The Appeal of Necrophilia

death heartIt is time to re-visit necrophilia.

As with many attempts to classify behavior, necrophilia itself has remained confusing, with scholars and researchers attempting to use both rifle and scattergun approaches to pinpoint the different types. The literature on necrophilia has a wealth of case studies, which cover the range of necrophilic activities of certain individuals, and this in turn gives us specific circumstances that can aid in our attempt to classify. However, even knowing necrophilic activities that people have performed, the motivations themselves often remain elusive.

Okay, they did this; but why did they do that?

For the purposes of law enforcement, the ‘why’ isn’t too important. There are clearly penalties for interfering with a corpse, not reporting a body to the authorities, and even more so if homicide was committed to obtain a dead body.  With these necessary penalties in place, it puts us in a position to deal with acts of necrophilia as and when they arise, but they do not help us understand the pathology of a necrophile, which could be crucial for identification, therapy, and prevention.

Traditionally, the first attempts to scientifically classify necrophilia, viewed it as primarily a sadist behavior, such as in Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis.[1] This approach wasn’t unwarranted, as law enforcement and the courts from the nineteenth century were trying to understand how various criminals could rape, mutilate, and engage in sexual activities with a person after death; it would be a horrifying site to encounter, and drove earlier generations to see it as demonic and orchestrated by the Devil. Unfortunately, these events continue to happen today, and sexual homicide does seem to be a precursor for some necrophilic activity.

However, not all necrophilic behavior involves committing homicide.

One of the most specific categorizations of necrophilia has come from Dr. Aggrawal, who in 2009 proposed ten classifications of necrophilia.[2] These classifications seem to escalate, somewhat, from one through ten, in the direction of greater interaction with corpses, and in the direction of increasing sexual pleasure until the interaction with the body is the sole and only trigger for sexual excitement. Surprisingly, Aggrawal only includes homicide in category nine, which seems to ignore the fact that a person could have committed homicide to exercise the behaviors listed in many of the other categories. It is possible that Aggrawal did not rigorously consider the criteria for how he was presenting the escalation of certain behaviors.

Necrophilia is commonly taken to mean sexual relations or attractions to corpses, and is listed in the DSM V as ‘an other specified paraphilic disorder, involving recurrent and intense sexual interest in corpses’.[3] However, it is worth noting that for a person to end up with these ideas and even desires, the evolution of their pathology could have started from a harmless place.

Thoughts of death are not uncommon.

Dealing with our own mortality can at times result in great sadness and prolonged somber moments as we plan to make the most of our lives. The most common religions in the world all deal with death and attempt to provide solace and reassurance to the believers. Suicidal ideation is also not as uncommon as you think, even from those who have no intention of taking their own lives. And of course grieving deceased loved ones is widespread, and even though funerals, burials, or cremation tend to happen quite quickly after death, grieving can be a long lasting (and in some cases unending) process.

There is also great comfort to be found in death.

We are often reassured when we believe that a deceased person is now “at peace” and no longer suffering. When we revisit memories of deceased loved ones, it can fill us with deep joy as we reflect on those private experiences, sometimes experiences that were specific only to us and the deceased one (intimacy). Sometimes these experiences can even create an ongoing dialogue that we might have with the deceased as we smile about what they might say about current events.

The point I’d like to make here is thinking deeply about death, and loving the dead, do not come out of a vacuum. However, there could be a pivotal moment when the comfort somebody obtains from thinking about death or the dead, progresses to thinking death and the dead can be recreated for future happiness. If this breach is made, it might only be exploratory at first, through fantasy, but steadily progress to unhealthy and even illegal behaviors.

Exploring death in culture and our lives is not the only way to approach necrophilic stirrings. Humans are evolutionarily equipped to seek out intimacy with other humans (it might be worth noting, pending a rigorous philosophical discussion, that human corpses are still human). Therefore, exploring the plethora of dating sites and articles on the topic of meeting people and satisfying personal criteria for a good match, is a great way to see what humans want in a partner.

