The Wolfman

I was a Sophmore in college in 1994, when I met Eric. Being the outgoing person he was, he had been making the rounds in Engelhardt Hall, where we both lived at the time, to say hi to people he hadn't met yet. He knew my roommate Jean because they had gone to high school together. I remember he had a warm and pleasant smile, and was very charming. He seemed to strive to make others laugh. He reminded me a little bit of Robin Williams, not just because he was funny but also because of his hairy and somewhat muscular arms. I watched him curiously as he drew a funny looking Freddy Kruger on the message board in my room. What was even funnier to me was he spent a great deal of time on it, as if what he was doing was the most important thing in the world at that moment. As he put the marker down, stood a few feet away to admire his work, and left, I thought to myself that he was someone I'd like to get to know.

I can't remember much about our first few conversations, but I remember he was easy to talk to, and also very homesick. He was a Freshman, and I could relate to how he was feeling because I was homesick too during my Freshman year and almost withdrew from school after being away from home for just a few weeks. He was not only homesick for his family, but he missed his girlfriend Amy very much, as she was attending a college in New York. That was something I could relate too as well, because I had been dating someone very seriously when I first went to college, and we had been in different states and attending different colleges too. So I shared my experiences with him, and gave him advice. Relating to each other was very comforting, and neither one of us felt so alone anymore.

Eric seemed to be the only person awake in the dorm at the same time I was. We would both wander into the common area of the dorm, and watch movies, and have snacks together. It wasn't very long until conversations got deeply personal, and leaning on each other turned into cuddling. Eric was the first person I ever really talked to about being raped when I was thirteen. He was such an attentive listener, and seemed to care so much, that it was fairly easy to tell him about it. I remember he cried with me, and he hardly knew me. I don't know exactly what prompted him to react this way, but I remember him stopping me in mid conversation to say very seriously and regretfully, "You know, we can only be friends. I'm in love with someone else." What he said took me by surprise, and I think I looked at him like he was crazy. I asked him why he was talking that way, and he only replied, "You know why." I remember leaving the common area that night very confused, and having no idea why I was sad all of a sudden. As I sat at the desk in my room, thinking about the time we had spent with each other, how I felt when I was with him, and the conversations we had so far, I realized what was happening. It was a little forthcoming on his part, but I was starting to have romantic feelings about him. I was trying not to show it, but he must have sensed it.

After that night, he seemed to hold back in conversation. He seemed to try to not let them get too personal. But since he was as lonely as I was, it was difficult for him, and it wasn't long before our usual conversation style resumed. He seemed more sad in our conversations though, and would frequently become lost in thought as if grappling with a difficult problem that he wasn't letting me know about. He would seem to want to be close physically, but would quickly back away. One night I shared a song with him that reminded me about what was happening. The song was called "China" by Tori Amos. The chorus of the song was "Sometimes, I think you want me to touch you. But how can I, when you build The Great Wall around you? In your eyes, I saw a future together. But you just look away in the distance." He listened attentively to the lyrics, and after the song was over he began to get defensive. He denied that he had any romantic interest in me, and that he was very much in love with his girlfriend even though their relationship was strained because of the long distance between them. He seemed to be trying to convince himself, and held me very tight, as he spoke with agony in his voice. It was never my intention to make Eric break up with his girlfriend. I never thought of myself as the type of person who would "steal" someone away. But I wanted him to at least confront what he was feeling and deal with it, because I saw how much he was hurting. Whatever his decision was about how to handle it, it was his choice. I told him that I was very fond of him, and would gladly take our relationship to the next level if and when he was ready.

Eric and I got together one night to watch a movie in my room. He knew I had done a research paper on W.W. Denslow, the illustrator for the Wizard of Oz books, so he brought over a movie about L. Frank Baum's life starring John Ritter. It was a three hour movie, but we snuggled closely on a blanket on the floor, as he ran his fingers through my hair and nuzzled me. When the movie was over, Eric shut off the TV, which made the room dark save for the moonlight from the open window. It was then that Eric first kissed me, gently and eagerly. As we cuddled up close to each other looking at the moon, we started hearing an argument outside. A couple was arguing very loudly, we were sure the whole quad could hear them. The woman was obviously in love with the man, who didn't return her affections. She sounded very hurt and was crying. I could feel the woman's pain, because I had been in a similar situation only months before. Eric looked at me knowingly, since I had often told him about my love for Shawn (see this story), and that I thought he would never feel the same way about me. He knew I had tried very hard to move on from it, even though Shawn and I were still friends. Eric knew I was carrying a lot of regret and pain. Eric comforted me, and tears streamed down my face as I listened to the argument outside. We fell asleep in each other's arms. During the night, he had left my room, and when I awoke in the middle of the night to find he wasn't beside me, I felt sad.

