Sociopaths Don’t Cry
When he was eight the boy fell off a brick wall and had to get a tiny part of his brain removed. The figures in the white masks and cotton-candy gloves with the monstrous monitors and static screens numbed him with pain killers and replaced that tiny part of his brain with a little metal tube. With the death of that piece of the tail of his hippocampus, his world of magnets and miracles would forever be gone.
As he grew up, the boy learned to hide the clinking sound the mettle made in his head every time he ran down the stairs. He would spend his summers observing the tired people on the train and the brave men with the red suits at the fire station and the child playing with a yellow balloon in the park and the girl with the blonde bangs eating a jelly donut at the beachside coffee shop.
And from watching them, he learned how the seahorse-shaped part of their brain made them feel. He learned what made them happy and sad and angry, and he also learned what made them fall in love. He learned how to comfort his friend when his dog died, how to smile as he unwrapped his Christmas gifts, and how to beg for forgiveness when his mother caught him smoking his first cigarette out his bedroom window in eighth grade.
His brother and sister were paper children and they held onto the tree branches and telephone wires to avoid being blown away. He twisted and folded their paper bodies into an origami Hansel and Gretel, putting on his very own puppet show. Feeding on their fear and self-doubt, the boy convinced his siblings that they were the stars now, he convinced them that dancing on a cardboard stage with strings tied to their paper limbs was the greatest thing they could ever wish to achieve. And after dinner, he’d lock them away in the baby-blue nursery.
He never felt remorse or happiness or sadness, or any emotion other than anger for that matter; he only observed people and learned to predict and manipulate them.
One warm July afternoon, the girl with the blonde bangs came over to his house and they drank cherry punch and splashed around in the unnatural blue water of his swimming pool till the sun began to set, casting a warm yellow light over the girl’s freckled face and making her squint. They wrapped themselves in polka-dotted towels and watched a sappy black-and-white comedy in his basement living room.
He smiled when she smiled and laughed when she laughed; at this point it came naturally to him to pretend to feel. When they kissed, he tasted sneaked cigarettes and cherry punch on her lips and smelled the chlorine in her tangled hair. He listened to the discordant beats of their hearts. On that clammy July night, if only for a fleeting moment, the boy wished he could feel.
The rest of the summer was a blur to the boy. He spent most of the days outside in the scorching heat with the girl, into the late hours of the nights illuminated by the frowning cheese moon. The boy’s anger continued to grow, his envy of everyone around him and his anger at the little metal tube in his head that had become a barrier between him and the rest of the world.
When he was seventeen the boy did something that broke his mother’s glass heart. And all the little shards would scratch her, inside, every time she’d breathe.
His paper siblings had idolized him their whole life, and they denied and rationalized what he’d done in every possible way. In their eyes, he could do no wrong. They were too afraid to trust themselves, so they listened to the monsters who lived in the drawers, the monsters who told them to isolate themselves from the world and to let their paper bodies turn to pulp in their brother’s bathtub of lukewarm lies.
The boy’s mother had been battling the monsters for many years: she knew that once they got inside of you they could twist your intentions and your perception of everything around you. But her glass heart was broken now, and she no longer had the energy to continue to push them away. So she let them inside of her, she let them jump rope with her dreams and ping-pong with her deepest fears. She let them play tug-of-war with her sanity and feast on her fondest memories.
Now, no longer able to fall asleep to the ping ping of her beating glass heart, she stayed awake watching the stars from her terracotta balcony and crying dry tears to the pain of the glass in her arteries and to the pain of the monsters’ games in her head and to the pain of her son’s betrayal.
Knowing what he’d done, the girl with the bangs looked back on that first evening by the pool, the nights they’d spent on the roof together, the polaroids they’d taken in their striped swimsuits at the yellow beach house, the ephemeral memories captured on the grainy ribbons of cassette-tape film, the words and the drunken cigarettes they’d shared at 2 am on the back porch.
But he went back to her tied her to his bedpost with a perfectly wound rope of apologies and twisted stories and lies so that she would trust him again.
She was gullible and naïve. In no time, she got sucked back into his fly trap of sticky words and crumb-cake promises. Still, he felt no remorse.
After weeks of not speaking to his mother, the boy surprised her in the garden, where she was singing her tulips to sleep in their soft soil bed. He began to weave his net of hollow promises and untruths, but he was not able to convince her as he had the girl. For his mother an apology was no reparo spell.
In this world, empty words don’t fix smashed hearts, empty words don’t relieve the pain of glass splinters stuck inside your veins and wedged in the cartilage between your bones.
Isabella Ronchetti is a young artist and writer originally from San Francisco, California. She spent a few years studying in Florence Italy, and currently is living in Virginia. She enjoys spending her free time reading psychology books, swimming, and people watching.