In June of last year, I moved to a borough of south London in order to pursue a masters degree in the city. I moved to this specific borough because my boyfriend works there, so it was convenient for him, plus its cheaper than living in the very centre. The area isn’t great; not the worst, but definitely not great. It’s the type of neighbourhood where you walk past a bar at 9:30 am on the way to class and people are already drunk, and then when you come back home at 5:00, they’re still there. It’s the type of place where junkies hang around with their Staffordshires and catcall you through rotting teeth. Of course, there are some genuinely nice, normal people in the neighbourhood, but where I live, which is directly on the high street, you run into some odd characters.
My first encounter with this creep happened when I was walking back from school. It was summer, and I was wearing a kimono cover-up (this is relevant). I’m 23 years old, 22 at the time this first started, blonde with an hourglass shape, so I’m fairly used to getting attention from random men on the street. Normally people just make a comment, or a noise, and then go about their day. I don’t usually respond, and the situation, albeit somewhat annoying, regulates itself.
Not this time.
I’m listening to music, and suddenly, I see a guy walking in step with me. This man is about 5”10, slim, black with a cropped afro, wears big 80s reading glasses, is in his twenties and is wearing both a camouflage shirt and pants as a matching set. He makes a motion for me to take out my headphones. Our conversation went something like this:
Him: “Oh hey, I like your robe, or, what do you call it?”
“A kimono” I say politely, but somewhat dismissively.
“Where did you get it?” He asks, walking in step with me.
“Don’t remember” I say, trying to blow him off and getting confused about why we’re discussing fashion together.
“Oh ok. Yeah, you’re a classy girl. Can I get your number? Do you like clubbing?”
“Sorry, I have a boyfriend”
He ignores my statement completely, still walking in step with me. He continues, “I have a cousin, he owns this club, we could go together sometime if you want?”
“No, sorry, I have a boyfriend”
“Oh, I bet you’re just saying that to get rid of me” I force a taut smile and continue walking, at this point, he has stopped following me. Which is good, because I didn’t want him to follow me home.
I glance back to make sure he’s not following me, and I notice he’s now cornered some other girl. Wow, what a creep. I move on with my day.
About a week later, I’m walking towards the grocery store when I see a shadow in my periphery. I turn, and it’s him. He motions for me to take out my headphones again, and I do. I’m confused, as I’ve already told him I have a boyfriend, but I figure he may have forgotten me.
“I like your sunglasses. What brand are they?” I laugh internally, thinking that this must be his smooth opening line as this was the second time he complimented something I was wearing.
“So uh, do you like clubbing?”
“I met you last week, I still have a boyfriend”
“We met last week?” He asked incredulously.
“Yes, right outside Nandos”
“I don’t think so, I would have remembered a fine girl like you”
“Right. Sorry, I have to go”
“Where are you from?” He asks this because he notices my North American accent, which is very uncommon to hear around these parts, and I tell him I’m Canadian. I figure that he would remember me now, as to my knowledge, I’m the only North American in the area.
“I like Canadian girls” Cringe.
“Ok, I have to go”. At this, he stops following me and walks the other way.
Maybe two weeks go by, and at this point, I’ve told my boyfriend about the guy. He gets mildly annoyed, but figures the guy would have given up after being rejected twice in the span of a week. One night, we were coming home from central London, walking from the train station back home. In front of us, I notice that guy, wearing the same army outfit combo. I indicate that that is the man who was bothering me, so my boyfriend would know what he looked like. Funnily enough, he’s following another girl and giving her the “my cousin owns a nightclub” spiel. I roll my eyes, and my boyfriend and I share a giggle to indicate how pathetic this all is. The girl completely ignores him and looks at her phone, and eventually, he loses interest and walks away.
A couple more weeks go by. I’m going to the post office to mail a package. I feel a hand on my shoulder. It’s him.
“Slow down!” He says, laughing. This time he’s wearing a blue bomber jacket with some sort of phoenix embroidered on it.
At this point, I’m incredibly annoyed, because he’s approaching me again and also because he’s touched me.
“We have met before, I have a boyfriend” I say, clutching my package.
“Nah, I would’ve remembered you”
Now, I’m not sure whether this guy was joking, or whether he really had that bad of a memory. I don’t claim to be so pivotal of a figure that any stranger would remember me, but surely, after speaking with the guy twice, he would have some recollection.
“So uh, do you like clubbing?”
“Let me guess, you have a cousin who owns a nightclub, it’s called […]”
“Yeah, how do you know?”
“Because we’ve spoken before. Look, I have a boyfriend, and I don’t want you to follow me again. When you see me, do not approach me, because I will always say no.”
He doesn’t say anything to this, and I look him deep in the eyes so that he would remember my face. At this point, he’s walked in step with me to the post office, so I turn to go inside. As I do, he grabs my hand. I turn to face him, and he’s giving me this predatory, over-the-top lecherous stare.
