April 23, 2007

"He told me he had been having an affair for the last 6 years."

evenge, reprisal, retortion,
lex talionis in Latin. Revenge is like sex without the politics. It is primal, and instant, and instinctive. It can be quick, and urgent, executed in subway cars. It can be slow, and beautiful, your life’s work. How sweet is the day when revenge does grant you a moment under her wings and shows you briefly a story about the world?

My father was my best of friends. In a kingdom of children he carried the crown. We were inseparable. Everyday after school, from the beginning of my memories, he would pick me up and create adventures for us. Entire universes were built in our home with Legos and soldiers. Rome fell a thousand times in great crashes of model airplanes into wood block cities and we told a thousand heroes' stories, creating a mythology with pagan rituals.

I grew older. Shaving, driving, fucking, why art mattered. The exact date of the death of God, and where he was buried should I ever feel inclined to leave flowers. My father transcended archetype, no distinction between the brother I never had and the rule of law every boy wants to climb over.

By 16 I had friends, a job, a life. I had ideas about the free market and the relative value of pre-Christian religions in Ireland. I put him in a glass case on the mantel and wound him up when I missed his voice. He escaped with a sledgehammer. I came home one evening to find him in the driveway of our house, all of his clothes and books in a pile by his truck. He told me he had been having an affair for the last 6 years. He never loved my mother and felt like his life was empty. She made him happy. He was leaving. He loved me.

My mother was destroyed. An entire universe had caved in under her. What you thought were memories were only skeletons in the desert. They existed once, and where there had been light in her eyes there was now only a set of vacuums demanding justice for the theft of her youth. I took her spear and banner and rode out for her.

From then on I would only see my father for 2 hours a week. We would sit in his truck in silence. On one of these 2 hour trips to the island my father told me his mother was dying from lung cancer. He needed me, his dearest friend, to talk to – to give him quarter from the enormity of a life that he had lost control over, a life now bent on his destruction. At that moment Revenge descended from Heaven above and lifted me out of the truck. I was dropped in front of a convenience store where I purchased a pack of Camel Lights.

Open the pack, turn one upside down for good luck, pull out another and place it to your lips. Light, inhale, exhale, and repeat until one has achieved the desired effect.

I did not attend my grandmother’s funeral, but I smoked through every word of my father’s account of it.

I have smoked everyday ever since. To say his contrition was delicious would do it a lack of justice. Revenge is best when you get to be face to face with it. Why be an archer on a hill when you can run a spear through someone’s chest and watch the light leave their eyes? For years every phone call ended with “are you still smoking?” It was our secret language. Morse code for “will you finally forgive me”. He’s stopped asking now, I can’t tell if it’s defeat or merely acquiescence, though either one is a success. And that’s the victory in revenge, once you have it you can let it go. You take whatever instruments you have around and throw them as hard as you can. So long as you hit your target you get to move on.

Contributed by B. Foote

"...Act swiftly and run like hell!"

Ah, revenge! I wish I could boast that I have executed many a fiendish plot against the multitude of enemies that I have acquired over the years. Sadly, I am more of a “plotter” than a “doer.” My problem is that I have entire Home Alone movie’s worth of revenge scenarios that I could play out at any time, but I lack the guts, motivation or means. I also think that I tend to lean more toward “vengeance” than revenge, as the people I would want to inflict harm or inconvenience on probably don’t realize that they’ve done something wrong to me. Like those silly bastards with the “W04” bumper stickers who think they’re so smart. Every time I see one of those, I would be willing to risk bodily harm to myself and my car just to run them into a guardrail. I wouldn’t have the guts to admit that was the reason either, I would blame a stray cat or a plastic bag that had floated across my windshield.

The one time recently that I could have done something actually revengeful, I waited too long and the opportunity passed. My brother-in-law is deaf and lives in the apartment above me. He came home one night to find his parking spot had already been taken by an unknown perp (I say perp because I’m pretty sure they were buying drugs from a neighbor). He had asked me to call a tow truck, but the tow company couldn’t do anything because there was no sign posted at the time. I knocked on a couple of doors to ask around—something he couldn’t very well do himself—but no one owned up to it. Since I couldn’t do much else but wait, I thought, What would be the most inconvenient thing I could do to these scumbags?