It is sometimes mentioned in the literature that necrophilia stems from the need for an unresisting partner.[4] This can be unpacked in various ways, but it is possible that this stems from the need for a non-judgmental partner, which is something many people desire from their own healthy relationships. This also goes for the need not to be hurt or let down, or perhaps the fear of being unable to produce a reciprocal orgasm during intercourse. And as morbid as it is to think about, it is easy to be intimate with a corpse because there is no emotional or social work involved; perhaps similar reasons as to why some people, for at least temporary moments in their lives, turn to sex dolls.

This is far from admitting that love spurned individuals will turn to corpses out of sheer convenience, but we have to remember that some people do turn to corpses, and some of the motivations that take them there are rooted in genuine human needs.

The ubiquity of death, and our continued fascination with it, coupled with the complexities behind our need for intimacy, means that classifying necrophilia will remain a forever-incomplete and difficult process. However, understanding what we want out of the living could help us understand what others want out of the dead.

The picture I have presented here is one of progression, however, I do not think it does apply to all those who violate corpses. Those who commit rape and homicide, and then further mutilate and assault their victim, I think have different motivations. Stein et al. include these as discussion points in their paper ‘Necrophilia and Sexual Homicide’,[5] and they include the need to further destroy and degrade their lifeless victim. However, I would argue for most of these cases, as the violation happens very soon after death, that the offender, due to their extreme objectification of the victim, doesn’t register the death on a deep level, and just continues to destroy the person through lustful violence. But of course, due to the infinite nature of human experience and thought, there would be exceptions. Bundy, for example, continued to visit his grave sites long after the act of homicide, and others have killed specifically to mutilate and to enjoy the experience.

Those who place value in prolonged and specific necrophilic acts, needless to say, have learned to think about death in a complex and unique way, and is our job to unpack human behavior to determine where these people have found death and the dead to be preferable.

 

© Jack Pemment, 2018

 

REFERENCES

[1] Krafft-Ebing, R. Von (1886) Psychopathia Sexualis. CG Chaddock, trans. Philadelphia, PA: Davis.

[2] Aggrawal, A. (2009). A new classification of necrophilia. Journal of forensic and legal medicine, 16(6), 316-320.

[3] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. Mar 25, 2017

[4] Stein, M. L., Schlesinger, L. B., & Pinizzotto, A. J. (2010). Necrophilia and sexual homicide. Journal of forensic sciences, 55(2), 443-446

[5] Ibid.

 

Women must retain the choice of wearing the niqab and the burka

I hate to admit that it has taken me a long time to reach a place where I am okay with women wearing niqabs and burkas.

I recognize the apparent self-righteous in this statement, because I am one person who has not been on the Earth for as long as this tradition has been around, and so what does my view really matter? My only intention is to present my point of view, especially as I see so much opposition, particularly now in Europe with first the French banning the burka, and now the Danish.

It is hard for a non-Muslim (and even some Muslims) to not see these items of clothing as a symbol of oppression, and to even be quite sinister. The face is socially the most important part of a person’s body. It is crucial to be recognized by others, and is necessary for maximal integration into society. So many cues are taken from a person’s face so that others can understand what they are thinking and how they are feeling. And so when it is covered in public, everyone else loses that connection with the person, and it seems to send the message that this person is being prevented from connecting with the public world around them. For many, this willingness to live in a community with an unwillingness to share a key part of one’s identity is considered rude.

There is a part of the brain in the occipital lobe (primarily concerned with vision) called the fusiform gyrus. This part of the brain seems to be largely involved with facial recognition. Simply having this region in our brains suggests it is of deep evolutionary importance that we successfully identify faces, at least of close family and friends. Here, it must be recognized that the women wearing the niqab and burka do expose their face in private, and the mere presence of the fusiform gyrus is not itself an argument against wearing these facial coverings. However, in public, this could be a supporting explanation of why people feel uncomfortable when they are unable to see faces; we simply lose our ability to process or understand the person; our understanding of our community is mildly destabilized.

To turn this around from the viewed to the viewer, covering one’s face thus isolates one from full integration. These women will never be considered equal. We sometimes see in the news successful face transplants, and even though they’ll never look the same as a person without a face transplant, there is still a powerful drive to have a face in the community. It is incredibly difficult for a person to be political without a face, as our own personal politics is an expression of our views as an individual, and without a face we would lose our individuality. Covering one’s face in public, again in non-Muslim countries, thus suggests that this person is to be excluded from politics, which clearly bolsters patriarchal non-democratic forms of government.

There is also an extensive history of predators and assassins who have masked their identity to facilitate the realization of their morbid goals. This leads to a deep suspicion of those who would like to hide their identity from the community. Covering the face also leads to security concerns, such as at banks and airports.  When you do not know who a person is, and you cannot see their expression, you cannot be informed of their intentions, which of course could be a security concern.

So, after all of these pretty powerful reasons for why a person’s face should be exposed, how could I have come to the conclusion that it’s okay?

I think the most powerful argument here, is that you cannot legislate what women wear. With the notable exception of indecency laws (wearing nothing in public), as soon as you legislate what a woman can wear, you are assaulting her rights as a person, and you are undermining her right to choose what she wears. I believe this is counter to the values of what Western culture has been founded on, even if you want to argue that in a Muslim country she would not have the choice of what she wears.

The initial intuition of seeing a woman wearing a burka or a niqab must not lead to unbridled prejudice or negativity. By reminding oneself of the respect we should show all people, one should consciously make the effort to smile or converse (where appropriate), and not let the difference lead to acts of harassment or even assault (I’m getting sick of seeing news stories where women have had their burkas, niqabs, or hijabs pulled from their heads). To talk of cultural values, this is also counter to Western values.

It is also worth pointing out that the majority of Muslim women do not wear a burka or a niqab, and so we have to be careful that we are not generalizing, and not looking at Islam in a limited and two dimensional manner. We often find when we talk to people that we once considered to be different, that we are the same in many ways. We all have dreams and passions, we all care for our friends and families, and most of us care for long lasting peace than we do engaging in wars and killing.

I am not overly keen on the public wearing of the burka or the niqab, but my respect for the woman wearing it is (and has to be) more important than my superficial assessment of her choice.

The bane of blogging, and a Serial Killer recommendation

Heart half emptyI must confess that I’m somewhat irked I do not get to write and blog as much as I once did. However, I do think blogging, like other aspects of social media, do encourage too much sharing. I think this is folly for two reasons; first, I think it discourages writers from putting together a well thought out and convincing post (writing isn’t just itchy fingers), and second, I think the unbridled and prolific sharing of one’s thoughts, can lead to mental health issues. This latter point I’m basing on the idea that part of what makes us interesting is the depth of our personality. The more we share with EVERYONE, the shallower we become. There should be aspects of ourselves that we retain the privilege of sharing with those we care about.

It has been many months since I have written about serial killers. However, I still retain an interest as a hobby, and like to remain up to date with current theories and ideas behind this infamous behavior of a few individuals.

I recently picked up a copy of Peter Vronsky’s “Sons of Cain”. Vronsky is a PhD historian at the University of Toronto, and his field is criminal justice history. I must confess that I have only focused on psychological/neurological explanations of serial killers, and I was (embarrassingly) surprised to find such an amazing historical account. Vronsky presents a macro historical context for serial murder and rape, starting at the conflict between Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis.

I do worry that this presents serial murder as a kind of ‘unlocked’ behavior from deep within our primitive brain, as I am more inclined to see it as a disorder and aberrant development. However, the book is thoroughly entertaining and eye-opening, and a must for those also fascinated with the unbridled beast nature of humanity.

A simple math problem? Stopping school shootings

Dan Patrick

Dan Patrick: Lt. Gov. from Texas (R) GETTY IMAGES

The manner in which our represented officials approach school shootings can be absolutely mind boggling.