“Do you have any single friends for me then?” I’m really unsettled by his energy, and more so that the guy could be so obtuse. As if I would put any of my friends in that situation.
“No” I muster, and head inside. He lingers at the doorway of the post office, but eventually walks away.
I tell my boyfriend about this, and at this point, he’s angry. He offers to talk to the guy, as he says he often sees him on the way to work. According to him, every time he sees him, he’s harassing some other girl. I figure this guy has way too much time on his hands and I wonder if he does anything else besides hitting on random women in his spare time.
In the following months, I’m approached by him a few more times. Each time, he gives me the spiel about his cousin owning the club, and each time, he claims he does not remember me, and even comments on my accent, asking where I’m from. At this point, I do not respond, but he still talks and walks in step with me, until he realises that I’m not going to speak, and then he walks away. Sometimes, I kid you not, he walks across the street and blocks another girl in her path directly after striking out with me. I figure this guy is either high on drugs or mentally ill; but probably a combination of both. I’m not sure if his inability to remember me is some tactic, or if he really has no clue that we’ve spoken many times.
I decide to get the police involved, as it got to the point where I would have stress about walking on the street for fear of running into him. No, he was not violent, but his energy and mannerisms indicated that he was unstable. And yes, he had touched me a few times, usually to block my path, which is unacceptable.
The police come and take a statement, and although they are sympathetic, they say there’s not much they can do unless I have this guy’s name, photo or phone number so that they can identify him. The officer even tells me to pretend to be interested in order to get his number, so that I could forward it to the police station. And, to say the least, I was very uncomfortable with that idea and decided not to do that.
The same day, I’m walking home from the grocery store with heavy bags, and turn onto my street. I’m on a slight downward slope, and I hear “Hey!” coming from the top of the street. I turn, and it’s him.
“No!” I shout, as I was very near to my house and didn’t want him to know where I live. “Don’t come near me! I’m not interested!”
“No? I can’t come and talk to you?” he shouts back.
“No! STAY AWAY”
He lingers at the top of the slope for a while, and I stay in place, as to continue walking would reveal where I live. Eventually, he sees another girl, and follows her until he’s out of sight.
Similar occurrences happen on and off for the next few months. Sometimes I ignore him, sometimes I verbally communicate that I’m not interested. Every time, he claims not to remember me. Then, I decided to call the police again after another, more disturbing incident. I was walking towards the gym, and as I was turning a corner, I almost bump into that guy. At first, I didn’t really clue in that it was him, but then I looked and realised who it was. I guess he took my looking at him as a sign that I was checking him out. I walked faster, and turned around to see if he was following me. He wasn’t. “oh, good” I thought, figuring he had better things to do this morning than bother me.
I walk for a good ten minutes, looking back every now and then. When I’m confident that he’s gone, I relax and walk at my leisure. Then, I hear fast footsteps from behind. I turn around, and this guy is running towards me. He either followed me discreetly for a few blocks, or he guessed my path and ran to catch up to me.
“Hey, you going to the gym?” he shouts, looking at my gym clothes. “You don’t need to work on that body, it looks gorgeous to me”.
At this point, I’m sprinting, trying to get away.
“Hey! I gave you a compliment! Don’t be rude!”
This guy is faster than me, and he catches up and puts his arm out to block me.
I’m so mad at this point. I look him in the eyes and say, “If you bother me again, I will call the police”.
“The police? I don’t even know you, when have I bothered you?”
I can’t reason with a lunatic, so I tell him, “Remember my face this time. Leave me alone.”
He doesn’t follow me to the gym. I call the police and they tell me there’s not much they can do as he hasn’t assaulted me (right, cause it has to get to that point before it’s valid, eh??) but they acknowledge that his behaviour is unacceptable. I figure that I would try to get an identifying photo next time I see him. Weeks go by, and there’s no encounter. I feel good. Maybe he finally got the message.
On a cold March day, I walk to the main station which is about 15 minutes away from my house. Fuck. He’s lingering on the stairs that lead up to it. He has these wild eyes that seem to be searching for girls; any girl. He spots me and springs into action.
“Nice day, isn’t it?” He asks in a way seems very rehearsed. Also, it wasn’t a nice day, it was cold and grey. I don’t answer.
“Nice day, isn’t it?” He repeats, louder.
I get my Oyster card out and walk quickly towards the turnstiles. I assume he doesn’t have a ticket, so I could be safe as soon as soon as I cross them. “Nice day—–”
I cut him off. I’m shaking I’m so upset.
“I’ve met you a million times. I’ve told you I’m not interested. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” Without a beat, he says, “That’s rude, innit, I’ve never spoken to you in my life” Right, I’M the crazy and unreasonable one.
