The Accidental Stalker: An Ironic Tale of My Date with Destiny
I think I’ve previously mentioned my penchant for stalking. I love “cyberstalking,” and I first became the accidental stalker when I was in ninth grade, and my parents moved me to an Oklahoma City suburb that one of my junior high classmates had moved to the year before. There I was in his band class. He didn’t seem thrilled.
I love coincidences like that. The second time I became an accidental stalker I was in my mid to late twenties. This man was the man that got away. Sigh with me now.
His fake name is Mark Foster. Naturally, he was not attracted to me at all. If he had been, then I wouldn’t have been interested. My level of attraction to a man is curved on an exact correlation with his level of indifference to me. I have a girlfriend who describes it as Groucho Syndrome, after a quote by Groucho Marx, in which he said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”
I first met this guy at my workplace. At that time in my career, I was working for a publicly traded company in Dallas, in their corporate offices, as an administrator for their 401(k) plan. Mark Foster was an auditor for Ernst & Young. They would send an army of these guys to go over quarterly for our financials before an SEC filing or the publication of the Annual Report.
Mark was the only one of the auditors who didn’t go out to lunch every day with the battalion of suits. He would join us in the break room and eat homemade leftover spaghetti. He was clever, and he had a really great dry sense of humor. Something would come out of his mouth, with that completely deadpan face, and I would laugh a week later.
He used to take public transportation and ride his bike to work, and he was training to compete in some Iron Man Triathlon. He was totally adorable with this full head of wavy blond hair and wire rimmed John Lennon spectacles.
Now it would be inaccurate to say that he didn’t like me. We eventually became good friends, but more the sort of friends who hang out in groups. I am sure that he was won over by my wit, ‘cause it sure as hell wasn’t by my looks. I was still losing weight from my first adult porker fest. I probably easily gained one hundred pounds total the first year I lived on my own. I lost it slowly, and when he met me I was about halfway there.
I am convinced that I won him over with two lines. The first was a reference to E&Y’s staid dress code.
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Yes.” He looked scared.
“Do they really make you all shop for your clothes at the same department store?”
“Yeah, I didn’t really care which. I can see now, of course, that there might be advantages to marrying John Denver.”
We spent a lot of time together at work that year because he was the one they sent to audit our 401(k) plan. No one likes auditing retirement plans. It’s tedious and detail oriented and boring work involving a bunch of tax laws that you couldn’t possibly know unless you dealt with them on a daily basis. I’m sure Mark didn’t want to do the work.
But for me, ‘cause of my little crush, it was great fun. I learned a lot about accounting and finance from him, and he learned a lot about 401(k) plans from me. Because no one wants to do retirement plans you never get the same person two years in a row. You always get the kid who’s wet behind the ears, and after that year I didn’t see Mark again at work.
Fast forward about a year or maybe a little less. I’ve lost all the weight now, and I’m skinny. I’ve decided to get together with a couple of other single girlfriends and find a church home that we can all agree on. We visit churches on a weekly basis until we can decide on one that we all want to call home. Then we take turns cooking lunch afterward at one of our homes.
We found a non-denominational Bible church in North Dallas that we all liked. We had been there about three Sundays. We were all in agreement that this was where we were going to stay. They had a young singles class that was perfect for people our age, and one of our little group was dating the singles minister there. The singles minister’s name was Buddy.
One day after Sunday school, I’m seeing someone very familiar looking from behind. We usually took turns making and serving breakfast. One week you’d make muffins, and the next someone else would bring a Crock Pot full of breakfast casserole. I think that’s Mark, hovered over the bagels. Really. What are the odds? Do you know how big Dallas is? Well, they probably aren’t as long as I’d like to think they were because it wasn’t a sign that the stars were lining up for us to be together.
