The second time I come across a psychopath or think I do (one cannot know these things for sure on first seeing someone, can one?) I am in New York City’s Central Park. Alone again, naturally. It is dusk and I am roaming around Central Park when the sound of Don McLean’s American Pie lures me into the crowd. There I stand swaying next to a man. Tall. Blonde. Slim. Man I dig those rhythm and blues. He starts in with the usual talk, first about the music, where I am from. Montreal. He’s from Brooklyn. Then the weather and how hot New York gets. It is a warm summer evening, even balmy for New York City. Helter skelter in a summer swelter. It comforts me not to be alone and I welcomed the attention of a man although I am still too frightened of myself to realize that it is my neediness and fear of loneliness that makes me open to this man. It will be years later that I will begin to understand this part of myself but back then, in my mid twenties, that kind of consciousness remains stowed away under rock like unawareness.
“Where you staying?” he asks me.
I don’t know I tell him. I’ll find somewhere to park my car. Without much money but an appetite to be on the road this is how I travel. In the back of my orange Ford Pinto I have built my personal hostel with a sleeping bag over an inflatable mattress and a suitcase filled with change of clothing and a cosmetic bag with toiletries to bring into the public showers of truck stops, gypsy style.
“You can stay at my place,” he says, “if you give me a ride home.”
It is the seventies. I am naïve. Trusting. A generation lost in space. It is love and peace time and more important, I believe in the goodness of mankind like someone who’s never been hurt or thinks bad things happen to other people, not me.
The apartment he lives in resembles the run down apartments that you see in the projects and maybe it is one of them but it is too dark for me to tell. I follow him up a dingy staircase to the second floor. As soon as I step inside I come face to face with a wall smothered in pornography; on a table a series of knives reflect fear. Rifles mounted on a wall. A hand gun lies on a side table. I know I have made a mistake. What kind of man is this and then all the stories I have heard and dismissed about violence come crashing to the forefront of my mind.
I freeze and then quickly thaw out because I know instinctively that’s what I have to do if I want to stay alive. How else could I know? This is a new experience for me. No one has prepared me for this. Never in my education was I taught what to do when you unexpectedly find yourself trapped in a psychopath’s web.
I once read a story about a survival mindset and the traits that are advantageous to staying alive. Of all the traits – patience, humility, perseverance, a sense of humor – calm is how I intuitively feel I need to be. This isn’t going to be the day that I die.
“Can I use your phone?” I ask him. I am living with Steven, a cartoon artist. “My boyfriend in Montreal, he’s expecting a call from me. I don’t want to worry him.”
Surprisingly, he allows me to do so. In French, I tell Steven what is happening to me – I tell him about the pornography. The guns. The knives. I give him the man’s phone number. When I hang up I look deep into the man’s eyes wanting to touch something deep inside and say, “I can’t stay here. I’m too afraid.”
“There’s nothing I’ll do,” he says. “Now that you gave my number to your friend.”
Still, I take my bag and as I turn to walk out of his apartment he says, “You’re really one of the few people who’s ever trusted me this far.” For a moment I feel sad and a streak of compassion goes through me.
Did you write the book of love and do you have faith in God above?I drive until I reach a truck stop in Connecticut. Sleep a few hours and the next morning have a shower. The hot water feels good on my back and I watch it go down the drain as if it is fear that is being washed away. I don’t remember much of my trip after that incident. There is something about my experience that takes away the beauty of the scenery and the peacefulness of the sea. I don’t stay long in New Haven and return home sooner than I have planned.
For weeks after I have nightmares of this man and am afraid that he will show up at our apartment for he can easily know where we live from the phone number on his telephone bill. But none of that happens and Steven and I break up because I want to have a child and he doesn’t but the real reason I stop loving him is that after I made that call he did nothing. He just went back to bed, angry at me for being with another man.