The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

No Mercy

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Cruelty in perfection (Plate III), William Hogarth, 1751

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I was cruel!  Marvelously, exquisitely, gloriously, unapologetically cruel.  I loved to see that wince of pain in the eye, the tear of defeat rolling down a cheek, a fallen face in the instant of betrayal,  the collapse of posture as the soul shattered within.  These things made me feel powerful, invincible.

When I was about eight or nine, one of my friends had a crush on a girl in our class.  He was too shy to even speak to her, but he would go all-moony eyed whenever she crossed his line of sight.   One day, she glanced in his direction, noticed him staring, and nodded back at him.  He was as ecstatic as a boy of that age could be.

But I could not let this stand. His happiness irritated me.  I could not bear for him to have something which gave him such joy, such hope,  while I had nothing.  So I told him confidentially  that I’d overheard her saying  mean and insulting things about him; that she called him fat and stupid; that she mocked him among her friends.

He had no reason to think I was lying. I was his friend, after all.

He was devastated.

I feigned sympathy for his pain but that lie, that ability to destroy his happiness with just a few well-chosen words,  filled me with a sense of ecstatic power which until that moment,  nothing else ever had.

I did not forget it.  A year or so later, I wrangled up a handful of boys to sneak into the teachers’ ladies’ room.  We hid quietly in one stall,  standing on the toilet seat, and waited for our prey.   One of the younger, newer teachers came in and went into the other stall.  While she was doing her business, we jumped  up and looked over the top.

She cried out then shrank back into herself in abject mortification.  There were tears, I am sure of it.

A couple of the boys felt bad about it afterwards, but I found myself sexually aroused at her vulnerability and humiliation.  It was a fantasy that I replayed in my head many times during my life.

My taste for the pain of others only increased over time.  I became adept at playing a sympathetic character, one who others trusted.  It made the betrayal so much sweeter.

Occasionally, I would arrange things to hurt another incognito, so they had no idea that I was the cause of their disappointment or heartbreak or catastrophe.  Perhaps an anonymous letter to a wife about an errant, or even faithful, husband.  A complaint to a manager about an underling who had not afforded me the proper respect, in order to get them fired.  A nasty rumor planted and nurtured until its tentacles attached themselves to my victim and strangled the ease from their life.

While these acts of cruelty were certainly satisfying, nothing satisfied so much as being face to face when the knife went in.  I loved to seduce a woman, make love to her, and afterwards,  just as she was relaxing in languor, cocooned in a satisfied glow, I would leave her bed with an insult carefully crafted to cut wherever it hurt most, depending upon her particular insecurity.  I might tell her she was too fat, too old,  to stupid, to consider seriously.

I would often contract for services,  allowing my victim to negotiate a very good price for themselves.  I chose people who were somewhat new to their game; too naïve and trusting;  who believed that getting my business would be a turning point for them.  Yes, I was demanding.  I forced them to put aside all their other clients to accommodate me. But they did so happily,   because they believed it was worth all the money I’d pay them in the end;  that this deal was a lucky break that would final help them fulfill their  dreams or climb back into the black.   And then,  in the end,  they would submit their bill – in person — and I would tell them that I was not going to pay.  It wasn’t about the money.  No, my game was seeing that devastation and ineffectual anger.

I took particular pleasure in publicly humiliating of a person of import within my circle. It might be a dirty secret made public.  An insult or epithet spoken loudly enough for others to hear.  The damage was best done when they were in the public eye — perhaps when they were about to receive an honor, or on the cusp of making a great business deal,   or maybe while running for public office.

Nobody was allowed to have joy without my permission,  and I rarely gave it.

My reputation preceded me. I had no true friends, only acquaintances and associates with whom I shared a common and usually temporary goal.  Even my so-called intimate relationships were transactional.

I could be charming when it served my purpose.  But those who knew enough of me, kept their distance, making sure they never exposed their most vulnerable selves to me.

And this is how I lived,  to the end of my days.  Envious of the joy of others; finding my own happiness only in destroying theirs; never learning any other way to soothe or pleasure myself.

 

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One thought on “No Mercy

  1. Janet Pipes on said:

    A female like this worked with my husband and several others at The Boeing Company for a year before it was discovered she was the one spreading all the vicious rumors – it almost tore the division to pieces. One lady was hospitalized.

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