The Empath

This one’s a bit new agey, readers. Do with that what you will, or no.

I realized today, perhaps not for the first time but maybe in the most concrete way, that I have a special quality: People seem to know very quickly that they can tell me anything. Instantly, at times. I have met women under certain circumstances and inside the space of 10 or 20 minutes, have found about abortions and miscarriages and rapes they’ve had to deal with, molestations by relatives, racial issues, married men who made promises they then never kept, laws people have broken, terrible things they’ve thought, done, had happen to them. Quirky proclivities they want someone to tell them are not deviant. I guess I scream, “I’ve done it all, tell me anything!” and that’s cool by me.

I don’t know that I “attract” the behavior per se, but my presence engenders it. It has since some point in high school, when I quit trying to be like everyone else and try to get people to like me and instead decided everyone who didn’t like me could suck a donkey dick. I put something out there into the ether that makes people feel they can talk to me about anything. That somehow, I will be able to sympathize, to validate them, to tell them a similar tale, or to give them advice. I suppose some people would find they have a quality like this and think, hey, I should be able to turn this into some kind of job, like being a psychologist or something. But so much of that is forms and insurance and people you can’t really help. I don’t want to profit off of what I inspire in others, I’m just glad it’s there. It’s these conversations that make me feel alive, that make me feel like maybe all my fucked up life experiences can actually be put to some good use for other people. And that’s actually neat.

I’m a right-up-front gal. Always have been. Maybe that’s what brings it on. This was extremely off-putting to people in my very small, conservative hometown, where conformity was a religion, and where religion was a requirement. Circling back with a lot of them, 20, 25 years later, they seem more in tune with my vibe now. So maybe I was just ahead of the game. I had a few freaks back then who got my brand of weird, and made a few more friends in unexpected places; the smoking dock behind the school, the morning breakfast drinking club (screwdrivers and donuts – it’s a way to start the day, but yeah you need something chemical to wake up in the afternoons when you start off morning drinking), hanging out with bands or being part of a shoplifting ring – ah, the days before everyone was on camera every minute. I got to be decent friends with a girl I had had a terrible fight with at one point, slamming heads into lockers and such. She was actually just so much like me we rubbed together like sandpaper until we figured out there was no valid reason for the conflict.

I made a good friend at Career Day in high school, when I selected truck driving as one of my career choices (along with police officer, simply because I wanted to case the place to see where you could bolt in between the car and the building, as I knew my time was coming to make that trip downtown one day). I was the only female, and the room full of redneck white dudes (you might call them “hoods” or “burnouts,” we called them “grits”) didn’t really get why I was there. I ended up befriending a guy straight away, let’s call him Ronnie, about 5 minutes into the class when we were talking about how sweetly decked out the cabins were in the driver-presenter’s posters, and he gave me a nickname: Cuss ‘Em, because you just cuss ’em all out, dontcha, he said. We laughed and had fun the whole session. He’d go by me in the hallway after that day, which is the only place I saw him, since Ronnie was in the vocational track and I was pre-college, and he’d go, “Hey, Cuss ‘Em” and I’d say hey and we’d punch each other in the arm or high five. One time I was at the smoking dock and a couple of guys were horsing around and flirting with me and wouldn’t let me back inside, trying to be cute about it, but it was frankly a bit intimidating and had gotten to the point it started to bother me. I didn’t know them, and they were a little too grabby for my liking. Right then, Ronnie and another dude came from around the back corner of the building to have a smoke themselves. Ronnie saw immediately what was happening and the look in my eye, and before anything was even said, he and his buddy rushed up the stairs and punched these two fuckers down like a pasty blob of rising bread dough, Ronnie escorting me safely inside the school doors. He stopped me in the hallway once we were a bit up the hallway and said, completely seriously, “If anything EVER happens like that to you again, you let me know.” He didn’t ask me out, he didn’t even look at my sideways; he wasn’t trying to get in my pants, he was just a stand-up guy. All because I took the truck driving course and I had a foul mouth and a good sense of humor.

I see stuff on people, too, I guess. I went to lunch with someone today and used a few key phrases about things I had seen about her and she was almost in tears. How could you know that, she said. How did you know that. And then an outpouring of questions, seeking my experience, my advice, a confidante. Someone who she could say yes, these things, and this too, and I nodded and said yes, I did those things too, and more, and you’re fine. It’s fine, and you don’t have to put up with that, and here’s what I did, or would do, or what someone else told me they did. I try to take some of the burden from them so they don’t feel like they have to carry it, I guess. I absorb it like a sponge, pass it through me and show them how to put it down on the ground and leave it. You’re free from feeling bad. You’re not a bad person. It frees them from a weight. It tires me and makes me happy at the same time. It creates bonds and memories and experiences that make me feel alive.

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2 thoughts on “The Empath

  1. It’s your authenticity people pick up on. I was a pretty eccentric kid. Some people we’re drawn to it, others feared it. As an adult though, most people respect it…or at least they keep their mouths shut about it if they don’t.

  2. Thanks for the comment. People can be authentic, but also judgy, perhaps. There must be an inherent quality about me that says I’m someone you can say anything to, and I won’t judge. Which is cool.

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