I returned to sleep, but it was very restless, and I had bizarre dreams of Eric. Among the dreams was him scratching at my door, and being outside of it not being able to decide whether to come in. I felt his agony, and his battle with himself about what to do.

When I awoke the next morning, I found a note from Eric that had been slipped under my door. It was heavily and ridiculously taped on all sides. There was a warning in bold on the front fold which read:

"WARNING: Not to be read until you are done thinking for the day (i.e. AFTER your two exams!!!!). By the way...good luck on your exams!"

I wanted to obey his warning, but I couldn't stop thinking of the note, and what it may contain. I would pick it up and examine every letter, and put it down. Then stare at it some more. I was dying of curiosity. If you ever want to get someone to do something, tell them NOT to do it, and see what happens.

I decided to read the note, because, I reasoned, that EITHER way, I would not be able to concentrate just because the note existed. I felt that MAYBE it would be easier to concentrate if I did open the note. Especially if I opened only to find a discount coupon for Domino's pizza. Then I would have been curious for no reason. After some gentle surgery, I was able to free the note of its surrounding adhesive. I read the following in tiny doctor-like handwriting, with trembling hands:

Dear Carrie,
I cannot sleep.
I long to feast.
I hunger for your bounty.
I savor your embrace.

Not long before the
Next setting of the sun,

and I
could be
as one.

My heart paces fast
When I think of what
could be;
I lie awake - Excited!
I want you - Feverishly!

These violent thoughts possess me now...
To ravish each other LOUDLY and through the dawn.
I never thought I'd hear me say these words;
"Let's thrash upon the hay!" And when my roommate is away...
Can you trust me? Will you stay?
You shouldn't. You mustn't. I hope you will anyway.

You drive me crazy
Like a fox...
More like the Wolf
That hungers at night by your door.
I crave you.
- Wolfman.

The note definitely didn't contain a discount coupon. I carefully folded it, then carefully unfolded it and read it again. The note was painstakingly written. He was no Lord Byron, but the note quickly became an addiction. Instead of studying, I found myself analyzing every stroke of his pen and every fold in the paper. I had never received anything like it, and the passion of it startled me. What would I say to Eric the next time I saw him? I had no idea. But I doubted our interactions would ever be the same again.

That night I wandered up to Eric's room on the third floor. I knocked, and opened the door. There was music playing softly on his stereo, an Eagles CD, but no one in the room. I waited for him on his bed and he walked in, in his robe and sandals carrying his toiletries from the shower. He acknowledged my existance with a nod, but continued with his evening ritual. I watched him intently and held back some giggles as I noticed he was quite anal about his preparation. I watched him walk in and out of his room, to floss, brush his teeth, etc. He offered me cereal, Apple Jacks to be exact, and I eagerly awaited as he first put the plastic bowl in my hands, poured the cereal, got out the milk and poured it carefully on top of the cereal, and gave me a plastic spoon. I wondered if he would next give me two Flinstones chewable vitamins, but he didn't. All of this was done in silence, and I was actually enjoying the childlike courtship. I remember feeling very cared for, as he played with my hair while I ate the cereal. When the bowl was empty he set it down on his dresser beside the bed, and gently leaned me back on the bed. We slowly undressed each other. His touch was very exploratory and curious, and he seemed to want to get to know every part of me. I tried not to remember that he was a virgin, because it made me nervous that I wouldn't live up to his expectations. I watched him fumble and struggle with what to do next. Gently, I positioned him beside me, lying on his back. His exploratory touching was returned by me gently touching every part of his body. I untied my hair and took matters into my own hands as I decided to be on top. I didn't want him to feel any pressure to perform his first time, so I did most of the work. The feeling intensified quickly for him and his first time didn't last long. His moans turned into gentle laughter, as we rolled over and fell off the bed. We playfully made love over and over again, and in between sessions massaged each other's feet and back and whatever else we could get our hands on. Before we knew it, it was four o'clock the next evening, and we were famished.

