At thirty-two years old, Lynn Gallagher is one of the five most influential contemporary-art gallery owners in Manhattan. Too bad her face is dead. Not so, says Lynn’s assistant, but that is how it feels when she compares it to her stalker’s face. Alan Morton may be a plump, goofy-looking accountant, but his face glows with life when he peers at Lynn through her gallery window. The difference is that Alan wants something—her—very badly, while Lynn wants nothing at all.
So she decides to stalk.
The object of her obsession—French attorney Roland Dupont—is chosen at random in a Chelsea bakery. He is attractive, but it is not until he expresses his disinterest in her that Lynn begins to truly desire him. Alan, jealous of Lynn’s newfound hobby, befriends Roland to find out what she sees in him. When Roland learns that he acquired his stalker by happenstance, he decides that he might be interested in Lynn after all. Soon all three are brazenly pursuing each other across the city—from adult education classes in the art of beading to meetings of Stalker’s Anonymous—as they try to figure out what it is that they truly want. The advice of Ray, the homeless psychologist who observes their madcap comings and goings, is not much help at all: “Take a break, an antidepressant. Get hold of yourselves.”
A hip and darkly humorous novel about the mysteries of romance, Love Creeps is pure Amanda Filipacchi—funny, wicked, and wise.
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By Amanda Filipacchi
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2005 Amanda Filipacchi
All rights reserved.
Lynn stalked. She had taken up stalking for health reasons, but it was not paying off as handsomely as she had hoped. Lynn was not in poor physical health, but she was in rather poor mental health.
At the age of thirty-two, she had suddenly found herself wanting nothing. Lynn had never before wanted nothing, and she missed wanting. No one around her wanted nothing. She became envious of everyone who wanted. She wasn't impressed so much by what, specifically, each wanted, but rather by how much. That is why she became especially envious of her stalker, who wanted her very badly.
He clearly did not suffer from the same mental health problem Lynn had. If anything, he had the opposite problem. But since Lynn, like most people, foolishly believed that any problem opposite her own is a lucky problem, she envied him. And because she envied him, she copied him.
Alan Morton, Lynn's stalker, had first noticed Lynn at the gym. He enjoyed sitting at the weight machine opposite hers, staring at her. He was allowed. There was not a club rule that said, "Do not sit at the weight machine opposite the one at which women open and close their legs. Do not sit there and look at them." He intended to exercise his rights, as well as his body, which weakened every time she opened her legs.
He was a plump man, but one day he planted himself before her and began turning in place. "Excuse me," he said, "could you please tell me if I have any muscles I could tone further for your pleasure?"
To show her he had not meant anything offensive by this—he was sensitive enough to notice the subtle expression of aversion on her face—he added, "I'd be happy to return the favor. For instance, I don't mind telling you that I feel you're wasting your time toning those arm muscles. You should be toning your stomach muscles instead, which don't get much of a workout from everyday activities like shopping and carrying groceries."
She was staring at him blankly, as if in a trance. This was an improvement, he thought. Vacancy was better than aversion. He would take advantage of her receptive state. "I know all this, because I had a personal trainer for three sessions. I don't know if you've ever had one."
She made no reply.
"I don't mind passing on some of his pointers. For free," he added, raising his eyebrows.
"No thanks, I'm fine," she said.
"Well, I certainly won't argue with that!"
She must have been done with her workout, he assumed, because she went to the women's locker room. Alan went to the men's locker room and changed. He followed her out of the gym, at a distance. He saw her enter a gallery a few blocks away.
Two weeks later, standing in her art gallery, her assistant, Patricia, by her side, Lynn pointed to her stalker on the sidewalk. He was peering in at her, his forehead pressed against her gallery window, his hands cupped around his eyes.
"Patricia," Lynn said, "am I going crazy, or is there not an alarming difference between his face and mine?"
"There is quite a big difference. But it's in your favor, and you should be grateful for it."
"No, I'm serious, Patricia. His face glows, it's alive. My face is dead."
"I would not say your face is dead." After a pause, Patricia added, "Speaking of dead, he's been stalking you for two weeks now. Why aren't we more scared?"
"He doesn't make it easy. He's so goofy looking."
Alan was not a man of great stature. He was only about an inch taller than Lynn, who was five-six. He was not a slim man, nor muscular. But he had blue eyes and blond hair, the thought of which cheered him up when he was feeling insecure about his appearance. He did not have a full head of blond hair, but the few strands he did have were absolutely, incontrovertibly, blond. He tended to dress in black or dark colors because he'd heard they were slimming and secretly believed they were cool.
"But at least his face is alive," Lynn said. "I really think my face looks dead."
"Men don't like women with dead-looking faces. Yet you have lots of guys after you. Therefore, your face cannot be looking dead," Patricia said, studying Lynn. Lynn often wore panty hose and cream-colored things and taupe things. She was the kind of woman referred to as "elegant" or "classic" by people who weren't on the cutting edge of fashion. She sometimes even wore her dark blond hair in a ballerina bun. To be that conservative looking was quite daring, Patricia thought. Lynn was sleek and hairless, except in appropriate places. What Patricia didn't know was that one of Lynn's great pleasures in life was getting rid of her undesirable hair. She wasn't a particularly hairy creature to begin with, and she wouldn't have minded having a larger quantity of undesirable hair, just for the pleasure of getting rid of it.
