green Line to the Red Line as I went off to work when again a shove from behind left me falling forward. Again I mostly caught myself on the rail and again my upward glance caught a glimpse of a Jeff-like figure. This time I was certain, but what to do about it? I had not time to think about Jeff’s motivations, I only knew that I was fearful [and angry] of Jeff, but how to get rid of him? Not knowing Jeff’s last name and not being able to suss out who our mutual friend was so I could find out and thus get a restraining order, I instead trained to become more vigilant.
I first set out to become like a hawk, an animal I admire, so I could be always aware of my surroundings by placing myself in positions that gave me strong vantage points, especially in public places. Being short, this failed, though I quickly found success at becoming like the rabbit I was always more physically inclined to be, skittish and fearful but impossible for even [Mr. Stealth] Jeff to catch, or push/maim/kill. This worked. Though not fun to always be on guard, I managed to exorcise Jeff from me. Days turned into weeks, which turned into years and I began [again like an idiot!] to forget about Jeff. But he didn’t forget about me.
One month ago, an older, wiser version of Jeff found me while I was vacationing in Vermont. I was out for a run with a close friend around Echo Lake when Jeff made himself known. This time there was no push, it was a pebble in the back. Then another one. Then one more, which became the final one as I stopped abruptly and had my friend join in me scouring the surroundings. Nothing. I did not assume it was Jeff [Should I have?]. It wasn’t until a few eerily similar incidents began to happen back on the crowded streets of Boston that I knew. Jeff had returned.
Yesterday, Jeff erased any doubts that I might have had. Pebbles, sticks, tiny pieces of asphalt. you name it, tiny “incidents” had grown in coincidence after the trip to Vermont, but more than ever before, Jeff wanted it known that he was indeed back. And that his nerve had grown. It happened while I was standing at a busy intersection in Coolidge Corner, stuffed Trader Joe’s bags in each hand, that I heard Jeff whisper, “Does it hurt?” As I turned to face him, he shoved me into the oncoming traffic. My groceries and I never had a chance.
And now, as I lie here at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center being prepped for surgery, I can only think to the future and hope that maybe now I am finally free of Jeff.