I have been obsessed with psychopaths since my second therapist got goosebumps after I told her about my grandfather. She pulled her sleeve up and showed me. She hadn’t needed to, her facial expression was hard to misinterpret.
I thought I had told her a fairly harmless story. My grandfather in the driver’s seat, my grandmother in the passenger seat next to him, me on the back seat, crossing the bridge from Fyn to Sjælland in 1998. My grandfather violently sobbing, threatening to drive us all off the bridge because ‘What’s the point? You don’t love me anymore.’ and my grandmother backing him up, ‘See what you have done to your grandfather.’
I was ten and tried to accept that I was going to die. I told him that I did love him, hoping it would keep me alive. But the tension in the car was so disgusting that I almost wished he would just do it. Just drive off the bridge.
When my therapist, despite having made it absolutely clear that you should never diagnose someone who you haven’t met, told me that ‘oh, he’s definitely a psychopath’, I was intrigued. And I continued to be intrigued, reading books and articles about how psychopaths can’t feel empathy. Meanwhile, I started dating a psychopath. I would sleep with him and afterwards have passionate and loud arguments because I didn’t feel like he loved me enough and then I would go straight home to read more about psychopaths because gee, they’re so interesting, I wonder if I’ll ever meet one.
Cut to two months after we broke up. I was kicking him. Not hard enough to make an impact. He just stared at me.
A young girl, age sixteen, had approached me and asked me to help her. She told me that he had been pushing her to have sex with him for a while and told her that he was in love with her and she had said no. Now he was trying to convince her again. And he wouldn’t leave her alone. He came up behind her and I stood up. When he saw me, not even his psychopathic abilities to appear charming and empathetic could hide the utter contempt he felt about my presence there.
(Only months before, he had held me so tight to his chest and said, ‘You don’t even know what makes you beautiful. I think about you every time I touch myself. I have never experienced anyone like you. You awe me. You are so special. I can imagine us growing old together.’)
‘I want you to die. You don’t understand how much I hope you drown. I fantasise about you drowning.’ he said through gritted teeth. I stepped in between him and the young girl. And then I froze. How do you fight a psychopath?
I knew I couldn’t use my words, because there were no feelings to hurt. My right leg made the decision before my brain did, to just swing itself right into his shin. He blinked a few times in disbelief. So did I. I looked a lot more affected by the whole thing than him. But now that my solution was suddenly physical violence, I lifted my hand and slapped him across the face. A slap that more resembled a gentle caress than a slap. He looked increasingly confused. I could feel the 16-year old behind me regret her decision to come to me for help. I tried to push him, but he stood still as a rock, so I only managed to push myself back a bit.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked. I was wondering the same thing. It’s not the best thing to be asked when you are supposed to be kicking someone’s ass. I kicked him again and he sighed, growing tired of my awkward attempts at fighting him.
I tell him to leave her alone. I tell him that if he goes near her again, I’m going to tell people the bad things I know about him. He gives me the equivalent of you’ll never work in this town again and I decide to take that risk. I walk her home.
A few months later, he calls me. He has started group therapy in order to stop being a dickhead (or something, I wasn’t listening, nor did I really care) and part of the programme is that he has to call people he has hurt and apologise.
‘So. I am sorry.’ he says, with his gentle voice. His sweet, gentle and loving voice. I think about you every time I touch myself.
‘For what?’ I ask.
‘You know. I’m so sorry.’ he says. You don’t even know what makes you beautiful.
‘Just mention one thing you’ve done.’ I say.
‘For… everything.’ he says through slightly gritted teeth, but still with a calm and charming voice. I can imagine us growing old together.
‘No, what particularly have you done, for which you want to apologise?’ I ask again.
‘You’re so fucking ungrateful.’ he snaps and hangs up. I fantasise about you drowning.