He was standing outside the arena as they pulled up, a little man with bad hair.
“That’s him,” Janis Trevor said, pointing out the car window. “I phoned Dad in Ottawa. He says legally they can bar him from coming inside, but they can’t keep him off the public sidewalk.”
“Unimpressive specimen,” Dieter said. “A troll, I think, degraded from more mythic times. Or Rumplestiltskin, something like that. These creatures still exist, you know. They’ve just gone to live in basement flats.”
Janis smiled at the self-referential pair of plush dice hanging from Dieter’s rear-view mirror. Dieter taught cultural studies at the university, while she was a film school drop-out. That’s probably what made her approach to life more ground-level. Concrete—or maybe just cold. Janis played hockey, signing up, winter and summer, for the women’s house league at her local arena.
“He follows us to the pub after the game,” she said. “The manager won’t ban him. All he does is sit and watch, and the manager says that if they started banning men who watched women, they’d go out of business.”
You’d all leave, he said.
The manager was right. Janis and her friends courted attention, shouting over the piped-in music, hooting at the wrestling broadcasts on overhead screens, letting out absent-minded cheers when the Toronto Maple Leafs scored on TV—although it was really their own games that thrilled them. They bitched every week about missing passes, about cheap goals and the Singing Ref, who hummed non-stop as he skated. They shared insights into their jobs, men and hair colour, meanwhile passing around newspaper clippings about other women in the league: the immunologist who made a discovery no one understood, even after reading the article twice; the goalie who was sent down for assaulting a security guard; the former winger (broken tailbone) who’d attended a celebrity wedding.
“We don’t feel particularly safe leaving the pub alone any more,” she told Dieter. “We usually leave in pairs.”
“I think maybe this we that doesn’t feel safe is a collective reaction,” he replied. “I think you aren’t bothered at all.”
It was true. Janis felt she could take on most men, with her height and strength, and the stalker looked pocket-sized and lonely outside the arena. As she wrestled her equipment out of Dieter’s car, the little man stood in no particular place with his head hung down. Yet as she strode past him, the man looked up and caught her glance, and Janis was startled at first by the hunger in his dog-brown eyes, and scared by the need, his self-pity.
Later, she wondered if this was the moment he chose her: her window to gawk up at, her steps to hound, her life to dishevel, her fear to exploit and intensify; the moment when everything changed and nothing changed, since she wouldn’t let him alter her behaviour, despite what the police advised. Vary your routines, they told her, and Janis refused, meaning that changes that she would probably would have made didn’t happen. Life froze. She was frozen.
Even hockey players didn’t want that.