MY FATHER'S NARCISSISM made him love me for my accomplishments because they reflected well on him, but it also made him hate me because I never bought into his self-image, which was all he cared about. I think I did a lot of the same things he did--played baseball, joined a band, attended law school--so that he would know that I was better.

I loved getting high marks in school; it meant I could get away with things other students couldn't. When I was young, what thrilled me was the risk of figuring out just how little I could study and still pull off the A. It was the same for being an attorney. During the California bar exam, people were crying from the stress. The convention center where the exam took place looked like a disaster relief center; people made desperate attempts to recall everything they had memorized over the prior eight weeks--weeks that I spent vacationing in Mexico. Despite being woefully ill-prepared by many standards, I was able to maintain calm and focus enough to maximize the knowledge I did have. I passed while others failed.

Regardless of my laziness and general lack of interest, I was actually a great lawyer when I was trying. At one point, I worked as a prosecutor in the misdemeanor department of the district attorney's office. My sociopathic traits make me a particularly excellent trial lawyer. I'm cool under pressure. I feel no guilt or compunction, which is handy in such a dirty business. Misdemeanor prosecutors almost always have to walk into a trial with cases they've never worked on before. All you can do is bluff and hope that you'll be able to scramble through it. The thing with sociopaths is that we are largely unaffected by fear. Besides, the nature of the crime is of no moral concern to me; I am interested only in winning the legal game.

When I was at one law firm, I was assigned to work for a senior associate named Jane. I was based in one of the firm's satellite offices, so I saw her once every few weeks. In law firms, you are supposed to treat your senior associate as if she is the ultimate authority, and Jane took this hierarchy seriously. You could tell that she never enjoyed such power in any other social sphere. Her pale skin mottled with age, poor diet, and middling hygiene was evidence of a lifetime spent outside the social elite. She wanted to wear her power well, but she was clumsy with it--heavy-handed in certain circumstances and a pushover in others. She was an entertaining blend of power and self-doubt.

I was not her best associate, and Jane believed that I was undeserving of all that I had accomplished. She put much effort into dressing appropriately, while I wore flip-flops and T-shirts at every semi-reasonable opportunity. While she billed as many hours as humanly possible, I exploited the nonexistent vacation policy by taking three-day weekends and weeks-long holidays.

One day we got into the elevator together. There were two tall, handsome men already inside. They both worked at the venture capital firm in the building. You could tell that they received multimillion dollar bonuses and likely arrived in one of the Maseratis regularly parked downstairs. The men were discussing the symphony that they had attended the night before--I also had attended it. though I didn't normally go to the symphony. I casually asked them about it.

They lit up. "So lucky to have met you! Perhaps you can settle a disagreement; my friend thinks that it was Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto that was performed last night, but I think it was his third."

"It was his second." It hardly mattered what the right answer was.

The men thanked me and left the elevator, leaving Jane and me to travel to her office in enough silence for her to contemplate the dimensions of my intellectual and social superiority. She was jittery by the time we got to her office where we were supposed to talk about our work project. Instead, we talked about her life choices from the age of 18, her worries and insecurities about her job and her body, her attraction to women despite her being engaged to a man.

After that, I knew that whenever she saw me, her heart would flutter; she would worry about the secret vulnerabilities she had exposed to me, and she would wonder what it would be like to undress me or to slap me across the face. I know that for a long time I haunted her dreams. Power is its own reward, but with this particular dynamic established, I leveraged a brief cancer scare and outpatient procedure into a three-week paid vacation--another form of reward.

 


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    Sociopaths

    Stories of those who are sociopaths and who have had experiences with sociopaths will be posted here.

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