I’m not one to condone petty vandalism to another person’s car; to key a car makes no statement, other than some jackass knows how to scratch things. My car was keyed once at the mall and I didn’t really care and never got it fixed. What was the point? It was just a couple of white marks in the passenger side, not like I had to see it everyday. And it was a Cavalier, not a Lexus, so who would notice? My solution came to as if from a dream: Screws in the tires. So simple yet so ingenious! Nothing is more inconvenient than a flat tire. Add to that the fact that screws would be put into all four tires, so they wouldn’t know when or where it would happen or if it would happen at the same time. Doubly inconvenient is the fact that you (normally) cannot just patch the hole like you could with a nail. A screw is so fucked up and barby that it usually ruins the tire, thusly forcing my victim to have to buy all new tires! Brilliant! I thought this would be my time to shine: Oh you are a sly girl indeed! But with all the maniacal hand rubbing, shifty eyes, and rummaging in my tool box for loose screws, I missed my window of opportunity and the perps left without ever knowing the hell I was about to put them through.

As you can see, I’m not really much of a revengist after all. So I implore you, don’t hesitate! You can learn from my mistakes and make your own legacy. Whatever revenge situation that may come your way, grab it with everything you’ve got, act swiftly and run like hell!

Contributed by M. Maiden

"...Being enemies was better for my self-esteem than our friendship was."

In high school your friends became enemies overnight, and then if you hadn't committed too many atrocities during the period of estrangement they could be back on your side just as fast. This is why high school revenge was best suited to shallow attacks that were easily rebounded from: dig the knife too deep into your enemy and you might kill next semester's best friend.

Eric and I had that kind of friendship for years, growing sick of each other periodically and then making each other's lives miserable, but not miserable enough to keep us from drifting back into friendship if we grew bored or united in hatred against someone else. He was crueler than I was, which meant he usually drew first blood, and after my melodramatic reaction I'd work patiently and quietly, waiting for perfect opportunities to undermine his other friendships or plant gossip; I felt it more civilized to depend on more bestial types to wield the actual weapons. In general, being enemies was better for my self-esteem than our friendship was.

One night during one of these off-seasons I was working at my evening job in the mall, a school-neutral place where I rarely faced danger. I suddenly recognized a pasty pony-tailed fellow from a different school. Eric and I had met him at an inter-school conference where he had taken an unsettling interest in following Eric around all day. The guy was in a creepy goth band and of questionable emotional stability. Though Eric's own gayness was practically visible from space, he hadn't come out to anyone yet and reacted poorly to unsolicited male attention; he was as calculating and paranoid as anyone who is overburdened by secrets, and so I knew that this coincidental meeting with his dark admirer was a tactical nuke delivered to me by a benevolent and just god. My strike was surgical.

"I remember you... you were the guy who hung out with my friend Eric!! Have you talked to him since? No?? Well then let me give you his number. He really wanted to give it to you that day, but was too shy. Promise me you won't tell him where you got it! You know what? I'd better give you his address too, just in case. He can be really hard to get a hold of. Hey, I've got to get back to work. Good luck!"

This was my favorite kind of revenge: set free to strike on its own, difficult to trace, and injecting dizzy jolts of power into my powerless and pathetic life. I could barely sleep that night, imagining Eric's awkward phone call from this incredibly dubious suitor. When days passed and I heard nothing, I put it out of my mind.

Eventually Eric and I grew close again and it seemed that we'd be graduating high school as friends. He hadn't told any of us about the confusing phone calls he'd been getting, hang-ups every night when his parents answered the phone. And then actual conversations with an anonymous voice, begging him for a meeting in person. Eric had no idea who it was at first, but the guy couldn't stay hidden for too long: drive past someone's house a few times in a row in the evenings and you are bound to be noticed. Eric's parents began to get frustrated and demanded to know what was going on, but Eric was just as baffled as they were. This went on for weeks, and by the time Eric figured out the identity of his stalker, he had begun making his own threats of a legal nature. Somewhere between cease and desist he finally wrung from the poor loser the most important piece of the puzzle.

The next morning before school I heard Eric coming before I saw him: "YOU!!" He was completely enraged. I listened to his story in astonishment, feeling a curious mixture of victory and shame; it seemed we had reached a treaty but I had neglected to sweep my minefields. I pled no contest, hoping for a swift execution, but even Eric could admire an act of war gone so diabolically out of control. By the end of the day he could laugh about it. A little.

The next morning he found a roadkilled rabbit on his doormat.

Contributed by Tom Blunt

"I walk outside to find Rusty with a girl..."

Rusty and Chris went to high school with my husband Dave. They've become quite good friends of mine as well, but friends or not, you are not safe from some sort of revenge if you fuck up royally.

Rusty and Chris are huge screw-ups when it comes to girls.

Chris is always honest and up-front with his intentions when it comes to the ladies. However, that is why in the two years that I've known him, he has not had a girlfriend. He has had plenty a sordid one night stand, but I believe that is because of the laws of probability. If you hit on every girl you see in one night, your chances are much better than if you hit on just three.

Rusty is one of those guys who was born good-looking, because he's always been good-looking he's relied on this for getting himself into and out of sticky situations. Let's just say he doesn't use his brain much and when you're blue-eyed, blond longish-haired, of fairly good physique and all-around handsome, you don't need to rely on charm, intelligence and sincerity.

So Chris and Rusty are visiting us for a week. They're in new surroundings in our pretty small, country town. The perfect setting for hitting the nightclub scene and picking up chicks. We give the boys one rule and one rule alone: no bringing home girls.

Maybe this sounds harsh, but it's not. We live in a small town, I'm a journalist at the local paper and my husband is a high school teacher. When you meet people here, they either know my name, or they're a student—or related to a student—who knows my husband. This isn't the best company you want to have at the house if say you want to smoke a "university cigarette" or if one of your friends wants to have a one-night stand with said company.

So the boys go out to hit the town and later into the night a taxi pulls up out front. Chris stumbles drunkenly into the house bearing gifts: a cocktail tray, two ash trays and a cue ball from a billiard table. (Something else about Chris, he's an excellent thief.) The cocktail tray and ash trays will come in handy, so we thank him and wonder where Rusty is. Chris goes quiet and somber, he shakes his head and nods that Rusty’s outside, and then exits to the living room to fall asleep on the couch.

I walk outside to find Rusty with a girl. Not any girl, but a double-whammy girl: what I mean by this is that she is the newest and youngest journalist in my newsroom, and also her younger sister is a student at my husband's school. It was almost as if he’d arranged this, but if you know Rusty, you'd know that this would have been impossible. He's just not that quick on the uptake.

Rusty is standing in the yard with the girl and they're both pretty drunk. Then Rusty asks, "Hey Ange, can Georgia stay over?" Alright, how am I supposed to say no in this situation? Georgia is standing right there, and if I said no she would have to walk a serious distance in the middle of canefields to get home. I lividly mumble, "Sure," and walk back to the house, slam the screen door, and relay the message to Chris and Dave, who are equally livid.

So Georgia stays the night. The whole painful 16 hours she was in our house, she didn't breathe one word to any of us except Rusty. They were in the guest room for most of that 16 hours, but there were moments that she could have said “Good morning,” (on the way to the toilet) or “Thanks for the coffee,” (when Rusty made her a cappucino) but no, she said not one word. Not even, “Thanks for letting me stay,” when she left.

Being so angry with both them both, I decided to act aloof and silent. At work I just ignored Georgia, and since Rusty did eventually go home it was easy to ignore him as well. But then one day we visited Rusty and the story got worse: turns out he was still talking to Georgia and she was even planning to visit him. Meanwhile, he was also dating another girl who had a kid. We were at his house, sitting outside drinking beers, and he relayed the message so easily, without any guilt, that I just filled up with anger. He had to pay for this somehow.

I excused myself from the group and let myself into Rusty's house. I went straight for the kitchen, to his pantry and grabbed a mostly full box of cereal. I then found a pair of scissors in a drawer and got my revenge.

First I made sure the top lid was securely closed and I held the box of cereal upside-down. I then carefully opened the bottom of the box and cut a clean horizontal line in the plastic packaging that holds the cereal. I then closed the bottom of the box, but did not seal it in anyway, just placed it back in the pantry.