Eric and I decided to go out for a rather large dinner at a Chinese restaurant, as we both felt like we hadn't eaten in days. We both got dressed in our rooms and met up in his room to go to the restaurant. The restaurant was called the "Dynasty", and the food wasn't spectacular, but it was in walking distance. I hadn't bothered to put on any makeup, my face was flushed and Eric frequently remarked that I was glowing. As my eyes wandered around the room of the restaurant, I met Shawn's eyes. He was at a table with his family not too far from us. I instantly felt embarrassed, like I was cheating on someone and got caught. But I reminded myself that Shawn most likely didn't care what the hell I was doing with Eric, since he had made it painfully clear we were just friends. Shawn walked over to our table to say hi to Eric - they had gone to high school together. Shawn kept looking at me with a smile, and when he said goodbye, disappeared into the mensroom. Just before opening the door, he smiled, and winked at me. After all I had done with Eric the night before and the whole day that day, I found myself thinking of Shawn looking very handsome dressed up and wearing a tie. The old familiar feelings toward Shawn started coming back to me. Eric caught me lost in thought and staring at the door to the mensroom. He didn't appear jealous at all, and smiled, seeming to acknowledge that what I was thinking was ok.

A few nights later, Eric said he wanted to talk to me in the study lounge. No one else was in the lounge, because it was extremely late. He told me that he had been thinking about how he felt about me, and thought I would like to know what his conclusion was. He told me he realized he loved me. I felt very happy to hear that, since I had been hoping that was how he felt. I told him I loved him too. Even though Shawn was always on my mind, Eric made me forget how hurt I was. Eric was the one who was there for me at that time, and I had begun to allow myself to love him. I had no reason to doubt his feelings - we had spent a lot of time with each other, and our first time together was very wonderful and romantic.

Just before Thanksgiving, Eric began getting nervous about going home. He told me that his girlfriend Amy would be coming to visit him and would be staying with him and his family. It was hard to be jealous, I knew that breaking up with someone wasn't easy for either party. I had been there. He usually asked me for advice when he had a problem, but this one he kept to himself. He knew he had to deal with it himself, and tell Amy that he met someone he was fond of, and was no longer a virgin. When I went back home for the holiday, I worried about Eric, and hoped that the breakup was as painless as it could possibly be.

After the short Thanksgiving vacation, Eric told me that Amy was very upset with him at first, but because she was so wonderful, she understood, forgave him, and they would still be very good friends. He seemed amazed that she was so easy going, and thought he didn't deserve her because she was so wonderful. As he was talking about her, his face lit up. He was obviously still enamored with her. All of a sudden, there was a feeling of wrongness in our relationship. I no longer felt that what he told me in the study lounge was authentic. Even as I felt the familiar sadness come over me, I listened to Eric intently as he seemed to talk forever about Amy.

One night Eric borrowed his father's car and picked me up at the dorm. We had never gone anywhere that required a vehicle, and it was well after midnight, so this seemed a little odd to me. He said that he was taking me to his parent's house in Durham, but the reason was unclear. When we got to the house, no lights were on, and Eric said that his parents and younger brother were probably asleep so it was "safe" to go in. We fumbled a little in the dark, and despite this Eric didn't want to turn on any lights. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see that Eric's family had a beautiful home. His father was the owner of a large hardware chain so he made a good living and obviously provided for his family very well. From what Eric told me about his family, they didn't express their feelings very well though and Eric spent a lot of time in therapy. I had no idea why I was in Eric's living room in the pitch darkness, but he seemed to need me for some sort of validation....of what, I didn't know. It was difficult not to trip, apparently his family was incredibly neat, and his mother had a few large air purifiers in almost every room. The place reminded me of a museum, and Eric kept telling me we couldn't touch anything....not that I had any desire to. Despite the rather large pet bunny Eric seemed very fond of, the house seemed very cold. I don't mean cold in temperature, cold as in not a warm welcoming home. I found myself wanting to escape, and I had the feeling Eric did too. So we left. On the way back to our dorm, I struggled with what to say. "Thank you" didn't seem appropriate, as I wasn't sure of the purpose of him taking me there. I didn't feel like I belonged in the garage, nevermind inside their home. Something about it just made me feel uncomfortable. I never met Eric's parents formerly, but the few very brief times I met them, I was not introduced as a girlfriend. I could tell by the look on their faces, that they would be relieved to hear I was anything but that.

