He told me he loved me 10 minutes into our first date.
Yes, looking back, it should have been a sign, but I was distracted by his straight teeth and crooked smile.
The first time I met his eyes, they were wild: furtive, feral; brown-black pools that sparkled with equal parts charm and menace. He seemed like the right kind of dangerous.
He burst through the door of my apartment like he owned the place. He was handsome, undoubtedly, but his presence was something more than his externality. He had a manic energy, and it sucked me in entirely.
His words were deliberate, his voice was raspy, and he was acutely aware of the effect he had over me – over everyone, really.
We stole lemon beers from my shared fridge and tiptoed barefoot down the metal stairs to the rectangle of pavement New Yorkers call a yard.
He chain-smoked while I did the crossword. We were old and married and cold and drunk.
I had known him for less than an hour, but we're the kind of people who just don't know how to say “when.”
There were no breaks in conversation; we never tripped over words. We spoke about the oddest things.
He was indisputably intelligent and laughed in harsh, measured barks. He was never lost; he picked up on every allusion, on every note of latent sarcasm, on things I couldn't begin to explain.
There's nothing sexier to me than conversation, and his tongue was all too ready for the verbal spar that sent shivers down my spine.
He never skipped a beat, and our dialogue hurdled in a million different directions.
No area was off limits; there was nothing we didn't have in common, no books we hadn't both inhaled, no movies we hadn't both adored, no music that hadn't gotten both of us through our emotionally-stunted childhoods.
We just gradually drew closer until our knees brushed and, eventually, our lips met.
And then he started with the promises.
He said that relationships were for the dogs, but I was different. He said if I asked him to, right then and there, he would drop everything and be mine.
He said he loved me and then he said he had never told anyone that ever.
He told me stories. They felt like stories. It takes a liar to know one, but I could forgive him. I appreciate embellishment and hyperbole as much as the next adventure junkie.
His brain seemed to work like mine. We held the same hyper-analytical, clinical assessment of the world, tempered with bursts of rapturous sensation and an incredible ferocity to be alive.
He walked the same contradictions I did.
He didn't give one flying fuck about the world and how it perceived him. It was magnetic. It was never boring.
When I saw him to the door, he leaned across the threshold for a long, slow kiss. He said there was something special, and he knew I felt it too. We made plans for the following day.
This began a long string of canceled dates.
Some nights he would keep me up until sunrise with secrets and commiseration. We'd go for hours on end, phone calls and texts. He would say this was something different. He would say we can't ignore this.
Then he would disappear.
It could be days. Sometimes it was a week. One time it was a month.
I've never been the kind of girl to stare at a phone, but every vibration that wasn't his name sent my stomach into a lurch and flattened me into the ground.
All the same, I refused to believe the guy who said all those things could be the guy who didn't mean any of them.
I made the requisite excuses for him time and time again.
I assured myself I was a cool girl and I didn't mind when he didn't call when he said he would, when he didn't text for days, when he made plans and then fell off the face of the earth.
I felt addicted to his conversation; I felt addicted to his attention.
Because when I had it, there was nothing like it. The intensity, the devotion, the electricity -- everything fell into place, and I could see the whole of our future painted in bright, vibrant lights.
Then he'd leave mid-sentence.
And I would lapse heavily in withdrawal. The minutes, hours, days between our communication drained the world of its color.
He said just enough to keep me there, dangling by a thread -- and I was unraveling.
And the moment I felt strong enough to sever all ties, he came back with a million excuses to quell the million questions I had racked my brain with when he wasn't around.
It was the first time in my life I was vulnerable; I had always been the texted, the chased, the desired.
I had never been on the other side of the phone, hoping for a message to disrupt the blocks of blue I carefully constructed ad nauseum to no avail.
Maybe his phone was broken; maybe mine was. Maybe he was scared of what we had; maybe I was.
He made me feel helpless; he rooted himself firmly under my skin, and no amount of scratching could exorcize the idea of him.
His scent. His fingers. The way his full lips formed words, even if they were lies. Because lies can be beautiful if they're told the right way.
He was just better at being me than I was.
It's hard to make sense of that, but he cared less about things than I do, he took unbelievable risks I couldn't dream of and he spun elaborate, beautiful entanglements of deceit and adventure that eclipsed all of my own.
I thought I was an extreme person… until I met him.
Every wonderfully flawed piece of myself I cherished, he outdid. Every rotten part of me I treasured, the bits that left men slain at my feet, was exceeded.
It was like I was choked with the heavy recoil of the millions of lies I had shot in the dark in the pursuit of being an ephemeral, untouchable creature.
But everything I've ever done and will ever do paled in comparison to whatever this man was.
When I found out he was a diagnosed sociopath, it was like the millions of tiny pieces he fractured me into finally solidified into a neat conclusion.
It finally made sense why each week he'd have a new, gorgeous “best friend” on Instagram. Why his stories never quite lived up to his reality. Why his eyes felt just the tiniest bit empty.
Why he couldn't do anything without being some form of fucked up. Why he didn't care enough to sustain relationships. Why he strung me along, played with me and liked it.
It was all for sport.
The longest we went without speaking was a little over a month. At first, I had felt trampled on, chewed up and weak. Then I felt numb; I ghosted through my day to day, pretending it didn't hurt to breathe.
And just when I was able to say his name and not wince, when I was able to look at my phone without the silent prayer for a message, when absolutely random things didn't jolt me back to a pained vision of his face, he flicked a careless text at me.
He asked me why I had stopped talking to him.
Apparently, it was all a hilarious misunderstanding. A classic mixup. A comedy of errors. He thought I spurned him, and I thought he rejected me. The laughs we had!
Of course, I didn't really believe him -- I couldn't -- but I told myself I did. Because it felt better when it was true. Because it suddenly didn't hurt so much.
Loving a sociopath is taking all the shortcuts in life.
There's immediate charm, intense connection, an all or nothingness that is unlike any normal relationship.
It's like you skip all the bullshit -- until you realize it's only bullshit.
Most of all, it's a shortcut to a broken heart.
Because as detached as you try to be, you'll never be as unattached as someone who lives his life completely separate from the basic spectrum of human emotions.
Because sometimes he isn't human; sometimes it feels like he's one step up on the food chain and you've been looking particularly tasty lately.
There's a term in biology called "surplus killing," and it refers to predators that kill prey with absolutely no intention of eating it.
It could be a show of strength or it could be because a little part of them enjoys it. We tell ourselves it's the former because we only like violence when we can explain it away.
But I know there's a distinct difference between the animals who play with their prey before they eat it and the animals who kill just because it's fun.
It took me a long time to realize I wasn't the cat in this cat and mouse game.
And it took me even longer to move on.
I can say his name now; I can talk about him fondly; I can reminisce about the time I doused my heart in gasoline, lit a match and hoped for the best.
Because all he ever could be was a story; he wasn't the one -- he was who I wanted him to be.
Because he held me but never really touched me. Because he sat himself in the stitches of the skin, superficial enough to burn and deep enough to bruise.
Because the only cure for pain is time. And when the sting is gone, all that's left is truth. He couldn't be real if he tried.
And something that isn't real can't hurt you. At least not in the long run.
Because, ultimately, he didn't get the better of me. Because I'd rather feel than fake it. Because I'd rather love and be loved.
Because, because, because.
*Editor's Note: Although diagnosing a sociopath is uncommon, the chances of diagnosis increase when an individual has been incarcerated for violent crimes and in rehab for sensation-seeking behaviors. Antisocial behaviors are incredibly complex and sometimes dangerous; this article does not take the term "sociopath" lightly. If you need any more information in identifying sociopathic behaviors, read more here.