Saturday, June 27, 2009

An Incredible Journey, Part III

The first time they met, Stewart was playing a gig in a pub. She liked his music— or maybe she liked him— enough to invite him to play at her 40th birthday party. He accepted.

At the end of the engagement, she told him she looked forward to having him play at her 80th birthday party.

Stewart found the comment odd, but he said nothing about it.

Some weeks later, she showed up in the audience at another gig. There, she presented him with an album of pictures from her party. Little captions accompanied the photos, along with her declaration from before: She looked forward to having him at her 80th birthday party.

Stewart found the photo album odd, too. But again, he said nothing.

Nearly two years went by. During that time, he saw her in the audience at a couple of performances, but he didn’t think much about it.

Then, in 2008, he was playing a gig in Hamburg when she showed up again. This time, she said she happened to be in town for a conference on Asperger syndrome, a disorder from which her son suffered.

After the performance, she asked him out to dinner. She was married, and in any case, he wasn’t interested in her that way. But he said yes. Said yes as one person being friendly to another.

A week later, the woman asked Stewart over dinner if he would be interested in accompanying her son to school. It would be a job; the woman hoped Stewart could keep her son on track with his studies.

He said he would think about it.

Three days after that, he got a call on his cell phone. It was the woman’s husband.

You called my son an idiot in public!, the man bellowed. You blabbed it in the pub! Stay away from my son and my wife!

Stewart was shocked. He had never done any such things.

He immediately called up the woman and told her he didn’t appreciate the nasty call from her husband. He added that he wasn’t interested in accompanying her son to school anymore, and that she should leave him alone.

A couple weeks later, Stewart played a private party in a small town. On his Web site, he listed the name of the town, but not the exact address.

Just the same, the woman showed up.

She asked him to come back to her hotel. She wanted to talk. She said she had gotten him his own room.

Stewart declined. He said that he wasn’t attracted to her, and in any case, since she was married, he wouldn’t do such a thing.

She pleaded with him— begged him— to come. Made a scene in front of everyone at the party. Eventually, he relented.

At the hotel, they sat in her room, talking. Talked about her life; her marriage, her son, her depression.

Stewart finally asked for his room key. The woman confessed that she hadn’t gotten him a room. Instead, they stayed in her room all night— again just talking.

A few days later, Stewart flew to the Dominican Republic. His cousin was getting married, and he was to play at the wedding.

After five days on the island, he visited the U.S. before returning to Germany. When he arrived in New Jersey, he turned on his cell phone to find his voice mail full and his phone filled with text messages. All of the messages were from the woman.

Stewart deleted them all.

He called the woman to tell her that he didn’t want to hear from her again. That if he did, he would call the police.

A minute later, he received another text message: “Stewart, I will kill you.”

Meanwhile, back in Germany, the woman had gotten off a plane from a trip of her own. An unusual entourage awaited her at the gangway: Her husband, mother, and father, and two police officers.

When she arrived, the officers took a look at her. Deciding she was okay, they then left.

Once they had walked around the corner, the woman swung at her 80-year-old mother. Her father intervened in time to prevent the blow.

When Stewart himself returned to Germany, he immediately headed to the airport police to file a complaint. When he explained the situation to an officer, the man laughed at him. You? Afraid of a woman?, he chortled.

The next few months went downhill from there.

The first lawyer Stewart consulted laughed at him, too. He tried another lawyer, but that one wouldn’t take the case, so he moved on to a third.

During that time, Stewart learned things, too. He learned that when the woman coincidentally showed up at the pub he was playing during the Asperger conference, it was no coincidence. She had tracked him down through the performance schedule on his Web site. She hadn’t come from a conference, either; she was staying at a pain clinic for supposed back pain (no doctor ever found anything wrong with her back) and took a 150-dollar taxi ride from there to the pub.

Stewart learned that the woman found his private party in that small town by, again, consulting his Web site, but this time— lacking an address— she combed the area until she heard live music.

Stewart also learned that, completely unbeknownst to him at the time, the woman had followed him to the Dominican Republic. After taking a 15-hour flight, she searched for him all over the island country. She went so far as to plaster in hotels “wanted” posters with a picture of him from her 40th birthday party.

When that didn’t work, she told the authorities that Stewart had stolen her purse. She said he was a drug courier. Told the police she wanted to ride with them so that she could be there while they performed a cavity search on him.

The police waiting for her at the airport in Germany? After a trip of her own? The trip was to the Dominican Republic, and it was the woman’s mother who summoned the police. By then, she knew of her daughter’s threat to kill him, and she wanted to press charges. She wanted Stewart to press charges, too.

Which he did.

His court date was set for October. In the weeks leading up to it, the woman’s husband called Stewart often, taunting him by saying, She means what she says! She says she wants to kill you; you better look out! You better stay away!

In the end, he did stay away— from the courtroom. While his lawyer showed up, Stewart didn’t want to give the woman the time of day, didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of seeing him. His lawyer told the judge simply that Stewart was working then.

It turned out to be a strategic error. German law holds that when you file for a restraining order and don’t show up in court, you get a restraining order placed against you, too.

And so, from that day on, not only could the woman not go near him, but he also couldn’t go near her.

Not that that bothered him.

This past January, 17 years after flying to Germany for a four-month European vacation, Stewart returned to make his life once again in the U.S.

He left because of the woman, yes; of course. But it wasn’t just the woman. It was women— the lack of romance in his life in Germany. It was the physical sickness he had come to feel there. It was for a real estate venture back here that had gone sour when a worsening economy made for more tenants not paying rent. (He wanted to be here with his partner to unload the property.)

There is, unfortunately, one thing for which Stewart did not come back: His dad.

He passed away in 1994.

It can not be said here exactly where Stewart is living now— just as his last name can not be revealed— since that woman is still living freely in Germany. Suffice it to say that he got himself an apartment and continues to make new friends. Continues to date, too, hoping to find that special woman for more than friendship.

These days, Stuart shuttles back and forth between the U.S. and Germany, where he now only plays private parties, so that his whereabouts aren’t publicized. Oh, and he got a job teaching music here in the U.S., too.

A funny thing about how he got the teaching job: While touring the school where he was interviewing, he happened to cross paths with two teachers. “Stu!” they cried out when they spotted him.

The two women were former students of his at Banner Day Camp in Lake Forest.

Upon their recommendation, Stewart was hired on the spot.

There’s a line in “Forest Gump” that Stewart, now 49, thinks back to. “I don’t know if we each have a destiny,” says Gump, “or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both.”

Stewart thinks so, too.

No comments: