You will not be surprised, I trust, to learn that I spend a great deal of time meditating on the idea of revenge. I think revenge gets short shrift in modern society. By now I’m sure that the list of people upon whom I would like to revenge myself is far too long for me to get through even if I were to start right now.
The Platonic ideal of Revenge, I believe, is governed by two main principles, both of which I derived from The Count of Monte Cristo, a book I reread every couple of years or so. The Count of Monte Cristo is the story of a man who spends the first three hundred pages of the book languishing in prison because his enemies set him up and who spends the remaining eight hundred pages of the book taking implacable revenge upon them. (Actually, at some point near the end the revenge becomes placable, which is to my mind the only real fault of the book.)
The first principle of truly satisfying revenge is that the perpetrator must do no more than create favorable circumstances; the victim has then only to act according to his wicked character, and he will destroy himself. Fernand in The Count of Monte Cristo, for example, betrayed the Greek pasha to his enemies on his own; the count merely helped bring the truth to light. Similarly, the count merely engineered matters so that Danglars’s risky business ventures failed; it was Danglars himself who, out of greed, invested everything he had in them.
The second principle of revenge is that the victim must know or learn that he is being ruined because of what he did to you. Fernand, Danglars, de Villefort—by the end, the count has revealed himself to them as the Edmond Dantès, the wretch they imprisoned so many years ago.
It is by these principles that I am guided in all my revenge fantasies. Say P.C. Richards refused continually to refund the money I spent on a defective washer-dryer. I might imagine that the Attorney General of the United States shut the company down for fraud, discovering in the process a drug smuggling ring that would send all the executives to prison; I would be there in court, smiling at them as they were dragged off in handcuffs to a place where there would be all sorts of things it would be difficult for them to refuse.
But there’s one incident for which, even though it happened a few years ago, I haven’t been able to construct the appropriate fantasy. It happened on a rainy weekday afternoon; I was walking in midtown on my way to deliver a script to an agent or something like that. Now, when I say “rainy,” I mean really rainy, and I had neglected to bring an umbrella or even, I believe, a raincoat. I got to the end of one block and needed to cross to the next, but the space available to do so was limited, two cars having gotten very close to each other with perhaps a person and a half’s width between them. I saw a woman carrying a large umbrella coming toward me from the opposite direction, but I figured, what the hell, we’ll probably both be able to get through. This turned out to be incorrect, however, and when we collided she yelled, “WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING!”
Understand, please, that at the time of this incident I was not nearly as well medicated as I am now. And so when she yelled at me I was instantly filled with rage. Such rage, in fact, that, as you can see, I still remember it years later.
But I don’t know what the revenge fantasy is.
I imagine the spines of her umbrella coming to life and growing long enough to gouge her eyes out (and then doing so), but that violates both principles of revenge; even if they told her as they were gouging her eyes out that it was because she had been mean to me, the fantasy would still violate the first principle.
So any help you can give me would be most appreciated.
Note that, while umbrellas can apparently come to life in my revenge fantasies, I myself am subject to the same limitations that compass me in real life, so I can’t do things like divine her address and show up at her apartment.