"There's no one I'm attracted to," Lynn said.
"Art that used to stimulate me no longer does. Where do I have to go to find beautiful art and a beautiful man?"
"I've seen many, and none of them was ever beautiful, and neither was the art on their walls."
Lynn Gallagher, one of the five most influential contemporary-art gallery owners in New York, had had a relatively normal dating life. Her longest romantic relationship had been a year, her shortest a night. Her longest period of celibacy had been six months; her shortest time between two men had been two hours. That only happened once.
For Lynn, relationships and singlehood both had their pros and cons, but she, unlike many women, only slightly preferred the former to the latter.
Lynn watched Patricia spit a thoroughly chewed piece of persimmon into a paper napkin and drop it in the wastebasket. She wasn't a bad-looking girl, with her long dark hair. She held a striking resemblance to Frida Kahlo. Her eyebrows were thick, giving her otherwise beautiful face a slightly cavewoman look. Had she known, she would have plucked them more. Lynn was sure of it. Lynn, who was never without her own tweezers except when they were confiscated by airport security, often had an urge to pluck Patricia's eyebrows because she found them distracting. When Patricia spoke to her, Lynn usually averted her eyes in order to be able to concentrate on what Patricia was saying.
"Shall we look at slides?" Patricia asked.
"If we must," Lynn replied.
Searching for new talent used to be the best part of Lynn's job. Now, it was an ordeal.
She heaved herself up and went to the light box. Patricia opened envelopes, pulled out slide sheets and transparencies. She held them in front of Lynn, one after the other, as Lynn shook her head and said, "No." While the minutes passed and the images kept passing in front of her without provoking the slightest twitch of enthusiasm, Lynn became progressively sadder. These sessions were a lot shorter than they used to be.
The gallery door opened, and in came Judy, a slightly less successful gallerist who had been Lynn's friend and competitor for six months. Lynn switched off the light box and spun around. She preferred not to be caught looking at art in vain.
"Hi. I'm on my way to a meeting, but I just wanted to say hello. How are you?" Judy asked, kissing Lynn's cheeks.
Judy looked at the empty walls. "Yes, I see." She sat on the edge of Lynn's desk, her short, red, pleated skirt hanging from her knee in an arc. She always dressed entirely in red after having decided four years ago that creating a memorable and consistent look greatly increased one's chances of succeeding in life. "You know, there is a simple solution to your problem."
"What is it?"
"I highly recommend it," Judy said. "One of my greatest pleasures is promising myself I will not drink, or smoke, or take coke, or do heroin, or eat cookies, then doing it. It's a pleasure that can be repeated daily. The desire renews itself incessantly, and you can always rely on it unless you screw it up by going to rehab or something. But even then, the damage is not irreversible. The key, though, is making the resolution, making yourself think that you will be deprived, and indeed depriving yourself for a couple of hours to allow the desire to build up, then, suddenly, caving in. I bet heaven is caving in."
"You're dangerous," Lynn said. "Your weapon is logic."
"Thanks, but it's really just common sense. And I'm not dangerous. I mean, you know I'm not a huge junkie. Just a little hooked on coke, a little on alcohol, a little on heroin; just enough to have that interesting tension in my life between wanting and satisfying."
Judy's attention was distracted by Alan. "Who's that man? He's been standing there peeking in this whole time."
"I don't know, some creep, just ignore him," Lynn said.
Judy obeyed. "So anyway, as I was saying, my addictions are all under control. And yours can be, too, as long as you remember to maintain that all-important balance between deprivation and allowance, needing and fulfilling."
"I'll remember that, but I'm just not sure addiction is what I need at the moment."
"Fine. It's always something you can fall back on if you find nothing better. Let me ask you this: Have you really, really searched? Is there nothing at all that you desire?"
"I desire to desire, but I don't think that counts as a desire."
"I think it counts," Judy replied, to be nice, even though she didn't really think it did count.
Lynn shrugged. "So, you don't have any other ideas, along the same lines, only more ... humdrum?"
"How about antidepressants?"
"I don't want to resort to those. They don't seem right for my problem. I mean, I used to feel desire. There's no reason I can't recapture it."
"Do you know why you lost it? Have you thought about it?"
"Of course I've thought about it! Haven't we thought about it?" Lynn said, turning to Patricia.
"Yes," Patricia said, "we've discussed and analyzed and dissected it for hours. We couldn't come up with a cause."
"Desire for what, exactly, did you lose?" Judy asked Lynn.
"All sorts of things. Various men. Travel. Discovering new artists, launching their careers, seeing my efforts pay off. Shopping. Acquiring things, beautiful clothes. I used to look forward to the ballet season, to certain parties, to hearing updates on my friends' lives. I used to feel really passionate about all these things. And I got a lot of pleasure out of wanting them. I miss yearning strongly for something. I used to be like him," she said, motioning toward her peeping stalker, then adding, "Inwardly."
