Better Than Revenge?

Published 9/17/13 by:

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If you’re ever looking for some conversation starters, or in my case, writer’s notebook prompts, I can’t recommend SoulPancake enough. The people engaging with SoulPancake are having meaningful conversations ON THE INTERNET. What an alarmingly good idea! Last spring I was perusing past posts from their site, and I highlighted a few open-ended questions that did not leave my thoughts easily or quickly. The one that startled me and elicited the most emotion was the question: Have you ever performed an act of revenge? As someone who watches copious amounts of television, I’m not immune or oblivious as to how much revenge sells. It’s a major theme in a lot of shows, but most recently in ABC’s “Revenge”, ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars”, and FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” (although the tough guys like to call it retribution).  This made me start to wonder about how American society perceives revenge. Are we celebrating it by watching these shows? Are people watching these shows instead of executing their own vengeful endeavors? Or are these shows inspiring folks to seek revenge?

In my own life I have had many fantasies of revenge, but only one came to fruition. My high school had long red lockers. On the top of each red locker was a rectangular cubby.  In your long locker there was a hitch that you hit to propel your cubby open. The cubby was the most useful part of the locker because, for the most part, it was at eye level. This is where most kids stored their books, reserving the long section for hanging their backpacks and jackets. The only terrible thing about this process was that your locker neighbors were so close to you that you couldn’t really have your cubbies open simultaneously. I was sandwiched in-between the same two students all four years of high school. My boy locker-mate was a total gentleman, and sometimes held my books for me as I juggled my life. My girl locker-mate commandeered the entire area and barely acknowledged my existence, or need to access my belongings. You can imagine how irritated I was as we entered our last semester of high school. Did I ever confront her about it? Not really, although I did utter an aggressive “excuse me” once in a while. When I look back I can’t believe I didn’t just rationally converse with her about timing, negotiating space, and my frustrations. When you’re fifteen, you’re just not rational yet. So what did I do my senior year, after fantasizing about tripping her with her enormously large L.L. Bean backpack? I did a cruel thing. One Friday morning I waited until she was bent over grabbing something, and hit the hitch on my top cubby. It clicked, unlatched, and propelled open just as she came back up to search her own cubby. The red metal rectangle whacked her right in the eyebrow. It was a glorious moment of retaliation. It lasted for a second. It lasted until she cursed, checked her eyebrow for blood and then asked me “how bad is it?”

That’s right. She asked me, her vengeful locker-mate, whether her eyebrow was passable for the judgmental hallways of our high school. My moment of retaliation instantly turned to one of regret and guilt. I felt crappy for the rest of the day. The move, while calculated and well-executed didn’t help me get over my lack of locker respect for four years. It didn’t make me feel like the triumphant winner I thought it would. I felt like garbage. Then I worried she’d find out that it was intentional. Then I chided myself for thinking I had anything to gain from locker slapping her. She never found out (as far as I know). And now, with my ten year high school reunion just two months away, I find myself coming up with more revenge-filled fantasies – ones that include snotty girls being overweight, know-it-alls being unemployed, and jocks with beer guts. Then I think back to my locker booby trap. Perhaps dazzling them with my teacher tales would be better than revenge, because it wouldn’t solicit guilt, worry or momentary triumph. Maybe I’m a grown up, after all.



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