Speaking about the recent shooting at a Santa Fe High School, Dan Patrick, a Lieutenant Governor from TX, commented that “four or five guns to one” was the best way to stop a gunman. The logic behind such thinking should immediately disqualify him from representing the public.

This idea of increased numbers suggests that some kind of arms race is necessary to keep ahead of these evil people who come out of the woodwork from time to time. Is there an ideal ratio? How about ten guns to one? For what is undoubtedly a complex social problem, are we really willing to rely on a ‘more is better’ approach? Is that the best that our elected officials can manage?

There is also something deeply unsettling in that a ‘more is better’ would clearly drive profit margins for the very tools that were used to commit the atrocity. When tragedy becomes lucrative it should make any rational person ask for greater transparency, especially between the industry and our elected officials. What would we make of an increased sale of crowbars, related to how well Ted Bundy used them?

I don’t necessarily think that officials like Patrick are ill-intentioned, but there is clearly something about the gun that appears to be “morally cleaner” than a crowbar. The NRA has often touted that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but would we feel the same if the adage was, “the only way to stop a bad guy with a crowbar is a good guy with a crowbar”? You can substitute “gun” with any other noun to realize that there is clearly something very special about the “gun” in American society.

The showdown, at High Noon, where the good guy finally triumphs over evil, perhaps?

Is this romantic idea what is polluting the minds of our aging white male public representatives? The gun clearly provides the luxury of being impersonal, which provides the illusion that shooting someone is morally cleaner than swinging a crowbar into their head.

Substitute gun for crowbar and morally speaking you start to realize there isn’t really a good guy with a crowbar. It can start to seem acceptable in the context of self-defense, perhaps, but even if it can be shown to have been necessary for a person to smash an unconscionable aggressor in the face with a crowbar to stop them doing something terrible, nobody is ever going to feel normal again afterwards, even with the solace that the tragic event was interrupted or prevented. This is the kind of stuff that has driven our veterans and police to the edge of their sanity, and they were trained to deal with situations such as this.

The ‘more is better’ approach also misses one crucial point about spree and school shootings: The perpetrators do not care if they lose their own life, and they have already accepted this. It is common that the shooter will shot by police, or they will shoot themselves at a key moment not long after they began the shooting.

This psychology makes them just as dangerous as suicide bombers, and also undermines the argument that ‘more is better’ is somehow a deterrent to these shooters.

It is highly unlikely that even a “trained” civilian cares if they themselves die in the exchange; they may be willing to sacrifice themselves for others, but that is not the same thing. By wanting more guns in school, you’re not just requesting more gun carriers, you are requesting people who are openly willing to kill another person.

How rigorous does the training have to be to prepare somebody for this event scenario? There is a reason psychological testing is crucial for the police and our military. When you ask a person to be prepared to kill another, you are asking them to be prepared to circumvent their own conscience and live out the rest of their lives knowing what they have done. There is a personal cost to killing another person, and the only people who do not pay this cost, are those without a conscience – and I think we can agree that we do not want these people in our schools.

I think what has changed, with the increased level of awe-inspiring activism, is that people are beginning to realize that these events are much more than the shooting – a young loner, walking into a school, and shooting others. Political inaction is simply not good enough, anymore, and simple responses are offensive. It is high time we stop romanticizing over easy and poorly thought out solutions. Polarizing the world into good and bad is not productive and it does not result in a pragmatic approach to solving this problem.

Anyone who would have you believe otherwise, does not represent you.

Thank you, Everyone! Request for readers

typewriterI just wanted to reach out and thank everyone for reading my blog over the years. I’ve tried to maintain and enforce a scientific basis for some of the more research and commentary pieces, and have freely expressed speculation and opinion in others. Regrettably, there is never a shortage of violent events in the world, and I will still seek to chip away in my own corner, trying to understand why violent events happen and hopefully generate some insight into how it could be prevented.

In addition, I’ve been exploring fiction writing for some time now, as a way to try and capture the fragility of the human mind, and the struggle many of us have with simple day to day activities and expectations. This writing has mostly been short stories, as I try to present snapshots of the moments in life where we are the most mentally fatigued or helpless. I feel there is a connection between the fatigued mind and the potential onset of mental illness or disorder, those times when we feel that we might “go off the rails” and never return.