Judy nodded. "You're suffering from anhedonia."
"I'm not so sure about that. I still derive as much pleasure as ever from all sorts of things, like the smell of a rose, the company of a good friend, the feel of a beautiful day." Plucking, Lynn added, in her thoughts. "And I still have strong emotions, I experience happiness and sadness. I've just lost the great hunger. I crave the hunger. I don't even feel ambitious like I used to feel. And a sort of nausea washes over me at unexpected moments."
"Sounds like a pain. I'll try to come up with more ideas, but right now I've got to run. I'll call you." Judy left.
"Listen, I've got an idea," Patricia said. "Perhaps it would help if you tried to be interested in something outside yourself, in another human being, for instance. People often do volunteer work for this purpose."
"Hmm. I'm not sure that would make any difference. Do you suppose he does any volunteer work? And yet look at him, he's happy," Lynn said, pointing at her peeping stalker.
"Well, he is interested in another human being."
"Oh. Maybe I should become a stalker, too, since I'm sure you'd think it would make me less self-centered. At least there's some pep to it."
Patricia stared at her with an expression Lynn read as exasperation. Lynn had learned from experience that the only way to cope with being stared at by her assistant was to ignore her and charge right ahead. So she muttered, "The problem is that to be a stalker, you have to want someone ..."
Patricia had learned from experience that the best way to deal with Lynn's annoyingly sensationalistic comments was to top them.
"Not necessarily," she said, feigning absentmindedness and absorption in her work, in order to add authenticity and innocence to the sensationalistic comment she was about to make. "The chicken or the egg. Maybe to want someone, you have to stalk him first."
Hearing no response, Patricia looked up to find her boss staring at her, unblinking. Lynn murmured, "What you just said is completely absurd and lame, yet it has great depth, and you don't even realize it. It reminds me of that old theory about smiling, which says that people can feel happier by smiling first, instead of waiting until they feel happy before they smile."
Lynn did not lose time. She frequently lost other things, like her keys, her hat, her desire, her wallet, but never time.
She chose a man in a Chelsea bakery, across the street from her gallery, thirty-seven minutes after she had decided to find someone to stalk. She had bought herself a meringue to get energy in her quest for a victim, and then—boom!—it happened. He walked in, and she thought, He'll do. She had seen him before in the neighborhood. He never smiled. He seemed to be in his mid-thirties and was good-looking in a bland way, dark-haired, tall, and tan. She disapproved of tanning but was willing to disregard it for now. Her only concern was the sweater tied around his shoulders. A gay man was not the prime choice for heterosexual stalking. She held out hope that maybe he was just European.
With relief, she noted a slight French accent when he asked for a pain au chocolat and a croissant and a palmier. Despite his large order, his body was muscular. The pastries were possibly for friends. Or perhaps he was an obsessive gym-goer. When he turned around to leave, she was ruffled to notice that around his neck he wore a locket. She remained standing, uncertain for an instant, but decided to chalk up the locket to his French citizenship as well, then followed him out of the bakery.
She was glad she'd seen him before in the area. It was convenient if he lived nearby. She had no intention of stalking someone who lived far away. Long-distance stalking had to be annoying.
Right then, possessed by the enthusiasm often accompanying the onset of a new hobby, she was willing to follow him far, which was why she was unpleasantly let down when he entered a building less than a block away. She almost muttered "Ow" from the sheer discomfort of being left standing on the sidewalk with her stalking enthusiasm still swollen.
At a loss as to what an average stalker would do next, Lynn took out her cell phone and instructed her assistant to replace her at the building until her prey reappeared. She returned to her art gallery to wait for her assistant to call and tell her the prey was ready for further stalking.
At five-thirty Lynn got the call and resumed the tailing herself.
The man walked a few blocks and entered an apartment building with a doorman.
This new postponement was maddening. She really wanted to get going on her stalking project.
Approaching the tall, gray-haired doorman, Lynn asked, "Does that man live here?"
"What's his name?"
"I'm sorry, I'm not at liberty to divulge that kind of information."
"Oh. He just looks like someone I know," she tried. "I wonder if he's that person."
"I'm sorry, I'm not at liberty to divulge his name."
"Is there anything you are at liberty to divulge?"
"Yes. That if you would like, I could ring up Mr. Dupont and—" He seemed abruptly shaken by his slip.
"And ask him if he'd mind disclosing his first name?" she teased.
"Something like that." He placed his hand on the house phone, threatening to pick it up.
"No, no. Please don't bother Mr. Dupont for such a trivial matter."
Not actually caring about his name, but aware that typical stalkers are at least slightly pushy, she added, "Do you mind if I try to guess his first name?"
"I don't have time to play guessing games. I'm busy," the doorman said.
"Yes, I am. I'm working. You are interrupting my work."
"I'm interrupting your standing there?"
Excerpted from Love Creeps by Amanda Filipacchi. Copyright © 2005 Amanda Filipacchi. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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