This took place about a decade ago, back when social media wasn’t as big as it is now. I was still in my mid-20s, looking for a more stable job. I was at a cybercafé at Blok M bus station in South Jakarta typing and emailing my CVs to companies when, unbeknownst to me then, some random stranger apparently sneaked out behind me and took a peek at the screen.
How did I figure that out? He started texting me, calling me by my real name and asking to get to know me. At first, I thought it was one of my friends pulling a prank on me, so I just ignored it, until I creeped out by his next message.
Why are you frowning like that?
It hit me: he was at the same cybercafé with me! I got up and scanned around the room, but nobody stood up and revealed themselves to me.
Feeling more creeped up, I deleted all the files, logged out, paid at the cashier, and then fled the scene. However, the stranger didn’t stop there. My phone beeped again.
Hey, why are you running away from me?
I waited until I really got home to reply.
Who are you? What do you want? How did you get this number? Please leave me alone. I don’t like you doing this.
He replied with an apology and told me his name. When he admitted about how he’d gotten my number, I grew more frightened so I ignored his message.
That was when the six-month terror began. He began flooding my inbox with messages. Sometimes he begged me to give him a chance to get to know me better, other times he tried to make me feel guilty for not giving him a chance and for not appreciating his effort to get to know me.
Some days, he would leave me missed calls in the wee hours, at 2 or 3 in the morning. Then he started using two different numbers, since I had mostly ignored the first one. Once I accidentally picked up without looking at the screen, all I heard was the lecherous creep’s ragged breath before I hung up.
One Friday, he texted me, asking me if he could come by to my house to meet me. When I didn’t respond, he got angry and sent me another message.
Hey, I asked you a question. Can I? This is still your home address, right?
Then he typed my complete home address that I decided to sleep over at work that night. I was too scared to go home.
People’s reactions to my ordeal were varied, but mostly indifferent and insensitive. Some asked me to ignore him until he good bored – which I had, and look where I was 6 months later! Some others told me to take it lightly. Maybe the guy sincerely wanted to get to know me and he might’ve been the one. (WHAT?!)
I was also too afraid to contact the local authority, because they would only take this matter more seriously if: a) I’d been seriously injured or worse, raped, and b) I’d ended up dead. No, I wasn’t going to wait for any of that to happen.
Meanwhile, the stalking and harassment went on. He still left missed calls on my phone and text messages like: Wanna have a sex chat with me? Luckily, a few friends helped me. One of them called out their gang of thug friends to harass my stalker back. They warned that he would get beaten to death if he refused to stop harassing me.
Finally, the stalking stopped. I thanked all my friends who had been there for me. Still, I couldn’t shake off the fear for the next three months. I started carrying pepper spray in my bag wherever I go. My best friend gave me a taser, which I carry around too.
These days, I rarely answer the phone if it’s a missed call from an unknown number, even with the blocking feature my new phone has. Sometimes I’m still scared. It also takes a while for me to trust any new guy who wants to get to know me, because you never know, it could be my former stalker.
Ruby Astari is an English teacher, freelance translator, and freelance writer. Her first novel "Reva's Tale" is already in stores. She enjoys being a sexy chub, hanging out with fellow writers, and wearing froggy shades in public!