About a month ago, late in the afternoon, while we sat around drinking beer, L’s mother J gave us an impromptu psychological test. If you could answer the following question correctly, you were a sociopath.
Or at least you could think like one. Apparently it’s used in screening suspects. Or was it training FBI agents? I’m not sure if either is true but the question was this:
A woman goes to her grandmother’s funeral and meets a tall, dark, handsome stranger. They hit it off immediately, finishing each other’s sentences and laughing at each other’s jokes. It’s practically love at first sight. Due some circumstance she doesn’t learn his last name or exchange any contact information. A month later she’s arrested for killing her sister. Why?
Mandi and L offered a few theories based on motives revolving around revenge and monetary gain. It took me a minute or two but the answer was clear. She had killed her sibling hoping the handsome stranger might come to her sister’s funeral as he had her grandmother’s. I felt silly it had taken me so long to get it.
Mandi said, “Oh right. You’d told me before you felt a kinship with Dexter,” and tried not to look worried. At this point she decided we needed to drink a third pint.
We went to dinner at a local steak house with another couple more friends of Mandi and L for a little of the Thunder Bay flavour. The brick-walled restaurant had amazingly delicious buns at the salad bar but was otherwise fairly ordinary. They did have Stella on tap though and so I had my fourth pint of the afternoon because one wouldn’t want to seem unsociable when out to dinner with people one hardly knows and may suspect one of being a sociopath.
Dinner was progressing well. I was gnawing on my Pioneer Bones “for the Fred Flintstone type” (which really were just a pile of bones) in a beatific beer-induced haze when I became vaguely aware Mandi suddenly on the other side of the table and was cradling L’s mom’s head in her arms saying her name repeatedly.
L was sitting across from me in frozen, wide-eyed panic saying words like, “She said she felt funny.” I looked to J whose eyes were open and unfocused above her slack, expressionless face. At first she appeared to be unconscious but then it was clear she was awake but vacant and non-responsive and disoriented.
As if from a seat in a theatre watching a performance, I watched Mandi instruct L to take her mother’s hand and talk to her. The look of distilled anxiety in L’s eyes made her suddenly appear years younger; a child frightened by noises in the dark. “Why can’t I do anything?” she said. Unable to offer any answer to the pleading in her eyes, I turned my attention back to her mother’s dead, expressionless gaze.
It was chilling and sobering to see a woman I hardly knew in the throes of what appeared to be a stroke, so I took another swig from my glass. The beer had lost its ability to intoxicate me though so I had to face the situation with an acute, irrational dread I’d be called upon to act in some way. This seemed unlikely since someone else had already managed to have our server call the paramedics and Mandi was describing over the phone the symptoms she was witnessing.
I glanced across to our other dinner companions who looked completely stunned. Turning around I saw none of the other restaurant patrons seemed to have noticed anything as amiss at our table. It added a little more of a surreal flavour to the situation.
Mandi asked J if she knew where she was. The answer was a very slight, unconvincing nod which concluded with the unfocused eyes drifting down towards the table. She asked her if she could stick her tongue out which was also greeted with a nod but a refusal to do so. I was impressed and proud with the way Mandi took control of the situation. Something far beyond my abilities.
Then, almost as quickly as it had rolled in, the fog seemed to lift. Soon J was joking with the girls about looking forward to the hot paramedic who was bound to show up. It seemed like I didn’t even have time to take another sip of beer when the paramedics arrived. And indeed one of them actually was the stereotypical pin-up fireman calendar hottie. As he ran J through the paces, asking her about her symptoms, his older and much less attractive partner cracked jokes. Since the crisis seemed to have passed, I shrugged and tackled my Pioneer Bones with renewed vigour.
“Look at this guy eating and making me hungry,” joked the older paramedic. I looked around and saw that everyone else at the table had clearly lost their appetite and had pushed their plates away. Was it bad form to continue eating? I had the sinking feeling it was inappropriate to be gnawing on ribs when a member of the party was being examined by paramedics.
“Well, I already failed the psychological exam portion of evening,” I said, forcing a laugh which was not picked up by anyone else. The paramedic deflected attention from this awkwardness by trying to convince J to visit the hospital. She refused by promised to see the doctor at her work the following Monday. She had to compete in a boat race the next day.