Massachusetts Guy

Massachusetts Guy manifested when I moved into my first apartment - a perfect time for a potential stalker to make his debut. I lived in a small one bedroom place (it’s really difficult to find a large one-bedroom place) and I was paranoid about living alone for the first time anyway, when I first noticed a red car with Massachusetts plates parked directly in front of my bedroom window. We didn’t have assigned spots, so this wasn’t uncommon or a problem. What did raise my cackles was seeing the driver sitting there, in the dark, as I returned from the laundry room in another building one night.

Carrying my laundry basket in the dark, my eyes first focused on the strange windshield glare, wondering why the shape inside the parked car - with engine off - looked so much like a human head. And then I realized I was looking at an adult male, sitting silently in his non-idling vehicle, only a few steps from my front door. There’s something freaky about knowing someone is watching you as you carry your recently washed socks into your empty apartment. I didn’t let it show that I’d noticed the guy, but I checked through my peephole many times after entering - and making sure the deadbolt was secured - and sure enough, he was still there. Not on his way into his apartment (assuming he lived there); not on his way driving off somewhere.

No, just hanging out, probably planning a murder spree.

I didn’t see him the next day, but two days later I saw his car in the same spot, with him - instantly dubbed “Massachusetts Guy” - inside. He was unassuming (as all serial killers seem to be) - a middle-aged man, curly hair, tinted sunglasses (that’s a bad sign), wearing the kind of blue blazer typically worn at country club-sponsored events. He didn’t seem to be watching me, or doing anything in particular, but as I passed I did hear the faint sound of talk radio. That at least raised him one level above the kind of weirdo who would sit in his car alone all day in silence. I allowed myself a modicum of comfort.

Massachusetts Guy was around more and more in the next few weeks, but since I hadn’t heard anyone trying to sneak in through my window or picking the lock on my door at night, and no news of anyone’s mysterious disappearance in the complex, I let my guard down. I even passed by his car (with him in it, still in his favorite parking spot) several times in the daylight, and took notice of a stack of napkins on his passenger seat, so tall that it could easily provide a refill for a fast food place’s napkin dispenser. Disturbing. And, though I saw him emptying large bags of bottles and cans into the recycling dumpster a few times, I still hadn’t caught him entering or exiting an apartment unit, so I continued wondering if he was merely an odd neighbor or a vagrant with dark designs on me.

My fears rose again when, taking a day off from work, I happened to see Massachusetts Guy pulling around the corner. I was at the trash dumpsters and hung back stealthily, curious to see where he’d park. Maybe I’d get to see which, if any, apartment was his. Since it was the middle of the summer and our triangle-shaped complex had a pool for use by its residents in the center of the buildings, only a few parking spots were empty, and nothing was open in the vicinity of my front door. M.G. pulled into a spot about five units down from my front door, and I thought I had him. It must be Option #1 - a weird, but not mentally-disturbed, neighbor. I could deal with that.

I was about to head back inside when I saw a woman with two small children walk from the pool path to her car, which was parked next to mine. I paused... as she pulled out, Massachusetts Guy spared no time in whipping out of his second-choice spot and pulling into the newly vacated first-choice perch and remaining there until after the sun had set. That was it - there was no reason I could think of why he needed that particular spot - only about seven or eight spaces from the one he had - and so important that he’d been staking it out. “Okay,” I thought, “he is planning my murder after all.” I started to go through my suits, wondering which would look best on my corpse.

Hearing his voice - which not surprisingly was slathered with the thickest Massachusetts accent I’ve ever heard - was strangely comforting. “Excuse me, young man,” Massachusetts Guy inquired, “but may I ask you a favor?”

The next morning I was heading off to work, and I saw Massachsetts Guy performing some task in his opened trunk. For all I knew, he was out there all night. Emboldened by the daylight, I made up my mind to talk to him and find out what was up with him. Hey, if he was going to kill me, at least I wanted to have a shot at holding my own while the sun was shining.

Before I could approach him, though, he saw me and turned to me with a curious expression. Hearing his voice - which not surprisingly was slathered with the thickest Massachusetts accent I’ve ever heard - was strangely comforting. “Excuse me, young man,” Massachusetts Guy inquired, “but may I ask you a favor?”

