Editor’s Note: Here’s another essay by the Front Porch Talker. For background about her experience, read her initial post, called “My life with a sociopath.”
By The Front Porch Talker
From “Letters Home,” my series of unsent letters to fictional people about fictional topics—for real.
Dear DOC #….,
Well, I bet you never thought that I would find you, but here we are sitting across an imaginary bolted-down table in the visiting room of your new home. Do they still call it prison, or do you prefer the term penitentiary? I like the sound of Correctional Institution. It has an optimistic tone to it: a college for “change” or “correction,” as though either option were ever possible with you.
If memory serves me, I am correct in assuming that you are always correct. Not just about some things. You are correct about everything; ergo, I believe you when you tell me that you are the best and brightest in your cell block when you and the gals watch “Jeopardy.”
Still, The Women’s Correctional Institution has a certain dignified ring to it. You presently reside in a Women’s Correctional Institution. Like a fancy Culinary Institute (but, no knives!), maybe, or a “Fashion Nail Institute,” where, as you always reminded me, you received your education of higher-learning, along with your criminal cohorts (is that the word?).
Don’t be shy: it’s a Ph.D. in life, with a minor in “Sociology.” Well, “social issues,” anyway. It sure beats my twenty years as an underpaid and underappreciated College Professor in Creative Writing. Go ahead: just say it—your criminal skills are creative too.
You put it to the test when you and the gang stole my identity, forged my retirement away, committed bank AND mail frauds, and let’s not forget my house, car, RV, three or four laptops, and all the rest of my life you stole from me! Did I forget to mention the assaults? All of that, under the radar of the police, the F.B.I. and all the other law enforcement agencies.
Now I call that creative! Tell me: How did you manage to get away with it all? You’ve enticed me to this fancy-schmancy Correctional visiting room for a reason, right? I’ll buy you a Tab if you just explain the fine art of “check-washing” that you learned under the tutelage of sister-in-law, Di. Her short stay in the pen taught her well. It runs in her family, too—being a criminal sociopath, I mean.
That and the fact that she was an “informer” on her fellow crime associates over there in Tacoma. That explains a lot: the degree in Fashion-nails, the fake illnesses, the MRSA too—that was brilliant! All that time, she was stealing from me as an act of revenge for reporting her to the Unemployment Department when my checks first began “magically disappearing.” She must be proud!
I must admit: you had me fooled for years. All that time, you told me it was Di and her tacky family doing all these things. But really it was you! I’d love to know how you and Di managed to handle that “unfortunate death” of one of your drug cohorts. I guess, according to you and Di anyway, (and who am I to doubt you?), the guy just died in your bed after an overdose. It was ruled an accident!
Positives: I am alive. I’ll think of more later, I’m sure.
Forgive me: I am dwelling on the past again. I know the drill: focus on the POSITIVE THINGS IN LIFE. Nobody likes a Kill-joy, or the joy-of-the-kill. Whatever. How did you and Di cover everything up so well that the police never investigated that “suspicious death?”
Please—and I mean this sincerely—get me Kojak on the phone! He needs to hear this one! Better yet: you were right—sociopaths, like yourself and Di—test like Midwest housewives. Nobody ever turns you in—well, until I finally did. Your family—your mother, in particular who happens to work for the Department of HUMAN services, didn’t turn you in. Well, now I know why: The way you work people is inhuman, so that doesn’t fit under the State’s definition of HUMAN. She just changed her phone number when I asked where you were. Very professional!
Positive: I AM HUMAN. There, I’ve said it now. By that I mean that I have a conscience. Sure, it’s like that old heavy luggage (baby-blue) they had in the seventies. It carries a lot of messy feelings, but at least they are my feelings, and my luggage, of course!
Sociopaths such as yourself must marvel at how easy it is to pretend in this world. To you, “empathy” and “compassion” are just words people invented to get over having their lives stolen from them. It’s my problem—not yours. Life, I mean. And all the crazy contradictions and messy feelings that that entails.
