You probably know him, or someone like him.
You may have stood on the sidelines, in complete disbelief, watching him do his thing with one of your friends. You may have been on the receiving end of his actions, for months, maybe years, floating on air and crashing down, intermittently. You may have waited a long time and then snapped out of it, or something may have happened, and all you were left with was anger and pain.
He doesn’t have too much going for him. He fancies himself something glorious, maybe artistic, like a writer or a photographer. He gets paid for it, not necessarily because he’s good, but because everyone assumes the confidence he projects must be there for a reason.
The one talent he has for sure is that charm, that wit. He knows a few things. He name-drops like there’s no tomorrow. He claims to have an astounding number of “famous” friends. Later, if you tease him about it, he won’t deny it, he’ll even justify it: “They probably did something to get there.” Deep down, you know he’s desperate to feel important, hoping for a bit of that fame to rub off on him.
You probably didn’t notice him much at first. He’s not tall, or handsome. A bit crooked, a bit creepy. When you meet him, the most positive thing he might provoke in you is endearment, interspersed with pangs of pity. He tries so hard, he lets you know he likes you, it’s sweet. And you laugh at his jokes, mostly to indulge him. You let your defenses down. This guy, he’s harmless. Chances are he knows this. He doesn’t mind. He picked you because you’re kind and open-minded and you don’t get hung up on appearance. He takes his time. You’ll soon come to learn that he’s patient and very crafty.
So you let him closer. He may be married, or at least taken, and he may or may not let you know immediately. Once he does, days, weeks, months into your friendship, he’ll add something like: “… But it’s not all puppies and rainbows, you know.” He’ll make you his confidante. By then, you can still see him with some clarity, and you’ve been around, so you roll your eyes, you go: “Hm. Well it never is, is it.”
But it’s too late. He knows enough about you. He knows what you like, the music, the books, the things you think about. He’ll cultivate some of it and harshly slap down the rest, for fun. It’s hot and cold, and it’s the beginning of that imbalance. If you complain, he’ll tell you you have no sense of humor. If you complain more insistently, he’ll try to melt you. You melt. But he doesn’t admit to being at fault. Ever.
He tells you about his issues. He’s being persecuted. At work, at home, by his friends, maybe his health falters. Something’s wrong, and he’s a victim. “She loves me, but she doesn’t get me. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you… You do.” You comfort him. You offer to take off and hide in some small farm in Africa. You say it once, jokingly. And again, half-jokingly.
Then one day, when he senses you’re weak enough, he gives you the coup de grâce. A writ, a playlist, a photo, something. You’re stunned. He’s broken in. And you still find the strength to utter: “You had to go and do that…” You get him, he gets you. Too many coincidences. Oh, but for now… For now it can’t be. So let’s just go with it, let’s just enjoy it. Let’s not pretend it’s not there. Let’s just keep it quiet. We don’t want to hurt anyone.
So begins a never fully-formed love affair. He’s in control. He doesn’t get caught because of the distance. You hardly see each other, if ever. He calls you when he pleases. He’ll have all your numbers, you’ll only have his mobile. He’ll text, quite often. Emails, back and forth. He continues to tell you how he’s been diagnosed with something awful. How he’s being harassed by his boss. How terribly things are going at home. You tell yourself it’s just a matter of time.
Meanwhile, he’ll test you: “You get me, but will you love me as much as she does? She’s so loving. She cooks for me. You don’t like to cook.” Or “How will you ever be able to trust me, how will you ever be sure that I’ll never do this to you?” A part of you may stay reasonable. You may not reassure him, perhaps you’ll say: “You’ll just have to find out, won’t you?” But a voice inside will shout: “No, you and me, we’re different, this is different because we’re so similar. We click all the time, all the time. I get you.”
Sometimes you’ll lose patience. This is insane. He’s leading you on. He’s being a coward. You attempt to let it go. You talk to your friends, your siblings, maybe your therapist, who will all try to get you to forget about him. But how could you. They don’t understand. This is more than they even know.
And he seduces you, over and over. You’re on a permanent high. Then he’ll say something to make you feel small, ridiculous, like an idiot. But he will never apologize, he will never say he did anything wrong. Better yet, he’ll turn it on you to make you feel bad. And you will. Terrible, in fact. He calls you a drama queen and you’d almost believe him if it weren’t for the fact that he’s the one constantly stirring up the drama.
Until you snap. You start going out with someone real. You have fun. You know it’s nothing, but it’ll get your mind off him. He finds out, somehow. And when he does, he throws a monstrous tantrum that lasts for days. Jealousy, guilt-trips, bitter comments, sheer cruelty, every twisted trick in the book. Despite all the signs, you’re aghast: “My God. You really thought I’d wait for you forever. You really, truly did. It never crossed your mind that I wouldn’t, did it.” His silence tells you you guessed right. He’s distressed not because you’re spending time with somebody else, but by the realization that his grip on you wasn’t as strong as he imagined it to be. Yet he goes on, with an air of entitlement. Wild accusations, thinly-veiled insults. He’s good. Ever the coward, but he gets to you and knows it.
At this point, survival instinct may take over, and you walk away. He may return bombarding you with more insulting messages and emotional blackmail. It may still hurt, you may still have the impulse to protect him. You’ll let others know, perhaps one of his friends who confronts him, demands further explanation. He’ll deride it, deny it, declare you’re crazy and made it all up (what is he thinking, you wonder, you still have all his messages).
But then you realize: he’s not sorry for anything he’s done, not one bit. His fear, his biggest fear is that you’ll keep talking. You’ll wreck that appearance of life he made for himself. He’ll say things like “I can’t believe you would do this to me. Tell my friend about this. I thought you were more subtle. I thought I could trust you.” He’s incapable of guilt, but shame… Shame hurts. If you ignore him (what torture, being ignored), he’ll continue to bombard you. Seventeen… No, 22… No, 25 text messages in one afternoon. And it goes on, for days. You try to reach out, one last time, to talk, to calm things down, but he won’t have it. He’s livid. He lost.
So you move on, quietly.
Later, when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you find out in conversations that you were only one of many. Something about it all goes beyond the “Bored Guy Cheats on Wife” thing. Something’s awfully amiss.
This is when it hits you. On a hunch, you search the word “psychopathy:” grandiose sense of self, pathological lying, manipulation, callousness, lack of guilt, failure to accept responsibility. There it is. There he is.
Much later, your only regret is that you never blew his cover. His wife? Still with him. She’s the one you failed.
Anna Rascouët-Paz – Texte / Text
Histoire écrite en anglais / Story written in English