I call the police and tell them what happened, as I figure that the station would have surveillance cameras that would have captured him harassing me in the act. This could give them the fodder they need to at least give him a warning.
After a few days, they call me back and tell me that the station doesn’t have any outside cameras filming the entrance (?). I feel hopeless.
Of course, my boyfriend is aware of all of this, and he gets increasingly angry with every encounter.
Every morning, my boyfriend gets an energy drink from the same corner store before work. This time, as he’s paying, he notices that guy, wearing the same army combo getup enter the store.
He puts a couple of pounds on the counter to pay, and turns around to face the creep. “I need to talk to you” he says angrily.
The creep gets visibly agitated and shifty and says, “No, I don’t want to talk to you” and runs out of the store. The shop owner informs my boyfriend that this guy comes in all the time and steals merchandise. He also tries to pay for things by eating a chocolate bar at the till and saying, “I’ll pay you later”. He has been kicked out of the store many times, but the shop owner never involved the police as apparently the process for incriminating petty criminals is complicated and he would have to close his business temporarily. I was banking on the fact that he would have a record, but without a name, it was hard to find out.
My most recent encounter with him happened about a month ago. I was walking home from the station, and noticed the guy walking in step with me. This time, I decide not to freak out. I wanted to play along with him, without indicating too much interest, so I could get a name and photo.
He starts by saying “I’m in a band with my cousin and we’re looking for members, do you want to join?” Right. That’s totally believable.
As he’s speaking, I subtly hold my phone up and take a good picture of his face.
“No thanks, I don’t really have any musical talent” I tell him.
“Do you like clubbing?” He asks.
I ignore him and ask, “So, what’s your name?”
“I’m Marlon, what’s yours, gorgeous?”
I give him a fake name and make a mental note of his name, which I remember because it’s the same as Marlon Brando.
So now, I have a photo and a name.
The police are reviewing everything, but I feel that even with this, they’re not going to be able to do much, given their track record. Although he hasn’t bothered me since this day, I still don’t want it to happen again. I’m definitely going to move at some point, but for the time being, how do I deal with this? How can I ensure that he remembers me and stays away? Am I doing something wrong, or am I not doing enough? Does he actually not remember me or is this some lame tactic? Thanks for reading this long account; it’s therapeutic to share it with others.
Any advice would be welcome.
Well, it happened again today, only this time, I was more scared than I had ever been.
I was at an outdoor mall/food place to grab takeaway before heading off on a styling job in the city. This place has two stories, and I’m carrying a suitcase full of clothes down a flight of stairs.
“Hey!” I hear
I turn around and see him. After a few months, here he is again like a bad dream. I start walking faster and tell him “no”. He follows. He follows me for an entire block while I am hindered by a suitcase. I took your advice and stopped wearing headphones, and as a result could hear his footsteps.
I stop in front of two security guards, hoping that he would go away. He doesn’t, instead he stands between the security guards. I tell him “no” again and to this he says,
“You’re standing there but these guys are my friends, they arent gonna do shit”.
I looked at the guards and they remained stoic, so I called my boyfriend who, thankfully, works next door to this place.
Within two minutes he appears and asks me where the guy is. At this point, he’s across the mall in view chilling and laughing with the security guard. My boyfriend loses it and heads over. The security guard stands in between my boyfriend and Marlon and asks him to step back. I come in and explain the story.
The whole time, Marlon is hurling abuses at me and my boyfriend, calling me a bitch and telling the guard he’s never seen me in his life. To this, I tell him his name, and recall details I would only know by meeting him a few times. He says, “The security guard told you my name, you don’t fucking know me. Fuck off you crazy fuck” that was directed at me.
He walks away and stands a good distance away. Police happen to be walking by, we call them over, and at this, he walks away quickly.
I burst into tears. The guard tells me that Marlon isn’t his friend, but he has seen him many times over the years and admits he’s creepy. He said he didn’t act when I was standing near him for help because he didn’t realise the severity of the situation, but did ask Marlon if he had bothered me, to which he obviously denied.
I’m at my wits end. Nobody is helping me. I’ve been verbally accosted by this horrible person. The police take details, the manager of the mall joins the conversation and offers CCTV footage.
He then says that they have been watching Marlon for a while now, because he’s made other girls uncomfortable. They also notice him leering at girls, especially when they have promotional models in tight clothing in the mall, to the point where others get uncomfortable. The guard and manager acknowledge that there seems to be something really wrong with him.
I ask the police what they can do for me and they say that they can imprison him only if enough reports are made and after he’s been warned. But, they are going to look into getting a protective order set up for me, as they acknowledge that this has been going on for far too long.
So yeah. I feel awful. But you all have been truly amazing in helping me through this, especially when I thought nobody would even read my previous post. Will keep you updated if anything develops.