Welcome to the Watchlist

I dated a domestic terrorist once.

I’m quite sure that I’ve now put myself on numerous watchlists, but who cares? Everybody makes mistakes–including dating anyone named Alex or Alec or any variation thereof.* And I’m obviously already on plenty of watchlists thanks to my brother-in-law. And probably my mother. A few of my Facebook friends. Maybe even on my own merits.

I’ve also had bad dating luck with Virgoes, but they’re a story for another day. Come to think of it, this guy must have been a Virgo, because those relationships tended to end not long after beginning.

Anyway, he was a bar-back at a pool hall I used to frequent, well, frequently. I spent time there hanging out with friends from high school who were the bartenders.

I’m not gonna lie, I was also a patron of this fine establishment. Often and early. I’ve looked into the steely gaze of alcoholism. We danced, but eventually I decided that there was simply too much vomit and wasted money down that path. Also a story for another day–really, it all ties in together in a twisted knot of fortune.

I don’t know his story; but then, it would be his story, not mine to tell. But I can tell you of our intersections.

Aside from the whole terrorism thing, what pops into my head when I think of Alex is his mustache. He had one. It was not nearly Pornstache caliber, but it was mildly respectable. It did not, however, suit him.

I should have turned left at that mustache and found myself in Pismo Beach, with all the clams I could eat. But I didn’t.

He was a loner and I was shy, so it was over a period of weeks and months that we came together as a pseudo-couple. I saw him nearly every day, and he started to occasionally hang out with my friends outside of work. We would all drink heavily, of course.

Soon enough, I was sitting at the bar to see him almost as often as I came to see my friends. Alex did introduce me to Scotch, and I tried several varieties, most before noon, but I never developed the least bit of appreciation for it.

He came over to my house a couple of times, and once ran into a high school friend of mine, Shane, who gave him the stink-eye. I should have trusted that stink-eye. When I changed high schools Shane was the second person to befriend me, and we still talk to this day, albeit rarely. Can’t say the same for Alex. Don’t really want to say the same for Alex.

Alex took me downtown a couple times. There are plenty of bars and clubs peppered around this area, but if you want to do some serious barhopping without risking a DWI, you go downtown. Also the Burrito Man, but again, that’s another story.

One night I went over to Alex’s house and met his roommate. The funny thing about Alex’s house was that he lived down the street from my former roommate, the one who skipped out on the lease and left me high and dry.

Remembering the time I spent at his house feels like watching a movie; I can see it in my mind’s eye, but it doesn’t feel like me. I’ve changed so much since then, almost unrecognizably.

His room was dark, with posters plastered over all of the walls. Video game and movie posters. He had a ceiling fan, but there was only one bulb in it, and I’m not even sure whether or not that bulb worked; he only turned on lamps.

We sat on his bed and watched movies, and we must have talked. We had to have talked, at some point. That’s what people do, to get to know each other, to pass the time, to drown out the sound of their own lives inside their heads.

For the life of me, I cannot recall a single conversation that we had, at his house, at my house, at the pool hall. Nothing. I can’t even remember the sound of his voice. When I try, I can’t even picture his mouth moving in the shape of words I can’t hear.

One day, one of our mutual friends called me, in a panic. He was trying to warn me, and it took a minute for me to figure out what he was talking about, for the reality of it to sink in. Alex was gone, and the ATF had raided Alex’s house. They showed up at this mutual friend’s door with their warrant and demanded to have a look around. He didn’t know who else they were investigating, how many more of our friends were freaking out at this very moment.

He just wanted me to know, he said. He wanted me to be careful. I wasn’t sure what I should have been afraid of; I’m still not sure. I could spend weeks being interrogated and I still would never have had a clue that Alex had legal and illegal guns in his shed, and more guns and homemade bombs buried in his backyard, and that he had Molotov cocktails in the kitchen cabinets, and that he had a record of a local government official’s movements, including a map of an upcoming parade route.


I didn’t know any of this. It all came as quite a shock. But I was fine. Nothing ever came of it for me. No one ever came to my house. No one ever knocked on my door. No one came to my job or called me. My car was parked in front of Alex’s house more than enough for my license plate to have been duly noted, but maybe it just wasn’t.

But you know when they interview the neighbors in the serial killer documentaries and they always say he was such a nice boy or he was so normal or everybody liked him? I have to admit that I can’t say any of those things about Alex.

He was nice to me, but he wasn’t normal. He gave off a weird vibe, but I was so self-destructive then that I only wanted to spend more time with him and find out what was making that whispering that I always heard in the back of my head when I was with him, the one telling me stay away. And everybody didn’t like him. His coworkers didn’t like him. His roommate didn’t like him. I won’t say that I actually liked him. I was intrigued by him. He wasn’t satisfied is the best way I can put it. He wasn’t satisfied with the world itself, with the big picture. He was fine with his lot in life, but overall, things just weren’t good enough for him. They weren’t the way he thought they ought to be.

So he disappeared, off to federal prison, and I never heard from him again.

For about eight months.

And this is where it gets creepy, my friends.

I had three months between my lease being up and moving into the townhouse I was going to rent from my friend’s fiancee when they got married, so I crashed on Paco’s couch for three months.

A month in, Alex called collect. For me.

This was fifteen years ago. I didn’t have a cell phone; the landline I had at the house I lived in before Alex went to jail was disconnected because I moved. This was a completely new number, in Paco’s name. I didn’t even change my address on anything, my license, my insurance, nothing. I was just going to wait the three months until I moved again. Alex hadn’t even met Paco. They had no connection whatsoever.

I still don’t know how he got Paco’s number. I’m sure I never will.

When he called the first time, I was at work, and Paco declined the charges. He told me when I got home, and I started to freak out a little.

Alex called again the next day, and I dithered over what to do before declining. He immediately called back and said he knew that I was there and that I’d better accept.

All I could do was hang up and hope that they were monitoring his calls.

He called a total of six times and then just stopped. Only once did Paco accept the charges, mistakenly thinking it was his brother Alec calling. Paco handed the phone to me and I told Alex to please stop calling before hanging up on him. I spent the rest of that night debating whether or not I did the right thing, wondering if I pissed him off enough to come find me when he got out.

He did, three years later, on MySpace. He sent me and my husband each a message. I don’t remember exactly what they said, but they were vulgar and hurtful and untrue. Thanks, creeper.

I saw him once since then, at a Walmart. He was waiting in line for a return. I felt the freakout beginning in my stomach, but I was with my husband and surreptitiously pointed him out. I wonder if I should check Facebook to see if we have any mutual friends–but I can’t remember his last name right now.


*Names changed from an equally generic, masculine name with multiple acceptable spellings. I’m not sure why I bothered to change them; no one I’ve dated with this name has managed to stay out of jail or even to be a half-decent human being. 


3 Comments on “Welcome to the Watchlist”

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