When he picked up the cereal the box would empty its contents onto the kitchen floor.

I know this little act of karma doesn't seem too involved or cruel—but it did allow me to forget about Rusty's transgressions. Immediately, in fact. This trick works like a charm and I suggest you try it next time you need to deliver some revenge of your own!

Contributed by Angela Wick

"HAHAHAHA!" I cackled into her ridiculous face, "Too Late!"

To everyone else, she was an angel. To me, she was a nightmare. The bane of my existence. My stupid little sister. Her appearance in my life confounded me, rocked my happy 5-year-old life of leisure. My mother would look at me while I stared in silence at the endless coddling and say, “You’re just jealous.” I was too young to know what the word meant, but I knew enough by her tone that it was something I didn’t want to be. I also didn’t understand the concept of anger, but this was precisely the moment I embarked on my lifelong adventure to Planet Rage.

None of us knew what Katie was in for, getting me as The Big Sister. Every day was a new brand of cruelty, concocted in my child-brain that screamed incessantly how life wasn’t fair. For years, I mocked anything I could wrap my mean streak around: her perfect report cards, her enchanting piano skills, that stupid song she sang to a puppy in a preschool recital that made everybody cry. It was all so disgusting.

One lovely day circa 1982, Mom left us for one of her hour-long shopping trips to the Kroger and I immediately went on the hunt for my victim. No one else was in the house, thus I possessed unimaginable power. I found the little cherub all busy in Katie-land, coloring and imagining and dreaming in that adorable way the innocent do before they’ve been tainted by the reality of the world and people like me. She looked up and saw me, and a flash of happy expectation crossed her tiny face. Good God. She wanted nothing but to please me, to have me gaze upon her with the adoration the rest of the world did. Sister, please. But it was in reaction to this beaming face that I, myself, cocked my fat little head to the side and smiled sweetly. “Want to play a game?”

Why hadn’t I thought of this before? It was seriously brilliant. The bathroom closet. The door locked on the outside. It was jam-packed with towels, sheets, and endless rolls of toilet paper, but there was just enough space for a pint-sized pain-in-my-ass. I could be rid of her forever. Or at least until Mom got home.

“Okay, Katie. So here’s the plan. You’re going to be a fairy princess!”

“Ooooh! Yes! I’m a fairy princess! Mommy tells me all the time!”

“I know. So, listen,” I led her by the hand and with the most sickening sing-song voice I could muster, “You’re a fairy princess who’s the most beautiful princess in all the land, and you’re waiting for your Prince Charming to come and rescue you!”

“Ooooh!” If her eyes got any bigger, I might have poked them out. “So I’m like Sleeping Beauty, or um, um, My Pretty Pony!”

“Exactly! Just like them.” Idiot. We had reached the bathroom, and the closet was right there. “But you have to hide! The lords of darkness are looking for you because you are the most beautiful in all the land and they want to keep you from your Prince!” I opened the door to the closet and she stepped in, arranged herself on the floor and looked up at me with angelic anticipation. Dumbass.

“HAHAHAHA!” I cackled into her ridiculous face, “Too late! The princess has been BANISHED to the dungeon of the lords of darkness! You are DOOMED to a life in the TORTURE CLOSET! Moooowahahahaha!” I slammed the closet door and locked it.

“Kimmie…? But, the Prince is coming to save me, right?” Jesus H. The girl was so pathetic.

I pressed my face to the crack of the door and did that breathy-talky thing, “Oh, sure, he’s coming…but not for 500 years! You’re DOOOOOMED. DOOOOOMED. DOHOOHOOHOOMED!” I threw in one more cackle, kicked the door, and rejoiced in my greatness. I had made the bothersome little sprite disappear and it was time to celebrate with my most anticipated moment of the day: the beloved afternoon snack.

Mid-munch and altogether too soon, she called for me. “Kimmie…? It’s hot in here. I can’t breathe too good.” I threw down my Fritos and stomped to the bathroom. Once again, I jammed my face to crack of the door and blew into it really hard. “There. There’s some air. Now, shut up.”