I would be honored if readers gave these stories a go, and only if enjoyed, to share them with others. In return, I open my time to read the work of others, and share within my networks, and to have constructive conversation on any interesting topics.

In addition to a novella that I have written (Recreation of Meaning), I currently have two types of stories available from the stories page. Asylum stories, which are short stories focused on characters who have lost their ability to think clearly, and are presented with circumstances that defy normality, and serial killer/killer stories, that seek to capture how unprepared we are when those we love (or least suspect) reveal this side of their life to us.

I wish all of you a great day and I hope to interact with you soon!

Jay

Can anosognosia help explain some public acts of violence?

Anosognosia has been traditionally discussed when explaining why patients with Alzheimer’s disease (Perrotin et al., 2005), Schizophrenia (Gerretsen et al., 2015), and various lesions (Moro et al., 2016) have resulted in the patient lacking awareness of the functional deficits associated with their disease or affliction. There are two competing models to explain anosognosia; a psychological model, which claims the individual is protecting themselves from the stress caused by their disease, and a neurological model, which posits that the lack of the patient’s insight into their own disorder is due to a failure of neurocognition (Lehrer & Lorenz, 2014). However, both models are in agreement that it is the disease that results in anosognosia: The disease results in the patient not recognizing they have the disease – or at least some symptoms of the disease.

Researchers are still vying for a comprehensive neurological profile of this lack of awareness, and even though the diseases and the injuries that are associated with anosognosia are diverse, there is overlap in the parts of the brain that are impacted. Patients with anosognosia have been found to have hypometabolism in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) (Perrotin et al., 2015; Therriault et al., 2018; Vannini et al., 2017), hypometabolism in the hippocampus (Vannini et al., 2016), and reduced gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex (Spalletta et al., 2014). Some studies posit that reduced right hemispheric volume, which could occur through disease atrophy or injury, relative to the left hemisphere, particularly of the angular gyrus, the medial prefrontal cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, insula, and anterior temporal lobe, lead to a lack of awareness in schizophrenic patients (Gerretsen et al., 2014).

To date, there appears to be little research on the prospect of anosognosia concomitantly occurring with an empathy or a moral deficit. This is surprising for two reasons. First, the aforementioned brain regions listed above, are also known to be involved in moral decision making (Baron-Cohen, 2012) and empathic responses (Alegria et al., 2016). Second, it is sometimes symptomatic of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease (Liljegren et al., 2016) and Schizophrenia (Del Bene et al., 2016) to behave violently towards others, which means that any anosognosia could extend to a patient’s unawareness of their own harmful behavior.

THE IMPORTANCE OF EMPATHY IN MORAL DECISIONS

If an illness or a lesion results in both a loss of empathy or moral decision making, as well as the self-awareness of these, the behavioral intentions of the individual could change. This is extremely dangerous when the deficit is empathy, because empathy helps to inform humans about harmful behavior; if we observe another human in pain, most of us are able to recreate a sense or a feeling of that pain and thus feel that the behaviors and actions that have led to this are wrong. This mechanism can be behind our drive to prevent harmful behaviors and, and cause us to strive to ease the pain of others. If we stop or ease the pain of another individual, we prevent the need for an empathic response, and thus we stop or ease the empathic pain in ourselves.

The presence of an empathic response to seeing others in pain can thus lead to the stymieing of bad behaviors, not necessarily while they are being carried out, but even stopping them before they are carried out. The absence of an empathic response to pain could lead one to have the perception that some harmful behavior is okay, because this person is missing the internal response that would inform them otherwise. Our view of behaviors being right or wrong, due to our empathic response, will also shape our guiding philosophies and worldviews. If we feel that something is right or wrong, we tend to try and understand these feelings by providing a rationale, and this rationale contributes to our own moral code.

