Yes, it is true. The quiet, shadowed avatar who has problems speaking to cashiers at the grocery store and goes out of his way to avoid auto mechanics to the point of placing his car in peril was once a stalker.
It was stalking with good intentions.
My favorite author had fallen ill. She had contracted a disease, and her writing would be greatly hindered for ever after. I was devastated. Almost on a monthly basis I would try and hunt down news of a new book being released, hints at a title of the next short story, or even an upcoming book tour--alas, all of this turned up nothing.
All I wanted to do was send a "Get Well" card, a shout out to say, "Hey, your fans are thinking of you and hope you the best..."
But trying to find a way to send a card to a quasi-famous individual is like hunting for the Holy Grail. I read the author blurbs and typed in hundreds of different keyword Google searches. I should have taken the hint: she did not want to be found.
I'm not one to pick up on social cues quickly, so I sallied forth. The jackpot was when I found out the name of both her agent and the agency that represented her. I was in.
Here is where the ethical behavior gets a little hazzy.
I tracked down the phone number of this agency and made a call:
"Yes, Hello. My name is Mr. (fake name) and I am the chair of the English department at (non-existant) University, and we are in the process of determining our commencement address speakers. In the past I know that (author's name) has given high quality addresses to graduating college students. I was hoping I may be able to send her some information regarding our university and see if perhaps she would be able to fit us in her schedule for the spring."
Pencil quivering in my hand, I wrote down a post office box in California.
I purchased 7 or 8 different Hallmark cards, unable to decide on the best tone that would express sympathy but also excitement at having the chance to somehow communicate with a woman whose every word helped make me a better person.
I ended up writing in 5 of them, throwing away 4, and picking one with a cat on the cover (I knew she had a cat--I had read her memoir), and off it went to California.
And I waited. And waited. And waited. My friends thought I was so cute with my little crush on some woman the same age as mother who would never, ever write me any sort of response.
Every day I ran to the mailbox, anxious to see if there was something there: I was like Charlie Brown waiting for Valentine's Day cards to arrive. Nothing ever came. For months, I held out that today would be the day. Today I would get a response, a letter in swirly script that declares, "I am a famous author writing directly to you, you kind hearted little man who wrote such a nice note in a Hallmark card.."
Every day, my hope was chipped away. It died the slow death of a thousand cuts. A year passed. Nothing. I moved on.
After an exhausting visit to my parent's place in Texas, I returned home to a giant pile of mail. I don't care if it's all bills and junk, I live to get the mail. Always have. When I hear the whispers of the United States Postal Service disappearing, a lump grows in my throat and my eyes grow moist.
Sitting on the floor, legs crossed, coffee in hand, I started sifting through the piles of paper.
There it was. A black and white postcard, a picture--of her--with her cat! I had sent her that Hallmark card over a year and a half ago by this time. On the back was a message, directly addressed to me. It was postmarked "San Francisco, CA." The handwriting matched the handwriting in the autographed copy of one of her books I received from a friend as a birthday present when he went to her book signing in Chicago.
The message was simple: "Thank you for your lovely card and kind words. Though I am ill, rest assured, I won't stop writing any time soon. Loved the cat photo on your card! Sincerely, ____ "
The postcard is in a frame on my desk. It was a little piece of luck that I got that address, and that photo brings me great joy almost every day.
My friends, when they found out, started to ask me if I could hunt down their role models so they too could send letters or postcards to see if they could get a response.
I laughed in their faces and told them, "My stalking days are over."