Fighting in Public Places

 

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Maybe she didn’t love me. Worse, all those times we lay in each other’s arms at night, she may have just been doing that so I’d keep paying her registration fees and mobile phone bills.

Apparently, one of the skills of a psychopath is the ability to mirror the feelings of a normal person. They have to; they don’t have any feelings of their own. A psychopath can’t empathise, feel compassion, or love. The void of that space is filled with the suffering of a victim.

My phone rang; a message. Monkey had taken a photo of herself in costume. The blonde wig was piled up on her head like straw-coloured bubbles in a bubble bath.

‘You look like Dolly Parton,’ I texted. And switched the phone to silent. I lit a few more candles along the television cabinet and watched the reflection of the flames on the screen as they undulated across it like ghosts.

 Most of his jail time, she said, was related to burglary. After the time he held her down to try and break her nose, when the neighbors called the police, she spent the first night in a shelter for battered women and, disgusted by the standard of the accommodation, moved herself to a motel where I could visit.

That was the first night we spent together. He had told her that no matter where she went, he would find her. There was nowhere she could go that he couldn’t break into.

 ‘Can he get in here?’ she asked me, eyes wide and full of fear.

‘No,’ I said. There was one door to get in, it opened inwards, had two locks and I was looking at it.

 I fell asleep and when I awoke, she was watching me by the streetlight that sifted through the filthy curtain. The baby’s breathing was a snuffle, like a puppy’s. Blondie sat with her back to the wall but instead of watching the door she was watching me, impassive as a sphinx.

“Psychopaths are known for their pursuit of power. They are extremely sensitive to power relationships and seek maximum power, which they experience through the victimization of others.” 

The triangulation stuff took me a while to figure out. To begin with, I was the third figure in her fights with him. Then, after our single cataclysmic fight, she tried to engineer a situation where I went over and beat up her younger sister’s boyfriend for coming onto her. The baby was asleep in the next room at the time.

Reading Dr Brown made things patently clear; I was the crazy one. Blondie remained lodged in my bloodstream like an oxygen bubble, sitting in my muscles like mercury.

A text message rolled across the screen of my phone.

‘What u doing sexc 1?’

‘Talking out loud as if you were sitting across the table from me,’ I replied in text.

‘That does not surprise me at all.’

 When she rang, I answered.

“What’s crackin?” I asked.

“Waiting to be picked up.”

“I’m still reading,” I said. “Listen to this: ‘According to the psychiatrist’s bible, the DSM-V, the ‘cluster B’ personality disorders, disorders that are defined by one individual using abuse to control another – are classified on the same axis as mental retardation.

“While mental retardation is about cognitive dysfunction, both mental retardation and personality disorders are ‘enduring and pervasive,’ which is to say, they are built into the function of the brain itself.”

“You talk about your ex-girlfriend a lot, you know that?” she said.

 

***

I used to play with the baby. She was only two, so she didn’t have words, just facial expressions, and a laugh and a cry. Most of the time she was laughing. Laughing with her father’s face; his beady eyes, sallow skin and large, prognathous jaw. I used to play with her, smile when she smiled, and felt as if he was behind it all, simultaneously watching me.

When the automatic doors slid open, my pupils contracted against the white fluorescent lights of the store. My eyes were already sore from all the reading. Figures moved up and down the aisles and amongst the shelves.

‘People!’ I rejoiced in my head. Much of what I had read floated around undigested, like a clutch of blind centipedes bumping around inside my body. I read the labels of the Cabernet; if I was spending Saturday night at home alone, it was going to be with a decent wine.

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