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The Portland Stalker

by Wayne Scheer

I'm a stalker. I realize that puts me somewhere between hit man and divorce lawyer on the food chain, but that's who I am. Oh, I'm other things, like a father and grandfather, widower, a retired accountant and assistant pastor at The First United Methodist Church in Portland. But the part of me that you'll want to know about is the stalker. Otherwise I'm as ordinary as a downtown coffeehouse. 

I suppose you think I should spend some serious time with a shrink. But I take care not to interfere in the lives of the people I watch. I don't hurt anyone. Besides, sometimes my obsession actually helps people.

When I was a child I used to follow my older sister around.  I hadn't perfected my methods yet so it was pretty obvious what I was doing. My family used to say I idolized her.  When she'd plead, "Make him stop, Mama," my mother would say, "He loves you, Sarah.  He just doesn't know how to show it."

What was true then is probably still true today. I love the people I stalk, but I'd rather not show it. I mean if I walked up to a perfect stranger and confessed my love for him or her, I'd be deemed insane. Love is something I can only talk about inside the church.

Instead, I watch them from afar.

What I do is I identify a person I consider interesting, usually a woman. I might see her getting her nails done at Envy Nails at SE Powell or buying scissors and paste at Dollar Tree at NE Sandy Boulevard. I'll wait outside, maybe in my car, reading a newspaper.  When she comes out, I'll make a note of the time and place in my log. Then I'll follow her until I find out why she spent an hour of her life having someone shape and paint her nails like they were an artist's canvas. Sometimes, I'll discover a secret rendezvous with a lover or an important business meeting or just a relaxing personal ritual experienced like clockwork every two weeks. I stay with the person long enough to satisfy my curiosity. Sometimes that means following her for months, sometimes just an hour or so.  The woman at the Dollar Tree, for instance, buying scissors and paste, also bought crayons, glitter and thread and brought them to a nearby daycare center where she worked.  Mystery solved:  the class was making Thanksgiving Day decorations.

I have rules, you see. I never follow a person after the point where I've discovered what I wanted to know. And, as I said before, I never interfere in the person's life.

Well, almost never.

I know what you want to ask. Why do I usually choose women as my targets of interest? The underlying motive must be sexual, you surmise.  Some kind of perverse power trip. I don't think so, although we rarely understand what lies beneath the surface, do we?  I choose women because, in general, I like women more than men.  I find them more interesting.  Incidentally, I never stalk children or the elderly. My hobby is strange enough as is.  

And I really don't think it's sexual.  I remember targeting a female construction worker recently.  What caught my attention was the tool belt she wore over jeans and the way the hammer, dangling at her side, forced her to walk like John Wayne at high noon.  I admit I worried at first that my attraction to her was sexual, especially when her shift ended and she got into a car with a fellow construction worker. I followed them to his home—I checked the name on the mailbox and address with the name in the phone book, which was John Raychek. Her name was Barbara McDowell, by the way. I lucked out. I watched her come out of a drugstore one afternoon and toss a credit card receipt into a trashcan.  She missed, and the receipt dropped to the ground. When she was out of sight, I picked it up and discovered her name. I also tossed it back into the trash can, so I did my part to keep Portland clean.

Anyway, I discovered that after work, on most evenings, she and John would stop at Tanner Creek Tavern for a pizza and drinks and then go to his place. She'd stay there a few hours and had I watched the bedroom windows I'm sure I'd have had ample opportunity to see Barbara without her tool belt. Instead, I used the time to prepare for my Sunday Bible class. Afterward, she'd drive to her home, where I discovered she lived with her elderly mother.  Each morning John would dutifully pick up Barbara and they'd drive to work.  I found myself admiring them as a couple.

I had been following them for almost two weeks and each weekday this was their routine. I don't know what they did on weekends because I spend weekends with my children and grandkids—another one of my rules.

I had decided to give them one more night before finding another target. I waited for them at Barbara's house. It was near their usual arrival time. That's when I heard a scream from inside. I looked in the window and saw her mother on the floor screaming for help. I called 911 and, since her door was unlocked, tended to her until the ambulance arrived. I also called John's house and told him that Barbara's mother was being taken to Providence Hospital.  They got there in time for Barbara to console her mother before she underwent what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to save her life.

I can only imagine what Barbara would have felt had she not been with her mother that night. So I have no intention of stopping my hobby.

Besides, I just met a woman with two young boys and a full time job at Portland Community College. I 'm curious how she organizes her day.

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