A few nights later, Eric said that he needed to talk to me about something important. He said that he was ashamed to admit it, but that he realized what he felt for me was not love and that he didn't want to continue our relationship. I was more angry at myself for believing him in the first place, but I got very upset with him. In the midst of my anger, Eric became something else. All of a sudden, he was my scapegoat. I pounded on his chest with my fists, screaming "Why?!" and "Why would you do this to me?!". Eric made no effort to back away from me, and allowed himself to be punched. He never said a word - he just let me scream and yell, and use him to release all my anger. He knew I wasn't just letting out my feelings for him, but every man who ever broke up with me. Every man who had ever hurt me, or told me he didn't love me. As I broke down and cried, Eric held me. I apologized for punching him several times, and he assured me he was unscathed. When my tears started to stop, he said he had to leave. He left me lying on the floor of my room, hurt and scared. The saddest part of Eric's confession for me was that he kept saying the note he had slipped under my door was never meant to be read, and he wished I had never read it.

Eric and I managed to continue our friendship, but we found ourselves ending up cuddling, or more. Because he acted the same way he always did with me, I thought that maybe if I gave him time and was patient, he would eventually love me. He knew that I was hoping for this, and decided he needed to banish any hope I had. I still remember the words that will haunt me for the rest of my life: "I will NEVER love you, I COULD NEVER love someone like you." Like a push over, I was drawn into his arms over and over again, hopeful and then hopeless. Over time, I realized that Eric was ashamed of me. I was not someone that fit the profile of who he wanted to date and who he would fall in love with. I was his dirty little secret, and someone to keep "on hand" to fill his needs. Some kind of a servant. Like every woman does when they are in love with someone who is just out of reach, I believed that he could change if given time. There were times when he looked at me, and I could swear it was with love. But I was fooling myself.

One night, Eric insisted on talking to me in the study lounge. The way he was talking was very strange and scared me - he would express affection and tell me how much he cared about me, and would alternate with expressions of disdain and even hate. The psychological abuse hurt me. He warned me not to turn the lights on, and said that he was afraid that if he saw me he might hurt me, and he didn't want to. I disregarded his warning, and flipped the switch. The look of anger and hate on Eric's face so frightening, I turned the lights off. I only saw his face for an instant, but that instant will stay with me for the rest of my life. Seconds later, the door to the study lounge flew open, and two men wearing black, with masks on and carrying guns, ran into the room. They pointed their guns at us and one of them yelled "We're going to f***ing kill you!" Eric grabbed me and shielded me with his body. One of the men took their mask off and turned on the lights. Both of the men burst into laughter, it was a practical joke, courtesy of the fraternity behind the dorm. I don't think I had ever been so scared in my life, and didn't find the joke very funny. Eric yelled at them and told them to get out of the room. We were both shaking, and could hardly believe what just happened. I thanked him for protecting me, even though the situation wasn't real. It certainly felt real. He told me that his last thought was that he just wanted to die. I told him my last thought was that I never told Shawn how much I loved him. We held each other, wrapped up in each other's pain. As unpleasant as the joke was, I had the strange feeling that it happened in the nick of time. If it didn't, I shudder to think what would have happened that night. When you suddenly see hate in the eyes of someone you love, its very scary. It far surpassed any nightmare I had ever had. The only experience more painful was when I was raped....but at least I was unconscious for most of that.

Eric and I mutually agreed that an actual romantic relationship was just never going to happen. But that didn't stop us from relying on each other for comfort and pleasure. For two years.

In October of 1996, Eric started spending a lot of time with his friend Seth. I knew Seth because he lived in the same dorm at one time, and he was very funny and kind. He saw what was going on between Eric and I - a non-relationship pretending to be one. He would frequently ask me how I was doing, and if everything was ok. He told me that if I ever needed anyone to talk to, that he wasn't far away. Seth saw the way Eric used me for his own benefit, and didn't like it, but didn't feel it was his place to say anything. I took Seth up on his offer one night, and confided in him. He seemed disappointed in Eric, and worried about me. Seth was a Fundamentalist Christian, and he talked to me about God, and how Jesus loves us and protects us. He would read passages from the Bible and talk to me about them. Seth knew I was the least interested person in the dorm in Biblical matters, but even still - I found his words comforting. He wasn't the preaching kind who would force his beliefs down my throat - he just truly believed in Jesus' teachings and tried to teach me that the Bible was a healing tool. Seth would hold my hand, and tell me everything would be ok. It wasn't very long before he asked me out on a date. He was a very thoughful person, and we got a long easily. Thanks to Seth I was able to remove myself from the situation with Eric, slowly but surely. Eric and I remained cordial with each other though, and still considered each other friends.

