This scene is an introduction to contemporary superhero Empath Man, who fights crime with his advanced listening sklills and ability to stay open and vulnerable in a tight situation. Warehouse. Interior. Two desperate men, stuffing wads of cash into a duffel bag, look up, startled, as a man strolls casually through the double doors...
"Hi guys, looks like fun. Guess you must need the money pretty bad. Hey - I've been there. I know where you're coming from."
"Oh no, it's Empath Man! Don't let him disarm you with his self-deprecating charm and non-judgemental acceptance of who you are."
"I guess you must have felt quite an emptiness inside to need to fill it with bundles of cash. It's as if that duffel bag is your crumpled, deprived heart and this is an honest but confused attempt to meet its needs. I respect that. I find it moving." "Damn you, Empath Man. I don't want to talk about this shit right now".
"Don't let him get to you. Shoot him if you have to."
"Hey, if you need to shoot me, I guess you need to shoot me. I feel very open and accepting of who you are and what you do."
"Can't or won't?"
"I dunno, part of me wants to shoot him, another part just wants to relax and hang out with the guy. The mixture of serenity and sheer ordinariness is strangely compelling..."
"Ok. Give me the gun. I'll shoot him myself."
"Hey," Empath Man shrugs. "Whatever you need to do, you know, that's okay. Trust yourself. Who else can you trust? Who else have you ever been able to trust?"
"Goddman it, I'm filling up!"
"What's he doing to you, Rodney, what's happening?"
"I don't know. It's this talk of trust. It's bringing up long-buried feelings."
"Goddman. You've got to fight it."
"I'm trying, it's just...they've been buried so long beneath encrusted layers of anger and cynicism, wrapped around in bravado and self-medication, it's kind of a big thing for me." The soft man keeps talking. "What feelings are coming up? It's just me and your partner in crime here. You can tell us."
"Feelings of hurt, sadness, loss, betrayal, and Oh God, no..."
"What is it? We both want to hear it."
"A kind of self-loathing, a sense of shame, allied with a yearning of almost spiritual intensity."
"No, please, don't go spiritually intense on me now. I'm feeling pretty shaky as it is. Don't...Oh God, it's the Police." Screech of tyres, slam of doors, pounding of meaty feet. It's Karma in a uniform. Empath Man keeps eye contact with the overwrought robber as he greets the men in blue.
"Hello Officers, these two miscreants here were just opening up to some feelings about crime and the causes of crime, I'm sure they'll be more than willing to carry on down at the station." The two are roughly cuffed and led away. "Come on then, miscreants, and stop snivelling, or we'll really give you something to cry about down at the cells."
"Hmmm. We all feel the desire to brutally punish others in order to bolster our diminished sense of personal power."
"That's enough, Empath Man. I've got to hand it to you, another job well done. But i don't like your methods. They're effective, but they're sick."
"I understand, Officer, what it is to be both disgusted and threatened by emocional intensity and authentic intimacy. I too have insecurities gnawing at me like ravenous rats devouring the living tissue of self-worth. But thanks for the feedback. I'll take it on board - even though it may corrode my soul like the acid of early rejection by a parent or carer. But hey, I'm sensing you'd know about that." The Officer turns away. Are those tears welling up? Probably. As usual, Empath Man is left alone to reflect. He wasn't always Empath Man - used to be just a regular guy, in middle management. Then he took part in a drugs trial that went horribly wrong. It was an anti-pessimism drug, Optiagra. For middle-aged men who find it difficult to get their hopes up. He had a wife, Stella. She was always trying to get him to see a Relate counsellor with her, but he wasn't having any of that. When he became Empath Man Stella was like the cat who got the cream - then became lactose-intolerant on the same day. Because who could live with such a man - in whose presence all feeling is amplified; who knows you feel before you do; who brings out the best in you at the worst possible time? So here we leave him, the Skinless Wonder, the Lone Listener, putting the vigil back in vigilante...