Mea culpa. It was I, Arthur Vandelay, with an address at Manor Street, Stoneybatter, and an envelope in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, who stalked the model Glenda Gilson. It was I, a humble window cleaner, who knowingly and with malicious intent, bombarded her with nuisance phone calls, nuisance social calls and convenience foods.
Who gatecrashed glitzy film premieres waving stacks of homemade sandwiches, shouting “Wait Glenda, wait! You forgot your sangwiches!” Who heckled her in the Vagina Monologues, claiming she was actually born a man. And I who finally, when confronted by the gardai, turned my interlocutors’ very accusations back upon them, by use of the cunning mantra “I know you are, but what am I?” Yes, it was me. It was me. It was all me. You ask if I’m sorry for the distress I’ve have caused? I can only tell you what I told the courts. Sure, I regret making all those crank calls during peak hours. Who wouldn’t? Those rates are murder on a window cleaner’s salary. But given half a chance, I’d do it all again.
The truth is I’m a deeply troubled human being. I question my own sanity sometimes. I really do. I say things like “What’s goin’ on here?” and “What’s all this messin’, like?” But you don’t understand what it was like for me growing up. The country was in a very different place back then. Geographically, at any rate.
Times were harder too. My parents had to to collect tokens off of cereal boxes just to afford Christmas presents. Seemed like very year I got either a space hopper or a pogo stick. Then the economy slumped and they couldn’t even afford post and packaging anymore. Six years running I got Tony the Tiger bicycle reflectors. The other kids asked what I got from Santa Claus. I felt like such an idiot. I didn’t even own a bicycle!
It didn’t help that I had red hair either. Yeah, I heard all the taunts: Ginger Nut, Carrot Top, Period Head, Fanta Pubes… And that was just the Christian Brothers. My classmates were far, far crueler.
After school I scored a job cleaning windows. But I still carried that resentment. One day my boss, Mr Flanagan, sent me out to house in Lucan on a job. That was when I first laid eyes on Glenda Gilson. She was everything I wasn’t – young, successful and romantically involved with a famous Irish rugby player.
She was late for an appointment and frantically searching for her car keys. On a whim, I started following her around the kitchen picking up random ornaments, picture frames and pieces of cutlery, asking “Are these your keys, are these your keys?” It was exhilarating. The more irritated she became, the better I began to feel about myself. Eventually, she found her keys. But by then I’d scrawled GLENDA’S SHAGGIN’ WAGON in dust on the back of her car.
That was when I knew I’d found my life’s mission.
Mr Flanagan was very good about it. He said I could take all the time I needed. He could see that the stalking was doing wonders for my self-esteem. My very favourite trick was to call her on her mobile and repeat everything she said back to her. “Who is this?” “Who is this?” “Are you just repeating everything I say?” “Are you just repeating everything I say?” “Stop doing that!” “Stop doing that!”
That’s how they caught me in the end. The cops recorded her reciting those three sentences and played it on a loop over the phone. I stayed on the line 4 ½ hours while they traced the signal. Oldest trick in the book, really. Sentencing me the judge said “In all my years on the bench I have never… Pardon…? Excuse me…? In all my years… In all… Are you just repeating everything I say? Stop doing that… STOP DOING THAT!!”
See also: The Charles Haughey I Knew
[POSTSCRIPT: A drunk guy called Bill – hi Bill! – came up to me in Grogans talking this article. I told him he was mistaken. I said, I vaguely know who Glenda Gilson is. I vaguely remember reading something about her being stalked. But I definitely never wrote anything about it. He insisted. I said I think I would know. Turns out Bill was right. I still have no recollection of writing this. And I definitely have a different perspective on the whole stalking issue now. But some of it is kinda funny.]