Chapter 19:

Walker versus Stalker

Sweet like Honey


Just as I suspected, the stalker was loitering around the fence built outside the share house. He – I could see that he was clearly a guy – was holding a camera up and snapping photographs silently. Shirley was still chatting with the others, tense, but they hadn’t noticed the stalker yet.

He was pretty…eye catching, which made me wonder why I hadn’t seen him before. He was a chubby middle-aged guy with glasses and a balding pate. Dressed in a white t-shirt that had the logo of the Sweet Dreams idol group splashed across his chest, he appeared a little scruffy. Unlike his cheap jeans and overworn t-shirt, his camera looked expensive and state-of-the-art.

An idol otaku, perhaps? He certainly fitted the cliché image of one.

I didn’t want to alert him too soon, so I took the long way, crossing the now empty road and approaching from the other side. He was too preoccupied with snapping photographs, however, and didn’t notice me. Thus, I had no problems sneaking up on him from behind.

Unfortunately, he sensed my presence and instinctively turned just before I could grab him. With a speed that belied his overweight figure, he dashed for it. However, I was faster, and I managed to barrel into him, knocking him down. His camera spilled out of his hands and he desperately fumbled for it, but I jumped on him. Damn, given how thick his waist was, I couldn’t straddle him, but I was at least able to pin him to the ground by sitting cross-legged on his back.

“Don’t move,” I snarled, and he froze. I pressed a hand against his neck to hold his head down, his face pressed against the road. “Why are you stalking Shirley?”

“Junior? What’s going on?”

The commotion had drawn the attention from Shirley and her roommates, and they were stepping out of the gate to check out. I waved her over.

“Looks like we found your stalker.”

“Damn, that’s one expensive piece of gear,” Howard Hong remarked, picking up the camera and studying it. He whistled. “I’ve seen this model. It’s Kanon, and it goes for several thousand dollars. It’s the latest in its line.”

“Don’t break it!” The chubby, bespectacled guy cried out, reaching out desperately. Shirley kicked his hand away and glared down on him.

“I don’t think you’re in any position to make any demands.”

“Ah…” the stalker froze. Then he tried to lunge at her, but I had him pinned to the floor. “Shirley Li! You traitor! You betrayed me! You betrayed us all!”

“…I don’t even know who the hell you are,” Shirley spat. The stalker’s eyes bulged and he bawled something incoherently before he finally strung a few words together.

“Did you forget who I am!?”

“Um…please remind me of your name, at least.”

“I’m…I’m Fan Wong! I’m your biggest fan! We met a few times at signing sessions! I have at least twelve CDs that were signed by you! I was at all of your concerts!”

“I see. Thank you for that. But how did I betray you, exactly?” Shirley’s scowl softened, but she regarded him warily with her arms folded. “And how does that justify you stalking me?”

“And don’t say you didn’t,” Howard snapped as he cycled through the images of the camera. “I’m going through the memory card here, and you have hundreds of photos of Shirley, taken over the last couple of weeks. This is an invasion of privacy, and if we report you to the cops, you’re done for.”

Fan Wong turned pale. “Please don’t!” He pleaded. Then he glared defiantly at Shirley. “It’s all your fault! You betrayed us first! What privacy, and what cops?”

“Again, how did I betray you, exactly?” Shirley repeated her question icily. The idol fan didn’t back down this time.

“Why did you retire!?” Fan raged at her, pounding his fists furiously against the ground until his flesh was scraped raw. “We all wanted to support you! We dedicated our lives to you! We bought so many of your CDs, merchandise, fought for you online when haters flamed you, and spread your music around social media. We gave you high ratings! And this is how you repay us!?”

Shirley was silent for a moment. She took a deep breath.

“I never asked you to do that for me.”

“What?!”

“I simply wanted you to listen to my singing. I just wanted to sing for everyone…I wanted to make everyone happy with my singing. That’s all I ever wanted. Not fame. Not likes or popularity or worship.”

“Are you going to just shrug away responsibility and claim that you never asked us to do that for you? That we did all of it on our own?! Even after all we did for you?! I’ve paid you a small fortune!”

“And this gives you…power over her?” I asked in bemusement.

“Of course!” Fan Wong snarled unashamedly. “At the very least, she should repay us!”

“And how exactly am I supposed to repay you, other than through all the songs I’ve already sung?” Shirley sighed and rubbed her forehead. “You bought my CDs. You can listen to my songs whenever you want, as many times as you want. What more do you want? Am I supposed to dedicate my life to you, and perform as an idol until my agency works me to death? Am I required to become a nun and stay single forever? Am I not allowed to fall in love? Am I not allowed to have my own privacy and some time to myself? I can’t rest? All because I need to repay you? Is my singing not enough?! Why are you my fan in the first place? Wasn’t it because you like my singing? Or was there something else you want from me?”

“I…” Fan Wong was speechless. Then he began spluttering. “We just want you to return our love! We love you so much! I love you so much! I was willing to do anything for you! Yet, you just disappeared on us one day! How could you just leave us like that?! Without saying anything too!”

“You’re probably more in love with the ideal of an idol than the idol herself,” I said quietly. Everyone turned to stare at me in surprise, but I continued. “The idol as an image character. An object of desire, something you consume and direct your affection for. But the narrative of an idol is constructed, mostly by the agency itself trying to promote a specific image of their idols. They aren’t real. You’re not looking at Shirley as her real self, but a fiction created by her producers and agents.”

“Where did you get that from?” Nina asked, astonished. “That’s…kind of deep.”

“I’m a literature major,” I replied wearily. “We…specialize in popular culture and the like.” I then returned my stare to Fan Wong. “You claim to love her, but you’re just…really being obsessed with this ideal of an idol in your imagination. Love is about mutual respect and understanding, but you’ve shown no respect whatsoever, nor have you tried to understand her circumstances. Did it not occur to you that Shirley was forced to retire? Perhaps it’s politics at her agency. Maybe her age is catching up with her. She might be sick. No, all you care about is that she reciprocates your so-called love. You’re not in love, you’re obsessed.”

Fan Wong stared at me dumbfounded, but he was unable to rebut my points. He lowered his head in shame, his shoulders slumping. I finally got off him and allowed him to sit up in a kneeling position. The fight had gone out of him, and he was defeatedly waiting our judgement.

“I say we call the cops,” Cheryl said fiercely, her arms crossed and her eyes narrowed. “This creep deserves to be locked up behind bars. What do you think, Shirley?”

“I…” Shirley was hesitant.

“Call the cops!” Nina fumed. “He can’t get away with this kind of behavior! He should be punished!”

“We have all the evidence here too,” Howard added, holding up the camera. “At the very least, you can sue him for violation of privacy and get damages, and get a protection order against him.”

“Stalking is a criminal offense, and constitutes as harassment.” Cheryl was incensed. “We’re not leaving him unpunished…”

“Actually,” I began as I stared at Fan Wong. For some reason, I felt as if I was staring at a reflection of myself. That defeated posture. And his actions too…I couldn’t say I didn’t blame him. I had done something similar in my youth, back when I was still young and stupid. If I hadn’t straightened myself out, we would have gone down the same path. As such, I couldn’t help but feel some sympathy for him. “Do you guys mind letting him go for now?”

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