“Sure,” I said. “What do you need?” I tried to sound innocent and murderable.

“It’s just that my car... my car isn’t running well, and I wanted to see if you could give me a lift to the bus station. I’m heading to New York, you see.” His word selection was odd, like something from an old movie that was also stupid.

“Oh, no problem. That’s on my way to work,” I told him. I wasn’t lying. Some might call me crazy, but I was excited at the prospect of getting this weirdo into my car. If he tried to knife me, I thought, I’ll quickly steer into oncoming traffic and take him out with me. It’ll be cinematic.

He got into my passenger seat and we drove off. Now he was on my turf. He asked me where I worked and what I did. I told him the truth - what did it matter anyway? We’d both likely be dead soon enough.

Then I slowly began questioning him. He claimed to live only a few doors down from me, and I believed him. I didn’t ask him about the parking spot yet, though - I was holding back on that. I asked him his name, and it turned out to be... Steve. Lovely. Perhaps he was my dark reflection.

I got more information out of him. He was heading to New York for the day because, “South Jersey women are too stuck on themselves.” Interesting. I suppose he thought New York women would give him some relief.

I then asked him about his job (which I was sure he didn’t have, due to him never leaving his car all day long) but he dodged the question, instead telling me about his longtime dream project - a biography of John Philip Sousa. He became noticeably excited when I told him I knew of Sousa, and started giving me the “approach” for his book, which I’ve since mercifully forgotten. I’m sure it was an original “take” on Sousa.

As we were getting closer to the bus station, I started to prepare for his inevitable attack. It wouldn’t be long now. I took it as a sign when he told me he’d been “noticing me” (ewwww) packing and loading all of my photography equipment - which was really drum equipment, but I didn’t want to correct him. “Let Massachusetts Guy believe I’m a photographer,” I thought. “It’ll throw him off... trip him up.” I was feeling pretty clever.

Then, a minute before we’d have been at the bus station, while waiting to cross a busy cloverleaf intersection, he surprised me. “You can let me out right here,” he said.

It was a trick - it must be. I wanted to confront him once we parked at the station. Now there were moving cars, traffic lights... this was all wrong. But I had no time to work up a Plan B - we were stopped at a red light, and Massachusetts Guy already popped the door lock.

“No, it’s okay - I can take you right to the bus station... it’s no problem!” I was starting to sound desperate. This was wrong, all wrong....

My chance for an explanation/broad daylight death was slipping away. Now I’d have to go back to wondering alone at night, what this guy was doing mere feet from my bed.

He was planting his foot on the ground. “No, that’s fine... I can just walk from here.” It was an odd decision - once the light turned I could have taken him across a major highway, but he was choosing to hoof it. Well, he was crazy, after all.

My chance for an explanation/broad daylight death was slipping away. Now I’d have to go back to wondering alone at night, what this guy was doing mere feet from my bed. “Thanks,” he said, as he held the passenger side door open.

Just before he closed the door, however, he leaned back in. Here it comes... where’s the knife? Or would his weapon of choice be something more subtle? A blackjack, perhaps? Poison?

But he only had words for me. Deep words... an explanation I didn’t expect:

“By the way,” Massachusetts Guy said calmly (maybe too calmly?), “If you ever see me sitting in my car at night in front of your apartment and wonder why I’m there... well, I’m listening to Boston Radio! You see, I can only get the station in clearly in that one spot, and I have to keep up on my Redsox games! They may go all the way this year!”

I don’t believe I responded. His bellowing laugh blended into the street noise as he strolled off to cross four lanes of traffic. As I pulled away, I thought, “That... that explains it... the spot... why he needed to be right there specifically... the radio sounds I heard... the lack of a murder attempt... it all made sense...

From that point on, Massachusetts Guy and I were buds. Okay, not really “buds”, but I didn’t fear him. We talked about music, women, and his loyalty to the state I secretly named him after. Even when a friend explained to me, “Dude, did you ever think he could be listening to baseball games in his car AND still be a murderer?”, I wouldn’t hear anything of it. We were tight now, and if M.G. really was a killer, hey - I didn’t consider myself a target any longer.

I never found out what was up with those napkins, though.