HOW ANOSOGNOSIA WITH AN EMPATHY DEFICIT COULD LEAD TO A DANGEROUS SHIFT IN IDEOLOGY OR WORLDVIEW

Anosognosia involving an empathy deficit could have a profound impact on the person’s life and their choices. Before the onset of anosognosia and the empathy deficit, the person might feel that certain behaviors are wrong, such as assault and violence; with empathy, these behaviors can be understood as deeply destructive, and function to prevent one engaging in them. The onset of anosognosia and an empathy deficit could lead to a person transitioning from feeling that a certain behavior is bad, to amoral or even good behavior.

Our sense of what is normal also informs our moral code and how we should treat others. Most people tend to think of themselves as rational and fair minded (even though some are open to considering the views of others), and so what they think as right or wrong about the world (including behavior) feels true because it has come from a balanced place. If a person was unaware that they had an empathy deficit, they would still consider themselves rational and fair minded, as they don’t recognize a deficit to undermine this view of themselves. This could mean as their moral code is subtly changing due to an absence of empathy, the change feels true, and thus right, further validating their new view of certain behaviors. If they attribute a recently adopted ideology to this shift in their view, the ideology, too, would be further validated.

A cursory glance at any number of manifestos, penned by murderers before they acted, will inform you of how the way they saw the world changed, and finally how this change brought on their actions, which they felt were necessary. A deliberate act of murder is clearly a failure of empathy, and one cannot help wondering if the murderer was even aware of their empathy deficit.

SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF ANOSOGNOSIA WITH AN EMPATHY DEFICIT

If an empathy deficit is observed in a patient, or individual, it is therefore of the utmost importance to understand if they recognize this deficit. A person who could understand that they have an empathy deficit, even if it’s temporal, could perhaps take measures to ensure they behave in an innocuous manner, through counseling, or through supervision by friends, family, or healthcare professionals.

It is also crucial to know if a person was aware of an empathy deficit before they acted destructively towards others, because it introduces accountability when the suspect is tried. In some cases of homicide, if mental illness, disorder, or mental illness is suspected, the prosecution often has to argue against a defense that claims the defendant was not accountable due to temporary or permanent insanity, or the defendant acted in a way that was out of their control, because of a clinical difference in brain or mental functioning. If it can be shown that the defendant was aware of their empathy deficit, the legal system could hold them accountable for their actions.

Jack Pemment © 2018

 

REFERENCES

Alegria, A. A., Radua, J., & Rubia, K. (2016). Meta-analysis of fMRI studies of disruptive behavior disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 173(11), 1119-1130.

Baron-Cohen, S. (2012). The science of evil: On empathy and the origins of cruelty. Basic books.

Del Bene, V. A., Foxe, J. J., Ross, L. A., Krakowski, M. I., Czobor, P., & De Sanctis, P. (2016). Neuroanatomical Abnormalities in Violent Individuals with and without a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia. PLoS one, 11(12), e0168100.

Gerretsen, P., Menon, M., Mamo, D. C., Fervaha, G., Remington, G., Pollock, B. G., & Graff-Guerrero, A. (2014). Impaired insight into illness and cognitive insight in schizophrenia spectrum disorders: resting state functional connectivity. Schizophrenia research, 160(1), 43-50.

Gerretsen, P., Menon, M., Chakravarty, M. M., Lerch, J. P., Mamo, D. C., Remington, G., … & Graff‐Guerrero, A. (2015). Illness denial in schizophrenia spectrum disorders. Human brain mapping, 36(1), 213-225.

Lehrer, D. S., & Lorenz, J. (2014). Anosognosia in schizophrenia: hidden in plain sight. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 11(5-6), 10.

Liljegren, M., Naasan, G., Temlett, J., Perry, D. C., Rankin, K. P., Merrilees, J., … & Miller, B. L. (2015). Criminal behavior in frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer disease. JAMA neurology, 72(3), 295-300.

