“I never cry,” you say. “At other people’s pain, or my own. Funerals. Ever. It makes me wonder: Do I lack compassion or empathy? You know… like a sociopath.”

“Some people cry. Some people don’t,” she says. “I don’t think it signifies anything.”

“In meetings people cry all the time,” you reply. “And not just sad women. Guys choke up, too. I never know what to do when that happens. I feel so uncomfortable. I think that’s why I always shut my eyes.” If not a big confession it is still a revelation. Unable or unwilling to cry seems like a marker for a sociopath.

“You don’t see it, do you?” Mia asks.

“You mean with my eyes closed?” A layup joke yet you know that’s not what she means.

“No.” Mia almost laughs. Almost. “The fact that you’re closing your eyes tells me that you’re feeling something which makes you uncomfortable. My point is you’re not a robot. You’re not a sociopath.”

The truth. Like a tiny orgasm, you shudder. You feel connected to the human race, suddenly, briefly. You want more…

“When I was a boy,” you say, “I don’t remember how old, I used to lie in bed imagining that one of my parents had died. I tried to make it seem as real as possible. I would picture the people telling me the news. What they were wearing. What I was doing when they told me. I did all of that to see if I could cry. I wanted to make myself cry. But I couldn’t. I’d just lie there in my bed. Not crying.” The memory of this has always baffled you. Yet, until now, you have not shared it with anyone. You open your eyes.

“Wasn’t it around that time your stepfather committed suicide? What you were imagining sounds a lot like something you’d actually experienced.”

You lean back. Think. Could it be that simple? The two things were eerily similar. “I guess it’s possible.”

“First your father divorces your mother, leaving you. Then your stepfather kills himself. That’s a lot of abandonment. I’m not surprised you kept imagining it could happen again. And that you learned to numb yourself in case it did.”

To be continued…


“What’s the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath?” You ask Mia, upon sitting down.

“Is this a joke?” she replies.

“I was wondering the whole ride up,” you say. “On a lark, I even tried asking Siri. She told me where the nearest bike path was.”

You take off your skullcap tossing it beside you on the couch. Rub your shaved head. This is what a psychopath looks like. Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The Shining.

“Well, first of all, we don’t use those terms anymore,” Mia says. “Not clinically. We prefer calling it antisocial personality disorder.” 

“Well, I definitely have that going on.” You smile. The topic actually has no bearing on your mood, which is upbeat.

“Basically,” Mia continues, “a psychopath does not have a conscience while a sociopath has a glimmer of one, albeit damaged.”

“So,” you wonder aloud, “a sociopath knows he’s doing something wrong but does it anyway. And the psychopath has no moral compass whatever?”

Mia nods. “Do you think you’re a sociopath?” she picks up her coffee mug, keeping her eyes on you while taking a sip.

“Compared to a psychopath!” You lean forward. “I know when I’m doing bad things but yet I do them anyway. The drinking. Infidelity. Driving by myself in the carpool lane.”

Mia laughs. The reaction you were looking for. You think this is how a patient flirts with his shrink. Playing cat and mouse around a dicey topic. But Mia’s too smart for that. She won’t abide such banter unless it’s leading somewhere relevant. She calls it deflecting.

“Addictions are different than psychosis,” she says. “The disease overrides morality. You know that. Besides, you have a moral compass and you’re working on fixing it. What you do here, in AA, a sociopath wouldn’t bother doing.”

“I suppose you’re right, Mia. But sometimes I wonder…”

To be continued…

Fats (3)

June 1, 2020


He is using the abdominal bench as a place to check his email. You’ve seen him before, usually on the treadmill watching TV. As always, he’s wearing a yellow Warriors tee shirt. His potbelly protrudes beneath it like a cantaloupe.

You circle the machine, like a pacing lion in the zoo. He is oblivious, tapping on his phone’s screen, slowly and deliberately, the way older people do. Thirty seconds go by. Longer. Soon your routine will be ruined. You want to tell him this is not the time or the place. There are numerous signs posted regarding the use of cell phones in the club. And now he is writing an email! You want to kick him in the gut. Instead, you head for the water fountain, to cool off, to count to ten.

