Don’t Stand So Close to Me


Today they located the 50-year old Tennessee man who took off with his 15-year old student about a month ago. I don’t know the details of his capture except that he surrendered without incident.

I couldn’t help but wonder what goes through the mind of a man that age when he makes that final decision to take off with a girl that young.

Is he making that one last mad dash for the finish line, knowing in his heart of hearts that there is no way this ends pretty, but if he is going down, damnit he is going down in flames of passion? Or was he actually delusional enough to think in time this would go away, and that all they needed to do for now was keep their heads low?

I read that he got cash so he couldn’t be tracked by credit cards, but then I read that it was less than 5k. How far will 5k take you in this day and age? One doesn’t retire in Mexico with their child bride on a mere 5k. One can barely rent an apartment with deposits and last month’s rent on 5k.

I also read that prior to his leaving, he investigated if his model of vehicle could be surreptitiously tracked, but then did nothing to disguise the obviously reported mode of transportation. He didn’t trade the car in, or even swap out the plates, so every day must have been torture while he trekked from Tennessee to Northern California. The car of course, is what eventually nabbed him.

Was he thinking on the day he took off, that he was taking that one last roll of the dice and going for it? Betting it all on black, knowing his chances were against him? Was his love or lust or whatever he convinced himself and her of, something he knew he was going to go down for, but worth it nevertheless?

When I stop playing mental detective and started to think of the lives; her father, his wife, his children — it saddened and angered me. This is big, and when one is going to play Humbert Humbert to her Lolita, one really has to have the brain capacity that stretches a bit further than whatever this man was thinking.

Trust me her brain isn’t capable of figuring this all out. Her brain isn’t worried about what will happen tomorrow. It’s caught up in the melodramatic nuances of his understanding her, which is so damn important when you’re a 15 year old girl. To be treated as, thought of and looked at — as an adult. It’s all about what he invokes in her today. His age probably even entices her. Her brain at this time is capable of adoration, something he probably doesn’t get a lot of from his wife of over thirty years. You know the woman with the fully formed brain, who has stood by him all these decades.

I had a mad, crazy obsessive crush on a 38-year old man when I was that age. 15 is a dangerous age for teenage girls. And sometimes for the men who surround them. Circumstances of who he was are irrelevant at this point, but I can say whenever I hear The Police sing, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, I think of him. Not because he was a teacher. He wasn’t. Because Sting nailed it with that first verse and when I hear it, I’m there again.

Young teacher,

The subject

Of schoolgirl fantasy

She wants him so badly

Knows what she wants to be

Inside her there’s longing

This girl’s an open page

Book marking, she’s so close now

This girl is half his age

I laugh when I think about how crazy deep those feelings seemed, and how if I could have talked to someone about them, you could have never convinced me of how irrelevant they were going to be to the overall spectrum of my life. Yet today I couldn’t tell you his name if my life depended on it. I vaguely recall his looks. Dark curly hair. I think there was a beard, which is funny because I hated beards when I was a teen. Pubes on the face I would call them.

Like this girl I imagine, I thought I was pretty decent at hiding these emotions from those around me – himself included; but I might as well have been walking around with a huge lit up neon sign that pointed out Intense Crush Here. You know how smart you thought you were at that age.

Initially I don’t think he knew. He didn’t know that every joking comment, or hello, or whatever else he may have said in passing or casual conversation with me, was nearly quite literally gasoline on this proverbial fire of feelings that I had for him. My coy attempts at flirtation with him, which in retrospect was fortunately never sexual, was probably cute to him. Or maybe not. Maybe I am giving credit here to a man who was having the beginning thoughts similar to this recently arrested teacher. Maybe he knew exactly what was going on.

Eventually he figured it out. Fortunately once this happened, he did something about it. One day he was just gone. Like !POOF! — gone. I panicked. I cried. I had no one to really talk to about it, because it was this secret. Friends would have thought me insane for feeling this way about someone so old. More than twice my age. But other adults knew, because yeah – that neon sign I wasn’t so clever in hiding. A close adult gently and delicately explained that he felt it was healthier for me if he wasn’t around, and didn’t want a dramatic good-bye. At this point, I knew that she knew. She knew, that I knew — she knew. But we both allowed me the slightest amount of dignity to not speak of it. I swallowed my hurt feelings. Hurt that he was gone. Hurt that he didn’t say goodbye.

I was lucky that he knew 15-year old girls do not always think of consequences, and that the temptations of lust carry a very hefty price tag. I was devastated for a very short period of time, and dramatically probably thought I would never get over it. And then magically, like youth tends to show, one day quite soon after I wasn’t so upset by it. Then decades went by and I simply forgot his name.

He did the right thing in leaving. Silently. I wouldn’t have at the moment been convinced by anything anyone had said, so the temptation simply had to be removed.

In thinking about this reported-on-child of fifteen – and fifteen IS a child, no matter how adult the outer layers look, I hope that someday she gets over this. I hope that her family and her friends and the public at large let her get over this. I hope she eventually meets a boy her own age and someday forgets the name of the man who wasn’t smart enough to leave.

As for him? I’m not sure. I initially wrote throw away the key, but strangely enough I actually feel a little bit sorry for him. I know it’s wrong of me, but I just go back to that thought of What were you thinking? and realize he wasn’t. And for that lack of thought — his life changes forever.




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