It’s all so tricky, these days, hanging on one word: GUILTY. I know you hate that word nearly as much as you hate all those “feeling” words that the rest of the world has to live with: empathy, compassion, regret. I do live with that, on a daily basis.
I can say this: you have to live with yourself too, on a daily basis.
Well, and there’s the fact that everybody else has already crossed you off and made you invisible. How even your own kids, and probably your grandkid too, see right through you. If they pretend to love you—well that’s about as good as it gets for you. How all the men and women you used and abused in the past would not give you the time-of-day now, or ever. How all the stories you told me about how your family abused you are just lies—part of a bigger scheme to manipulate others’ feelings to get what you want.
I know, it’s my own fault. My friends tell me that too. I should have known—or at least guessed, that you were a manipulative, scheming sociopath that stole everything, including my trust. Imagine my shock when I realized that the rest of the world really was right about you—that you are bad news! It’s my loss and your gain because I was foolish enough to have given you a chance. I believed in you.
Positives, please: At least I tried to be a good person.
Wherever you go, and whatever you do, there will always be a shadow following you. That is Limbo. It is a place where hopeless souls go for an eternity, destined to repeat the same things over and over again, never seeing the meaning or love. Never understanding that raping an identity is still rape. You have officially used up all of your “compassion” stamps.
Positive: I am not you.
To you, I was just one more person or thing to be taken. And you did take everything. You are correct in that regard. But here’s the thing I have to tell you before I leave here for good: You are the reason why people don’t take chances on others. They know that it takes a huge leap-of-faith, and all the machinations of trust that can be squeezed from a heart, to reach out and take a chance on somebody, anybody, in this world—not just you.
You are the excuse people use for not caring when they see somebody crying and hopeless and despairing.
You are the reason some people die without a friend or loved one in the world. You are the reason why—when we see you standing there on the Freeway Ramp with a sign asking for food or money—we just drive away, leaving you in the exhaust. You are the hitchhiker in this world, and the world—well, the ones who pity you, or worse—see you as some anonymous face in the rear-view mirror that they could not be bothered with.
Now, if I saw you standing homeless by the freeway I would hit the accelerator and never look back at you. Funny, how that one word, “sociopath,” changes everything. I have certainly “changed” and been “corrected” myself over the past ten years that I have known you.
Because of you—and the damage you have done to humanity, people will have yet another excuse to hate others for whatever terrible reason you have left in them. They’ll point to you and say: “That’s why I hate so-and-so!” They will justify their hatred with you as their reason.
There is always a tiny ray of truth that is you, which will cover the lies, which are really you. The lies you tell spread like wildfires across the desert that is your soul. It will be harder to find any living thing and hold it preciously to their hearts. Rather, we will all scamper away from you and the chaos you spread.
And all the despair you have caused in the wake of a tidal wave—that too will drown all the sorrows that could have been hope. And the hope that we view in the distance of any life—that too will now be blurred in the lens because of the trust you have betrayed, again and again.
When there was no cause to doubt the sincerity of a stranger who approaches in the dark, there will be that breath of hesitation, and then refusal, and then walking away as thoughts of you shroud their memories in doubt.
All the greed and selfishness in the world too—already sanctioned for reasons of its own survival—you will touch that too, reminding us all again—as if we needed reminding—that in some time capsule found in some future moment there is evidence of where greed and selfishness really took hold. It was you that they saw there too.
In every way, whether you see it or not—whether you respect it or not—whether you feel love or not—everything will be subtracted from that, because of you. The world will always be a little darker, if only on a quantum level, but still dark.
Thank God there is so much light that, when everything is balanced and unbalanced—and then follows the cycle back to balanced—nothing will be forgotten. But, thank God there is so much light.
I will never innocently believe in somebody again. But, that’s a good thing, I guess. Like the fact that you are sitting here in the Women’s Correctional Institution and I am walking out the door now. I will never look back. Closing all hope with the door now behind me.
Positive: Moving on now. No regrets.