That is how Mark and I came to really be friends and hang out together socially. During this time he apparently was reconciling with a former fiancée of which I had no knowledge and was saving and planning to go to graduate school for his MBA at UT. The height of our communion together consisted of him playing and singing to The Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine” while I sang along in perfect harmony, and him pulling me over a rock wall, supporting my entire weight with one hand. I am sure I looked astonished, always the fat girl on the inside, and he laughed.
During this time, my dating life was pretty predictably one date here, a couple dates there. I made up little stories and jokes about it and shared them with my friends. For a while I was seeing an intern at Parkland that I met through a church function until he totally blew me off on Valentine’s Day. His name was also Mark, a fact that caused my friends to ask, during conversation, “Mark Mark? Or Dr. Mark?”
When Mark Foster quit his job, bought a Land Rover, and sold most of his material possessions to finance graduate school, I was secretly forlorn. Well, maybe not so secretly. The day he left, Buddy the singles minister said he had a song he needed to play for me, and it was David Wilcox’s acoustic cover of John Waite’s, “Missing You.” If you haven’t already heard it, then you should go to the internet now and play it. I know you’ve heard the eighties overproduced version, but seriously, you should listen:
Mark and I emailed back and forth, not much, but occasionally. I always, always initiated it, because I am slow to learn lessons like that you should never, ever pursue a man and expect a happy ending out of it. He broke up with the fiancée. A girlfriend of mine who had seen them together came back and reported, like a spy, that they looked to have a contentious relationship, and that for two people who were about to get married, they hardly touched.
Of course, she wasn’t nearly as cute as me. When I would show photos of Mark to friends of mine who hadn’t met him, they would always respond, “The nerdy looking one? You’re sure he’s not interested in you? Have you looked in a mirror lately?”
The company I worked for in Dallas sent me to do retirement plan seminars at their plants in Austin and Buda, and when I knew I was going to be making the trip, I emailed Mark and asked him if he wanted to meet me for a drink. He did! We met at Matt’s El Rancho for a margarita, and he brought a statistics book. He beat me there and was studying while he was waiting for me. He talked about his pain and disappointment about the break up, and he let me amuse him with my serial dating anecdotes.
When I told him Dr. Mark completely blew me off on Valentine’s Day because he later said that he wasn’t feeling well, Mark said, “Was he in a coma?”
This is where our story starts to take on a Felicity Porteresque quality. About a year later, I am unhappy and bored at my retirement plan job, so I start to put out feelers to look for work elsewhere. I figure that I can work for a brokerage firm or a records keeper and get my securities licenses and certifications and make a lot more money.
So, I had two interviews. One was with Fidelity Investments in Dallas, and another was with a turnkey outfit that I admired for a long time, a company in Austin. Fidelity decided to pass, but the other company wanted me.
They wined and dined me at The Shoreline Grill, interviewed me at a hotel in Dallas, agreed to pay my moving expenses and for a hotel while I looked for a place to live, and were going to pay me eight thousand dollars more in annual salary than I was currently making. Stalking Mark was a no brainer. Someone was going to pay me to do it this time.
By this time, we’ve just passed the Y2K panic, Mark has graduated and is working for some ubiquitous dot com start up that’s financed by some ubiquitous venture capitalists. I eventually lost my fancy schmancy job, and I am now temping around town and attending a church downtown where I met this dark haired, blue eyed young man named David. David and I start seeing each other casually. I liked him, and I had fun, but that’s all it was.
The church was sponsoring some cook out thingy at Emma Long Park, and I was going with David on a date. On the spur of the moment, I decided to send Mark an email, asking him if he wants to come with us. I mention that I will be bringing a date, and that he should come and bring someone as well, and that is the last I ever hear from Mark Foster.
At the picnic, David meets the woman who will eventually become his wife. Many years later, I hear that Mark Foster moved to Houston, started his own business with a friend who lost his job in the Enron scandal, got married and had a baby boy that he named after a famous Scientologist rock star. Well, okay. You caught me. I didn’t hear anything. I googled.