“I don’t like this game. Can I come out now?”

“NO!” I did my best Darth Vader impression, “You’re trapped in the Torture Closet! HHOWHHAWHH.”

“But, Kimmie…?” she whimpered, “I’m getting hungry. I want a snack.”

“The lords of darkness don’t care about your HUNGER. They want to STARVE you. But, maybe, if you SHUT UP I’ll give you a little of my very own special snack because I’m so nice.” I ran back to the kitchen, grabbed the sacred foodstuffs and plopped myself in front of the closet door. I crushed up a handful of Fritos, threw in a few M&M’s for good measure and proceeded to jam them under the door. Everything kept getting stuck in the carpet, but she was scratching around for those crumbs in the dark like the pathetic little beast that she was.

“There. Now you have to SHUT UP FOREVER. If you make a noise, you die.” Back to my busy life of Hanna-Barbera and nutritionally void food.

Mom finally came home and I helped her bring in the groceries, mostly to dig out all the crap I wanted to immediately begin eating. She looked at me suspiciously. “Where’s Katie?” she asked. I just shrugged and shoved some Fun Dip into my mouth.

Just then, Katie squealed in her squealy little voice. Mom shot me one of her terrifying You-Are-In-Major-Trouble looks and went toward the bathroom squealer. I heard Katie say, “I was in the closet, Mommy. We were playing a game. It wasn’t very fun.” I just sat still, reveling in the few seconds of joy that remained. I still had one Reese’s cup left.

That night, I got one of Dad’s infamous paddle spankings and was banned from the Atari for a week. Katie got to go to Custard Cup and get whatever she wanted. That little shit always ended up on the shiny side of life. Bitch. They say that revenge is sweet, but I’ll take a turtle sundae over the need for retribution any day.

Contributed by Kim Foster

"I'm always the winner. Game over."

Let’s get this out of the way first: I am not a vengeful person. I don’t say this to brag: in an essay on revenge, this fact has implications. I’m not some sort of urban Gandhi, walking the streets preaching equality, nonviolence, and biopics costarring Candice Bergen. I’m no saint. I am an egomaniac, and egomaniacs don’t care about revenge. See, when scorned, maligned, or mistreated, a person with a normal-sized ego feels like a loser. And for this person, the best way to become a winner again is to seek revenge. Revenge makes someone else the loser. Egomaniacs skip this step; as far as I’m concerned, I’m always the winner. Game over. You can try to make me feel bad about myself, but it will only make me judge you more harshly.

There are two people in my life, though, on whom I have taken revenge: my mother and father. I think it’s only natural to seek vengeance against one’s parents; they are always in a position of power by the nature of their relation to us, and thus beg for retribution to be exacted upon them.

I came out of the closet during my junior year of high school. (That’s not the revenge, though looking back I see this as a missed opportunity.) Having a gay son was, for a long time, a difficult thing for my parents. They’re OK with it now, but during the initial few years of adjustment, they got a little kooky. For instance, I was asked obscene questions at random intervals–- you haven’t lived until you’ve heard your father say, “So you want another man to put his penis in your anus?” (For the record, Dad: yes.) Mom had a second phone line installed and used it to run a counseling service, and while I was at school, she coached other parents on how not to accidentally homosexualize their children. Dad would turn conversations about potato chips or cat hair into awkward, thinly veiled dissertations on the unnaturalness of my lifestyle choice.

But mostly they took solace in the numbers. The internet (probably godhatesfags.com) provided my parents with an arsenal of statistics to hurl my way whenever I looked like I might be enjoying myself too much. They were careful to regularly remind me that, like so many gays before me, I would sleep with hundreds of men but never know the joy of a committed, loving relationship. I would drift from low-paying job to low-paying job, never making enough to support my raging drug habit. And of course I would get AIDS and die early. “And when you do,” Dad would say imperiously, “your friends won’t be there for you. Your mother and I will be.” In their eyes, I had become a different person–a bad person–and they told me as much.

