Most of the time, I have a pleasant disposition. I try to be polite and courteous even under duress. I get along with my girlfriend’s parents. I chat with TSA agents at the airport. I sign my e-mails “Hooray!” People usually understand that I’m genuinely friendly. Sometimes, though, folks assume I have a dark side, a hidden capacity for malice and cruelty writhing just beneath the surface of my chipper “façade.” They usually voice their concerns in the same way: “You’re so nice, you’re probably a serial killer,” which puts me in a very difficult position. It is borderline impossible to convince someone that you are not a serial killer.
The natural reaction to the accusation is, obviously, to say: “Of course I am not a serial killer!” But there’s one massive flaw in that defense. That is exactly what a serial killer would say! It’s one of those things that once you say it, people can’t help but think the opposite is true. “I’m not a serial killer,” belongs on that pantheon of least trustworthy utterances along with old favorites such as:
“I’m not racist, but…”
“I’m going to break up with my girlfriend; I’m just waiting for the right time,” and
“This won’t hurt a bit.”
As soon as you hear any of those phrases, warning bells ring with Christmas at the Notre Dame Cathedral fervor. Why would someone say he wasn’t racist unless he was about to say something racist? Unfortunately, there’s no way to say you’re not a serial killer than to say it. What else can I do? I wish there were a secret handshake that only people who have never been on/ will never go on a killing spree would know. The problem with that plan, though, is that if one actual serial killer ever learned it, then the rest of us would be goners.
I also can’t laugh and say: “Yep, you got me! I’m a serial killer!” Because that is also what a real serial killer would say. He’d give a smile and a toss of his meticulously coiffed hair, and any suspicion you may have had would melt away. AND THEN HE WOULD HAVE YOU RIGHT WHERE HE WANTED YOU! So a glib admission of guilt is even more damning than an outright denial.
Seriously, though. I’m not a serial killer. I don’t fit any of the personality types. Yes, I am a white male in my mid twenties, a category that a lot of killers fit into. Otherwise, though, I come up clean. I don’t have a history of interest in violent or fetishistic pornography. I have not set recreational fires (apparently a serial killer staple) since I was a kid. I’ve never tortured animals. I don’t have any other history of crime in my family except one time my dad refused to pay his newspaper delivery bill, and I jaywalk a lot. I’ve never been abused or abandoned by a family member, which seems to be a near-constant in the lives of serial killers. I just don’t fit the bill.
Now you’re probably saying: “Josh, you know an awful lot about serial killers. You must be some kind of weirdo. Possibly a serial killer.” NO! I researched them! On Wikipedia and other such reputable sources. Do you see how hard it is to convince someone that you are not a murderer once the accusation has been made? Defending yourself in any way is nearly an admission of guilt.
I don’t mean to harp on it. It just hurts my feelings that people could misconstrue my genuine friendliness as some sort of ploy that I use for my own sadistic gains. Sometimes I get a little mad. But it’s the kind of mad you can’t express. You keep it inside. Not like until you snap and kill six people over the course of a year at regular sixty-day intervals. And yes, that was oddly specific, but that’s because I’m a writer. Not because I’m a killer. But the more specific evidence I give, the less you believe me. Watch, here are some other reasons that I can’t be a serial killer.
I have always had trouble ripping duct tape cleanly.
Blood makes me queasy.
I was never a boy scout, so I have limited knowledge of knots.
I am too easily persuaded by politeness to murder.
Those are all legitimately practical reasons why I would not make a good serial killer, but as I list them, they only reinforce that I have thought a great deal about serial killing. Therefore, even if I haven’t killed anyone (I haven’t!) it has clearly been on my mind.
So please, against all odds, trust me when I tell you I have never murdered a single person. And that is not a trick of language that I am using to disguise the fact that I have killed multiple people.
But, honestly, if you do believe me at this point, that’s weird. How could you possibly trust me at this point?
You’re probably a murderer.