Moro, V., Pernigo, S., Tsakiris, M., Avesani, R., Edelstyn, N. M., Jenkinson, P. M., & Fotopoulou, A. (2016). Motor versus body awareness: Voxel-based lesion analysis in anosognosia for hemiplegia and somatoparaphrenia following right hemisphere stroke. Cortex, 83, 62-77.

Perrotin, A., Desgranges, B., Landeau, B., Mézenge, F., La Joie, R., Egret, S., … & Chételat, G. (2015). Anosognosia in Alzheimer disease: Disconnection between memory and self‐related brain networks. Annals of neurology, 78(3), 477-486.

Spalletta, G., Piras, F., Piras, F., Sancesario, G., Iorio, M., Fratangeli, C., … & Orfei, M. D. (2014). Neuroanatomical correlates of awareness of illness in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment who will or will not convert to Alzheimer’s disease. cortex, 61, 183-195.

Therriault, J., Ng, K. P., Pascoal, T. A., Mathotaarachchi, S., Kang, M. S., Struyfs, H., … & Gauthier, S. (2018). Anosognosia predicts default mode network hypometabolism and clinical progression to dementia. Neurology, 90(11), e932-e939.

Vannini, P., Hanseeuw, B., Munro, C. E., Amariglio, R. E., Marshall, G. A., Rentz, D. M., … & Sperling, R. A. (2017). Anosognosia for memory deficits in mild cognitive impairment: Insight into the neural mechanism using functional and molecular imaging. NeuroImage: Clinical, 15, 408-414.

 

The Date

frozen yoghurt

I’m all peopled out.

The mental staples holding up the corners of my mouth are losing their grip, and the disc spinning out my laugh, my positive affirmations and my platitudes, is now worn and splintered.

I had somehow got swept up in this wave that pulsed around the office in the afternoon. A leaving get-together for Tanya in contracts. I knew Tanya, she was nice. No reason to not wish her well. But outside of work? Outside of the office? Outside of the walls I had deliberately built in my head to protect me from this shit in the first place?

When work people intruded into my private life, my personal time, they were but apparitions, phantoms, for the soulless careerists that they were. Go talk about climbing Everest or charity work in Africa to your Linked-In profile. You only regain meaning to me when we’re back in the office on Monday, and that’s when I note your location to avoid you on my way to the coffee machine.

But here we were, outside of work. Patting me on the shoulder, asking me about some banal crap that had been mentioned in a pointless teleconference before the Sun had had even a chance to yawn. My nerves prickled, and I felt myself becoming clammy, still in my work clothes.

A green beer bottle was thrust towards me, and a hand gripped my shoulder. Someone’s loud and chicken wing-ed breath was in my ear.

“I think Aquaflux are our best option. They’ll give us want we want much faster than Blue Seas.”

I stood up.

I had had far too much work today. I had given far too much of myself to these bastards already; it was like being stalked by a slot machine.

“I have to go,” I declared to no one and everyone, and I had to finish it up with something definitive and conclusive. Something that couldn’t be questioned and that wouldn’t rope me into more frivolous conversation.

Clubbing baby seals, court-ordered highway clean-up, masturbation, necrophilia, irumatio.

“I need to pick out a casket for my grandmother. Those things aren’t cheap.” I hurried to the door and threw it open, leaving the inferno of pitiless self-promotion and office clichés behind me in the black hole of their own corporate filth.

My mind instantly cleared in the absence of voices and I could finally hear my own again.

A date. Victoria from the comic-con. She had dressed as Hawk Girl, and I as Green Lantern. We’d waited in line for five hours to see Mark Hamill, and chatted extensively about why humans fantasized so much about other humans with super powers. Her smile had been alluring, and her laugh hypnotic. Two things I’d been looking forward to as we’d remained in touch, reading each other’s fanfiction.

Both my stroll and my breathes deepened, and the anxiety working my nerves finally let go. Cars passed me by down Main Street, jiving to the euphoric beat of a Friday evening.

I was heading to a frozen yogurt place that had jut opened up on the corner of fifth street. Victoria had suggested it and I was willing to go along with whatever; could’ve been a park bench for all I cared, but it was probably best one of us kept the date within social norms.

