Glen, he hesitantly revealed, was psychic. “Empath” was his term. (He was cribbing terminology from Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of our favorite shows.) His mother and one of his sisters shared this trait, he confided. It wasn’t simply reading thoughts. Instead he would be struck by “flashes,” impressions of emotion and occasionally facts, most commonly from those about whom he cared the most.
He took me aside one day and showed me a polished, trapezoidal stone. He placed the stone in a divot of skin between his eyes.
“There is a place on me for this stone, which means I have the gift,” he said. He demonstrated how the stone, unlike most rocks, could transmit the current from the frightening static electricity generator he would occasionally use in parlor science experiments.
“Perhaps there is a place on your body where it fits, too,” he said.
That was his game, always tempering the threat of his “abilities” with the lure that I, too, might just be special. A telepath—or, encouraging me to stare at dust motes falling through rays of sunlight in our living room, perhaps someone with telekinesis. I was a regular reader of The Uncanny X-Men and knew about these things, even if I wasn’t sure I believed in them.
The subtext was terrible: if I didn’t have the gift, I should never forget that no matter where I was, no matter what I was doing, Glen knew what I was thinking.
At twelve or so, just beginning to feel the pangs of pubescent lust, I spent most of my waking hours trying not only to avoid thinking of sex because of its sinful nature—we were going to a new church—but because I knew that every sexual thought that bubbled up from the depths went flying through the ether to Glen.
He wasn’t always correct. Glen tried desperately to convince me that he’d “read” sexual thoughts I’d had about my mother, which despite that I was a hillbilly with little compunction about incest, were not true. In retrospect, it’s clear he was simply anticipating the sort of generic sexual thoughts every pubescent boy feels. Yet my own guilty lust provoked him, he said. He knew touching me was wrong, he’d plead, but how could he resist me when my own thoughts called out to him?
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