My (Non-)Career As a Stalker


My friends and I have a joke. When one of us messes something up, we then decide we will apply for a job in that field. So far I’ve got master chef, housekeeper, PA, PR manager, Mathematician, Scientist, and Politician. And that’s just off the top of my head. The stalking thing was brand new, sure, I’ve always been fascinated by Mata Hari, and as a child Harriet the Spy (and its two sequels) was one of my favorite books, but going by past experience, we’d make terrible spies. 

Something I’d forgotten about when I found out that one of Cousin Fester’s close relatives worked somewhere that was easily accessible to the public. A friend, who was active on couch surfing, and was hosting a guy from Montreal, said he knew where the place was, and since his couch surfer was absolutely game, we decided to meet up the following day, once they’d given me instructions on where to meet. I met them the following day, balancing a cup of coffee in the palm of my hand, which was a stupid move. Not because I spilled anything, just because it’s a really stupid idea to be taking any open (or semi-open) type of beverage into a tiny bookshop. It was a specialized bookshop at that, too, and not connected to an area anyone would ever confuse with the three of us. I had a bad feeling going in, that this was utter stupidity, but the good thing about me has always been that once I decide to do something I follow through. I have plenty of other bad traits, but this one I’m proud of, I have to say. So off we went to see the Wizard’s close relative. 

I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. Clearly I wasn’t going to make an announcement right then and there, that I may or may not have been related to them. The person in question wasn’t even part of the Hungarian branch of Cousin Fester’s family tree, so technically I wouldn’t even be gaining anything. But I wanted to see for myself. I’d heard through the rumor mill that the Hungarian side wasn’t exactly nice, but this particular person allegedly was. 

Which is why it was so disconcerting that Cousin Fester’s close relative kept kept staring at me, a lot. Not in a nasty way, more in a well this is certainly very interesting, I do wonder who you are type of way. 

The problem with not knowing your relatives, no matter how close or distant they are, is you can’t just go up to them and say something along the lines of, “hi, I think we’re related.” I didn’t do that with a group of girls at the school, who all had my father’s original last name even though they were all from Romania (Transylvania, to be precise), and we were clearly related, because – like my dad – they were from Cluj-Napoca, and their cousin had spent two years in Israel, which at the time, if you were coming from behind the Eastern Curtain meant you were Jewish, which my father was in heritage but not belief. If I hadn’t established filial ties with those girls (and I’d liked the one who’d spent time in Israel, even talked to her a lot), I wasn’t about to start now. Besides, except for the girl who’d spent time in Israel, we hated each other. Teen age drama of vying for the attention of the same people, our very German, very blonde, blue-eyed friend. 

So I decided to pretend I was looking for a present for a friend, which I duly announced, while the boys were taking their sweet time. Because they’d just discovered something they really liked. I didn’t bother looking to see what it was. All I knew was that we’d be spending a lot of time in that little shop. The little shop of horrors I referred to it, even though Cousin Fester’s relative was nice, making eye contact once or twice to let us (me mainly, the boys were still rearing), to let us know he’d be happy to assist us, but happy to let us explore. He seemed to be looking at me a lot, as I took sips of my coffee. It was disconcerting. 

No problem, I thought to myself. We’ll go on speaking English, so he’ll think we’re college students. Then, if we ever meet up, I’ll just play the French card.  

At which point my friend’s couch surfer from Montreal pulled down a book from the top shelf and pointed out the title in French. We read the blurb, and then talked about it. Only realizing when our mutual friend stood there looking blank, that we’d been speaking in French all this time. By then we only switched to English out of common courtesy for our friend. Clearly, Cousin Fester’s relative had overheard us. 

I think he knew, Cousin Fester’s relative. Because when I went back and asked him something months later, he made a remark – a hint really – that implied as much. And years later, when Fester and I had already been fighting (on the rare occasions in which we did speak), I ran into that relative again, on the street, and he looked at me with genuine concern, asking me with his eyes if I was alright, the way only a relative will. I should have talked to him then instead of keeping my mouth shut. 

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