Her name is Beth. Well, Bethany, but she prefers Beth. She’s never liked the name Bethany. That’s what I heard her tell that lady from marketing—I think her name is… Lori? Laura? Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I don’t know why Beth confides in that lady so much. She’s a terrible listener. You can tell that she doesn’t really get anything Beth is talking about by the glazed, faraway look in her eyes. That lady is as dumb as a box of cat litter and smells like cat pee. Not just cats, but cat pee. It’s disgusting. I can’t get anywhere near that lady without my eyes watering. But, that’s part of what makes Beth so great, you know? She’s so patient. She gives everyone a chance, even if they don’t deserve it. In this kind of world, it’s almost a flaw.
As I watch Beth make her way through the front door of her apartment, I think of how she smells. She doesn’t wear perfume. I once overheard her say on the phone how perfume makes her sick—and yet she’ll sit and talk to cat-pee lady for several minutes at a time. I smile and shake my head as I think about it. It’s hard to wrap my mind around how she can handle cat-pee lady, but she can’t handle strong perfume. But Beth… she smells like her vanilla shampoo and caramel lotion. That’s the closest thing to perfume she ever wears. And it’s enough. It’s more than enough. It drives me crazy.
If she only knew.
I get out of my car and move through the trees to my favorite spot. It’s about a block away from Beth’s apartment. Beth wouldn’t want me to be too close. She doesn’t like people getting too close. I respect that. I set down my tripod and set up my camera. Looking through it, it takes me a moment to find her. She’s in her bedroom, undressing. I look away. I want to give her privacy… but I can’t resist. I glance back through the lens for a moment—just a moment—just long enough to see that she’s wearing Wonder Woman panties. I try to suppress the thrill that runs through me while I snap a quick photo. Then I look away again, smiling though I feel a stab of guilt. I shouldn’t have done that. She’s just so cute. She’s such a nerd. But that’s the only photo like that I’ll take, the only glance of her undressed that I’ll steal. I’ll protect her, even from my desire to look more than I should. The day will come when she will want me to look. I can wait for that.
Instead, I gaze at the trees around me, breathing in the smell of water and moss from the pond nearby. This spot. It’s such a good spot. It’s perfectly hidden from prying eyes, people who would think they understand exactly what I’m doing and why… why I’m here. They don’t understand. They don’t get it. Because they don’t know Beth… not like I know Beth.
I look back into the camera. She’s in a gray tank top now, with pink flannel pajama bottoms. She walks by her full length mirror and doesn’t even bother to glance at her reflection. In fact, her brown hair is draped over her shoulder, veiling her face as if to shield her from it. She doesn’t like her reflection. She thinks her hips are too wide and her face too round. But she’s beautiful. So beautiful. One day, I’ll show her and she’ll see… she’ll see how beautiful she is.
This is why Beth needs me. She needs me. She needs me to watch over her, to protect her. She needs me to show her how beautiful she is, how this world doesn’t deserve her… because this world doesn’t deserve her. It doesn’t… and I will save her from it.
One day, she’ll know how much she needs me.
One day, she’ll want me. I’m a patient man. I can wait.
It’s okay, Beth. One day, it’ll all be okay. You’ll see.
I wrote this for my Creative Writing class at Utah State University. The challenge was to write from the perspective of someone who is the complete opposite of you, and I thought, “Stalker!” Just looking at people’s Facebook pages online makes me feel creepy. So this was fun to write.
Artwork by Judy Rioux