Somewhere between 1993 and 1996, I received a late night phone call. I didn't yet have caller ID, so I often let calls go to my answering machine. On this particular evening, I was crying because I had just been in a huge fight with my boyfriend. When the phone rang, I jumped to answer it, hoping it was him. When I answered, a male voice said "Hi!".
It wasn't my boyfriend. In fact, I wasn't sure who it was. My brain was whirring, trying to match the voice with someone I knew. Then it hit me. I had attended a conference and met a really nice man from Wisconsin who had talked to me about quite a lot of things, including whether or not he should marry the woman he was living with. Sometimes, men who discuss problems with wives/girlfriends are really trying to get into your pants, but this guy was just very kind and very confused. We had talked once or twice since the conference, but then several months had passed.
I said, "Steve?". He said, "Yes! How you doing?"
Once I had him placed, we talked a while. I confessed that he had caught me crying because I had been fighting with my boyfriend. He told me that I should really dump the guy if he didn't treat me right. Then he told me he was at the airport, having just arrived in town for a conference. He asked if he could come over. The request struck me as rather odd. We really didn't know each other well enough for him to invite himself to my home. But I actually considered it. He had been such a nice guy and I could use someone to talk through things with.
But my inner voice told me NO. There was something that just wasn't quite right about the situation. When I said no, he started applying pressure to try to get me to change my mind. This went on for a while. We had been on the phone 15-20 minutes. I finally firmed up my NO and said I really wanted to get some sleep. I encouraged him to call the next day and maybe we could meet for lunch.
After I hung up, I sat and thought about it for a while. I remembered a conversation we had had way back at that conference where we first met. He had mentioned to people that he always changed his answering machine message to say he was out of town and where he would be and when he would be back. Several of us counseled him not to do that because he might be giving information to someone who would rob him. He waved off all of our concerns.
I got up, dug out his phone number and called him in Wisconsin to see if his answering machine message would say that he was in Atlanta. The phone rang once, twice, then a male voice answered. I was startled, but I managed to choke out, "Steve?". He said, "Yeah?". I explained who it was and I asked him if he had just called me. He said he hadn't. So, I told him all about the phone call. He said I should call the police. But I reasoned that the person calling me had to have been calling random numbers in the phone book. And he would have the address of the apartment complex I was in, but wouldn't have any idea which apartment I was in. And what would I say to the police anyway? Steve and I eventually said good night.
The next day came and went without me hearing from the imposter. In fact, I never heard from him.
Several years later, I was watching 20/20 or Dateline or some other similar show. They had a segment on a serial rapist whose M.O. was to travel to other cities and call women who were listed in the phone book and pretend to be someone they knew. Then he would talk the woman into letting him come over. When he got there, he would brutally rape the woman. When I heard this, my heart raced. They actually played a tape recording of his voice. They indicated that he had operated throughout the southeast. Atlanta was named.
Today, I went looking for the information about the guy and I couldn't find anything. But I think back to that moment when I was wavering about whether to let "Steve" come over. He could tell he was making headway with me and really put the pressure on, but in the friendliest possible way. I don't know if this was early in his "career" or later. I wish I knew more!
Thankfully, my inner voice was strong on that particular day or I could easily have been on his list of victims. And while I congratulate myself on eventually saying no with a clear voice, I recognize that I was hesitating and actually considering letting him come over! More importantly, I am realizing that I have not always spoken with a clear, strong voice in my relationships with people. But apparently I hide that very well, because I don't think most people would say that about me.
I'm making resolutions for the coming year. Speaking clearly is going to be one of them!