Eric knocked on my door one night, and when I opened the door, he asked me if I would take a walk with him. I had already said "sure" before I realized what he was wearing. My eyes slowly moved downward and noticed the ridiculous outfit....a crocheted blanket thrown across one shoulder and around his waist (like a toga), and belted around his waist. Attached to the belt were various items including a measuring tape, a tennis racket, a nerf ball, and a flashlight. I'm sure there was more, and I'm just not remembering. Normally, someone would be shocked about this, but for some reason it didn't surprise me at all. I thought to myself that I must have finally made the poor man crazy. We proceeded to walk on the sidewalk of Main St. in Durham. I was hoping for a short walk, but instead we walked far up the road to the Whittemore Center arena. Eric was talking all the way there, but he wasn't making a great deal of sense to me. He sounded like a Science teacher, or someone on the PBS station, discussing some great scientific theory with a great deal of excitement. I tried to listen, but honestly, he was losing me. We walked around the arena until he decided on an area where we could talk, which was a landing on a somewhat secluded staircase. Dispersed among the scientific terms and methodology I realized he was also talking about love. Was he trying to explain some theory involving us? Why we felt so drawn together but were not meant to be in love? I could only assume it was something to that effect. All the props he brought were used, but the meaning of the whole experience escaped me. It was something that unfortunately only made sense to him.

Seth and I were coming back from a date one night when I saw Eric's door open. He was inside the room, and there was a woman crouched down at eye level with his waist, and she was in a short nightgown. From where I was standing, it looked like she was giving him head. Immediately I felt angry, and worried for the unsuspecting, innocent looking woman. I didn't want Eric to treat someone else the same way he treated me. Seth saw the anger in my eyes, but gently and quickly escorted me back to my room. As I talked to him, he understood why I was upset, and told me I should confront Eric at another time. But I didn't see the point of waiting, and in front of the woman he was with may actually be a good idea since she should know what kind of person he could be. I ran out of my room, and slammed the door, as Seth tried to run after me. I got to Eric's room and without much thought into what I was going to say - I yelled that I did not want him to hurt anyone else, and that I would not let him. The woman he was with, who was his upstairs neighbor, seemed surprised. I can't even remember exactly what I said next, but I was on a rampage for several minutes as Seth watched me in awe, and Eric bowed his head in shame. I ran back to my room and Seth asked me how I was feeling. My tense body completely relaxed as I let out a huge sigh of relief. Seth said he was proud of me for saying what I felt, and we held each other as my anger turned into laughter and then tears.

The next day, Eric came to my room to talk. He confessed to me that he had been dating the woman I saw him with for months, which included some time he and I were intimate with each other. He told me about how wonderful she was, that they had an open and honest relationship, and she was the kind of woman he always pictured himself with. He gave me a choice - that we could try to remain friends without the "benefits", or we could never see each other again. I cried as I grappled with what to do. I remember him asking me, "What can I do to give you back your heart so we can both move on?" I didn't know. I was hurt in so many ways, I didn't know where to begin to start healing. I told him that we shouldn't see each other again. He said that he would always care about me, and he hoped that I would find love - with Seth, or someone else. He wished great things for me, and told me to take care.

When my relationship with Seth was collapsing, and Shawn came back into my life again, it was Eric who surprisingly supported me. I remember him telling me he knew I had always loved Shawn, and despite still being with Seth, I should "go for it" and take a chance with Shawn. I knew that's what I wanted to do, but was struggling with whether it was right to let Seth down. Even though my relationship with Shawn ended in disaster and more pain, I would have regretted it even more if I hadn't tried. Eric helped me in a small way, to realize that.

Eric has since married his upstairs neighbor in Engelhardt Hall, the woman he was dating at the end of my Senior year. They are very happy, and have recently had their first child.

Copyright © Carrie Batcheller, 2024, All rights reserved.