In the Fall of 2002, I moved into the dorms of a small suburban university in the Midwest. I was on a men's floor.
It reeked of sanitizer, sweat, and cigarette smoke but at least we had our own rooms. I quickly got acquainted with the neighbors.
The guy two doors down, Jack, was making a Wal-Mart run and offered to get me a tv cable. "He's alright, I thought."
Jack was 6'4" with a pot belly, ridiculous bowl cut, and a permanent lopsided grin on his face. He looked sort of like a huge version of a little boy.
Each of our dorm rooms came with a crucifix, but he'd added two more, along with a framed portraits of John Paul II and Mother Theresa. On top of his dresser he had a dozen large pill bottles.
Early in the semester, he seemed clueless but well-meaning. He was constantly patrolling the hallways looking for people to talk to.
If you opened your door hoping friends would drop by, he was always the first person to pop in. He liked to corner people and talk about controversial topics like abortion.
He got worse as the semester went on. He knocked on my friend Marie's door at 2 AM, asking to borrow a piece of string so he could "measure his head".
He liked to visit the bookstore, campus coffee shop, and library since their employees were a captive audience who couldn't leave or tell him to buzz off.
By October his behavior had gotten scary. A poster of a girl in a bikini that hung in our hallway was torn to shreds. He printed off a bunch of flyers for his website and passed them out.
When you went to the URL it loaded a .wmv movie of a man being beaten with a shovel. On another occasion he got drunk off of boxed wine and wandered into a lounge.
He wrapped his arms around a girl who was playing pool and whispered "is that your real butt or do you have ass implants?"
His holier-than-thou attitude resumed when he sobered up, of course. In late November he wandered into a party in a guy named Chad's dorm room.
He noticed a bit of thong peeking out of Chad's girlfriend's jeans. He started screaming at her that she was a whore who would burn in hell. Chad tossed him out of the party.
In the coming couple weeks Jack became obsessed with Chad.
Things came to a head in mid-December during finals week. I was in the dorm's computer lab browsing a now-defunct website for offbeat news. I realized Jack was standing directly behind me.
"Why are you looking at smut?!" he asked. I tried to respond: "Actually, it's a news si-" "SMUT! YOU'RE LOOKING AT SMUT!" he bellowed. Everyone in the lab stared.
At that moment a pair of police officers entered the lab and cuffed him.
I went to get the story out of Marie, who liked to act like a discreet, professional RA but was fond of gossip.
Apparently Jack had encountered Chad in the hallway and began screaming threats: "I'm going to kill you, your slutty girlfriend, your parents, and any pets you have. I'm a cat and you're a mouse.
" Chad walked away laughing. Jack started knocking on peoples' doors, asking "Can I borrow a knife? I want to slit Chad's throat". One of the RAs overheard and called 911.
Jack was kicked out of the dorms but not the university, somehow. Many parents were furious that he wasn't expelled.
Chad bragged about choosing not to press charges, boasting "I'm not afraid of him". Jack returned for the spring semester, a bit more subdued and presumably on his medication again.
He attended classes very sporadically. He commuted each day from his hometown two hours away before dropping out and disappearing.