My revenge has been to prove them wrong. I have never ingested an illegal substance, not even one puff from a joint. I did not drink my first alcoholic beverage until college, and to this day average about one drink every three months. I am a serial monogamist, and have been since my first boyfriend; I could lose a couple fingers and still count my sexual partners on both hands. That’s not to say that I haven’t had a little casual sex here and there–- sometimes a friendly blow job is the only way to make sure you’ll get a ride home before “American Idol” starts-– but it’s been rare and it’s been safe. I’ve never had an STD and I’m pretty sure I never will.

The point of all this is that Mom and Dad were wrong. If I had grown up to be a slut or a junkie or an HIV patient or Christina Aguilera, they would have felt vindicated for their behavior. The air would be thick with unspoken “I told you so.” Now I’ve never called them on it, but I always have it in my back pocket, just in case: they were wrong. My parents raised a son who is intelligent, successful, and a fucking Puritan, and they have to live with the fact that they had no cause to treat me like they did. They fucked up, plain and simple. No matter how much I love them, I will always be a little angry inside, and if they take some guilt with them to the grave, then I guess I got my revenge.

Contributed by Chris Kelly

"Will the bicycle kids retaliate?"

got my first taste of lawlessness over ten years ago at the Park n’ Swap in Apache Junction, Arizona. At that time, I was a plump elementary school student and my mother’s concern for her family's cholesterol meant that fast food was a somewhat rare indulgence. At the Park n’ Swap, however, where she’d set up shop for her first time, there was not a home-cooked meal to be found, so she gave my brother and I each a bit of money and sent us off in pursuit of sustenance at the McDonalds just across the street. Blessed with this rare opportunity, we agreed that the best course would be to pool our resources and get a twenty-piece Chicken McNugget sack. We made the transaction and, greasy bag of chicken product in hand, we set off back to mom’s table.

We’d only just reentered the Park n’ Swap, thrilled with our purchase which I held up as if it were some sort of talisman, when a kid on a bicycle swooped by and snatched the bag right out of my hand. He convened with his friends, also on bicycles, and the pack of them circled around and rode off. It took a moment for the shock of what had happened to sink in, and in that moment we realized that neither my brother nor I could catch the bicycle kids, that nobody else had either noticed or cared, and that all of the effort our salivary glands were making were now for naught in the absence of those chicken nuggets. We were hungry and powerless, and before those bicycle kids I’d never fallen so low after riding so high.

Ten years later, I was attending school in New York City and had gotten an internship at a television program. As part of the yearly Halloween festivities out at the studio, I decided to participate in the pumpkin-carving contest. I had purchased two pumpkins and spent the rest of the night fashioning a somewhat cartoony version of a dragon's head jack-o-lantern (utilizing items that could be found in my apartment, including light bulbs, paint, make-up, a black wig, and toothpicks). The pumpkin’s innards remained in a grocery bag in our kitchen for a couple of days. And as such things are wont to do, they developed a substantially foul odor. The evening before Halloween, as I set off to catch a midnight movie, I decided to take my bag of pumpkin guts and drop them in a garbage can on the way to the subway. Outside, the low fog and smattering of early trick-or-treaters lent the night an enjoyably spooky vibe. I had only made it a couple of blocks away from home, however, when a fellow walking down the sidewalk toward me body-checked me into the gate, grabbed my bag and ran off. Again, I was frozen for a moment as I confirmed that I was not hurt, that the guy had already rounded the corner, and most importantly, that he’d just stolen a rancid bag of pumpkin guts from me. And it began to dawn on me that while he was not on a bicycle, he surely must have hid it right around the corner to serve as his getaway vehicle. And that he was surely convening with his cronies and smacking his lips as they opened up the bag to get a look at their spoils. And that what had in fact happened what that I had inadvertently visited revenge on the bicycle kids ten years after the McNugget Incident.

I cannot help but wonder, though, whether this latest incident concludes this tale or I’ve instead initiated some cycle of revenge that will continue from here. Will the bicycle kids retaliate? Are we at the dawn of some sort of feud? The pumpkin wielding Hatfields and the bicycle riding McCoys? Will there be little red-haired kids shaking their fists at the kids riding hoverbikes, long after I’m gone? Let us pray that sanity prevails. And in the meantime, I’ll clutch anything delicious a little closer to me as I walk down the street.

Contributed by Nathaniel Wharton

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