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Station 11. Lori is nailed to the cross

Wood carving by Susan Hagen, story by Mike Walsh

Lori spent the weekend at her parents' home and got on a train headed for New York at 6:30 on Sunday evening. She looked forward to the three-hour train ride because it would give her a chance to relax, which she hardly ever got to do. If it wasn't the demands of her job making her neurotic, it was pressures from her parents or problems with her boyfriend. Sometimes she was so rushed and anxiety-ridden she felt she would pass out, have a nervous breakdown, or explode.

Lori had moved to New York three years ago to live with Peter. She had met him in college and continued seeing him after graduation. When he got a high-paying job on Wall Street, he invited her to live with him in New York. He offered to support her until she found a job. She wasn't sure Peter was perfect for her, but she quit her technical writing job, which she hated, and moved into his apartment in New York City.

She found a job as an entry-level editor with a large publishing house. The job required lots of overtime, and the pay was low, especially for New York. But she was happy to get out of technical writing and into the publishing business.

Within a year, however, she had soured on her relationship with Peter. He didn't do much besides work and watch TV. He was gaining weight as well, and she wasn't physically attracted to him any longer. The worst of it was that he bored her.

She and Peter had regular screaming matches, although she did more of the screaming than he. "I can't stand the sight of you," she yelled at him once. "You make me sick." During one particularly vicious argument, she told him that she didn't love him or want to live with him anymore. He began weeping.

She couldn't see herself spending the rest of her life with him, so she moved out and found a small garden-level apartment. She was happy to be on her own.

Her mother, however, was unhappy that she had broken up with Peter. Her mother constantly brought up the subject of Peter and her future matrimonial prospects. She whined that Lori would never get married and give them grandchildren.

Her relationship with her father was worse. He had pressured her to take business, engineering, and economics courses in college. She had hated those subjects, and they had fought throughout her entire four years as an undergraduate. She ended up with a degree in English, which didn't satisfy either of them.

Now her father took every opportunity to lecture her on the poor career choices she had made. She wasn't a highly-paid professional, she had an undergraduate degree that got her almost nowhere, and she was stuck in a low-paying job. He always made it abundantly clear that she had failed him.

Lori worked diligently editing manuals, one after another, but the pile of work on her desk never seemed to get any smaller. After a while she couldn't bring herself to look at another manuscript page and desperately wanted to quit, but she didn't have the energy to look for a new job. She had been through several completely different jobs since gradutaing from college. Her work history veered one way and then the other. Now she realized that it would veer again, although she had no idea which way.

Things weren't going particularly well with her new boyfriend Ron either. He claimed to be in love with her, but he didn't treat her as if she were special. She wasn't sure the relationship was worth her time and effort. It obviously wasn't going anywhere.

Lori talked to him about her dissatisfaction on numerous occasions and had threatened to break up, but he always promised to try harder. He usually did, but after a short time it was always back to the same old thing. He just wasn't particularly passionate, and she felt that she deserved some passion in her life.

As the train rolled through northern New Jersey, she wondered if she had screwed-up her life by breaking up with Peter. He had a bright and prosperous future. She could've married him and lived a comfortable life. He would've taken her on expensive vacations. Now she was completely broke and had no idea when she could ever afford a vacation.

She arrived in New York at 9:30, took a subway uptown, and made it to her apartment at about ten. She got undressed except for a t-shirt and underwear and spent the next hour straightening up her apartment.

As she walked out of the bathroom and into the living room at about 11:30, she noticed two fingers separating a pair of blinds on her living room window. A man was standing just outside her window peering at her through the blinds.

She backed up against a wall. She was so shocked and humiliated she couldn't make a sound. There were bars on her window, so she knew he couldn't get in. She had no idea how long he had been there. Maybe he had followed her home or had been stalking her for weeks. Maybe he was a murderer or a rapist.

His stare was boring into her, piercing her flesh and nailing her to the wall. She felt that there was nothing she could do to stop him. He was in total control, manipulating her, violating her.

Suddenly she screamed, and he ran. She called the police, and a cop showed up ten minutes later. He said that there had been several reports of Peeping Toms in the area and to call as soon as she saw him again.

She woke the next morning feeling ill and didn't go to work. She called her landlord and insisted that he install screens on her windows. That way, at least, if the son-of-a-bitch came back-and she was sure he would-he wouldn't be able to reach into the apartment and separate the blinds.

She became more worried as the days and weeks went by. She was afraid to go out at night or get undressed in her apartment. She kept her windows closed and locked despite the June heat. She looked each man that she passed on the street directly in the eyes. She was certain that she would recognize him.

Everyone she knew told her not to worry about it. There were peepers all over the city. It was a common problem. Her landlord installed screens, but she couldn't stop worrying. She might look up at any time and he would be there, staring at her. She fantasized about hiding in the bushes near her window with a gun and shooting the rotten bastard if he came back.

She frequently dreamed that he had somehow invaded her flesh and had caused her to bleed from every opening of her body. In another dream he was a vampire, slowly sucking the blood and the life from her.

A few weeks later she went to a mountain cottage with Ron and some of his friends. She was glad to get out of New York and was looking forward to a few days relaxation. She hadn't seen the peeper at her window since the first incident, but she was certain he had come back.

Lori got very drunk and very loud during their first night at the cottage. She had a high-pitched, shriek-like laugh that annoyed everyone. At one point a fit of her laughter transformed into sobs. The other couples asked her what was wrong, but she was weeping so hard she couldn't explain. Just as quickly her sobs changed into laughter, and she acted as if the crying fit had never occurred. She eventually passed out on the living room couch.

The next morning she felt awful, and she and Ron quarrelled. He said that she had humiliated him, and she accused him of being insensitive. They continued arguing until she demanded to be taken to the nearest train station.

"With pleasure," he said.

They both apologized at the train station, and she spent the rest of the weekend at the cottage, although her mood was subdued. They fought again a week later when he was late picking her up, and they broke up for the next two weeks.

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