The bright pink and green lights for Dysgeusia punched through the night and for some reason I was reminded of Japanese pornography. The line at the counter was already growing with people from off the street, but only a few seemed to remain behind in the booths.

I crossed the street and pushed open the turquoise doors with the slightly darker half moon handles. The smell of sugar immediately swirled up my nose and circled my head, stimulating every single neuron whose job it was to bathe my tongue in saliva. I swallowed and stepped to the side, curious to see if Victoria had arrived.

She had. And was sitting in an empty booth by the window with a small pastel green tub, heaped with a rainbow of small candies. She looked up and waved at me. She now had pink bubblegum hair and black lipstick, and was wearing a purple dress underneath a white baseball jacket. I wanted to lick her.

“There you are!” she grinned, reaching ot as she stood up.

I hugged her back. “I wasn’t sure if you’d make it.”

Victoria put her hands on her hips. “I always keep my promises,” she said. “Now, go and get your yogurt. This shit is awesome.”

I joined the line and listened to the requests being made ahead of me. A series of orders, delivered with and without pleases and thank yous. Sounded like I was back at work.

“What would you like, sir?” asked the young women behind the blue and green apron. I thought taking a breath to buy myself some time would help. It didn’t. “Oh, just,” I waved my hand. “Surprise me.”

A smirk warmed her young greasy skin and she held my gaze for a moment. “So, just…”

“Anything,” I finished for her, “Yes.”

In a series of well-coordinated scoops, she filled my tub and passed it back to me. I moved onto the cashier, gave him ten dollars and didn’t wait for my change. I saw his lips move, and immediately shot him down. “Keep it.”

I was starting to realize that when you stop giving a shit, you don’t really have to make any more choices.

I stepped out of the line and joined Victoria in the booth.

“I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this date,” I smiled, this time without mind staples. “Work is just so boring, and my evenings are just a series of coping mechanisms to power through to the weekend.”

Victoria seductively cleared her white plastic spoon and dropped it in her now empty tub. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” she said, and reached over to pinch my shoulder. “I love my job, but it’s my dream job. I work in a library.”

“Do you mind if I ask? What is it about your job that you like?”

“It’s just what I’ve always wanted to do. Just surrounded by knowledge, and fantasy worlds. Even the stupid questions and noisy children don’t bother me.”

I pressed my head back against the cushioned headrest and sighed. “I’ll have to hang around you more. It sounds like you’ve found the secret to getting through life.”

Victoria shrugged and her toe ran up and down the side of my shinbone.

Her deep brown eyes sparkled and I saw the gateway to an entire universe.

“Have you thought about…” she stopped and jarred her head to look out of the window. There were now flashing blue lights in the street, and the sound of a siren rose and fell.

The sound of feet shuffling and gasps made me turn my head, and without warning both Dysgeusia’s doors were thrown open and three police officers entered.

Victoria’s face darkened and her brown irises were swallowed by her pupils.

One of the officers saw her and immediately pounced to our table and drew her gun. “Hands up,” she yelled, pointing at Victoria. We both raised our hands and my breath got stuck in my throat.

The female officer advanced, took hold of Victoria’s arm, gun still pointed, and pulled for her to follow out of the booth. Once she was on her feet and facing the table, the officer guided her arms behind her back and immediately cuffed her wrists.

“Victoria Ritter, I am arresting you for the kidnap and murder of Nathan Walker. You do not have to say anything, but anything you do say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney before talking to the police and the right to have an attorney present for questioning now or in the future. If you cannot afford an attorney, one can be provided to you by the state.”

Victoria squinted and flicked her eyes towards me. Her teeth unsheathed from behind her black lips. “The secret, Chris, is don’t get caught.”

The police led her away and left me sitting in the booth with my hands still behind my head. The customers in line at the yogurt counter continued to glance at me, wondering why the police hadn’t taken me, too.

I was all peopled out.

And I suddenly wanted to be at home, in the dark, masturbating to the sound of silence.