You are crazy. But he is an asshole.

The beast has awakened. The comparative mind erupts. Walking to the water fountain, you see two older women casually riding side by side, chatting, as if they were at Starbucks. One is wearing a red leotard clearly meant for someone younger. Her thumping thighs look like bags of apples rolling around in the back of a truck. The other is donning gray sweats, probably borrowed from her husband. That is if she still had one. A man in a soaking wet tee shirt hovers over the water fountain, the sweat dripping from his nose. He is filling up a giant water bottle. Can he not see that you are directly behind him? Is everyone an asshole?

You are spiraling. Irritation becomes anger. You know you have tools to plug this geyser before it erupts. So use them. Pause. Count to ten. Ask Him or Her or It to remove you from the bondage of others and self.

It works.

You take a drink of water, splash some on your face, and return to the workout room. Now you smile at the women riding bikes. They are not a problem. Warriors guy is still on his phone. But he is not your enemy.

There is an empty machine next to him and you will demonstrate how to use it.

The Lake (7)

May 18, 2020

My Michelle … Not My Shining Moment

The end came at The Shining, of all movies, at an old theater on Clark Street. You, Michelle and your best friend, Omar had entered the theater just as a big storm erupted outside. Omar sat to her left you to her right. During a particularly gruesome scene –the dead crone in the bathtub- there was a crash of thunder, loud enough to be heard over the chilling soundtrack. The power failed and worse pieces of the old movie house’s ornate decorations began falling from the ceiling. Many in the audience, already frightened by what they’d witnessed on the screen, started hollering and scrambling for the exits. You were one of them. Without thinking, you climbed right over your date, literally stepping on her to escape.

It was a cowardly move, one you did without hesitation.

By the time Michelle and Omar had met up with you in the lobby, order was restored. Not so much with Michelle. She was pissed. And you couldn’t blame her. The three of you then went to dinner, which was awful. Nothing you could say, not after what had happened. Omar did little to defend you. Without panicking, he’d stayed by her side in the theater and he sat by her now, stoically. When the dinner mercifully ended, Michelle bolted in a taxi. You forget her parting words. Omar hung with you for a while, providing scant commiseration. But soon, he too, quickly departed.

Later, you found out the two of them had rendezvoused that very evening. They started seeing each other and that was that. By your own hand you’d voided the code among friends regarding one-another’s girlfriends. You’d forgotten an even older code: women and children first. While you resented Omar for betraying your friendship and taking advantage of the situation you accepted it as penance for your shameful behavior. You’d put yourself before her and so lost her. You broke your own heart. That your good friend became beneficiary only made it worse.

Still, a part of you had been relieved. Michelle would dump Omar soon enough. That was certain. Orbiting her hot sun, always vying for the light, had taken its toll. Getting burned was inevitable.

Next Chapter Coming Soon!

“The Lake” (2)

April 30, 2020


My Michelle…

No one dared admit how scared and insecure they were about the opposite sex. Per usual, drugs and alcohol helped and hindered at the same time, blunting certain fears while exaggerating others. Weird sexual tension, tinged by frustration, laced with anger, permeated the trumped up stories and bogus laughter, as dense as the smoke pouring out of Red’s van.

You found the scene both repellent and attractive, unsure of what you were doing there yet unable to refrain from being there. You were not fully invested in the burnout culture of the lake and this made you a peripheral character. You got high. You told lies. You tried to be cool. When it wasn’t working you simply retreated to a spot on the grass, kicked back, and watched leaves rustling in the trees or cars whipping by in the distance on Lake Shore Drive.

It was at just such a moment you noticed her jogging along the bike path. Even from the vast distance the woman’s curvy silhouette stood out. There was no other way to put it she had enormous breasts, just like the centerfolds in Playboy and Hustler. Up and down they caromed. You literally saw one rise as the other fell. Completing her teen dream looks, she had long tresses of blond hair and somehow you could see every strand of it, tickling and slapping her exposed back as she ran.

She seemed like a wet dream. But she was real.

To be continued…