I don’t have a lot of real enemies in life, but it’s easy to construct one in my head of a person who has (even unintentionally or unknowingly) wronged me. Someone who has slighted me. It’s easy, really easy, to imagine that this person is somehow responsible for an ill in my life and therefore they are my enemy. When I was a teenager it was always my then-girlfriend’s parents, because for whatever reason, parents didn’t like me. (One even said I had no future. HA.)
But those people aren’t really my enemies; worst case scenario, they’re an asshole I have to deal with. When I worked as a cook in college there was another cook who was a real asshole. Most nights I probably imagined him as some great villain (okay maybe if he’d been smarter). In reality, he was just a loser, a guy way too old to be working shifts at a chain restaurant for less than twice minimum wage at the time. But he annoyed me, so in my head he was this enemy of mine.
What put all that aside in my head was having a real enemy, someone who actually wanted to kill me, and tried. I’m not writing this to sound like a bad ass; I survived because I did only one thing right, and despite doing everything else wrong. I wasn’t practicing situational awareness, I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t in great shape or skilled in martial arts. I survived because I was a coward, which is a kind of guilt that never goes away.
But that situation is why I roll my eyes at anyone complaining they’re getting internet death threats. Like internet romance, internet violence isn’t something to really worry about 99.999% of the time. Report the troll and move on — don’t give them power or attention, just get them in trouble for any laws or terms of service they violate. Be prepared in real life, but don’t act like some kook on the internet is actually going to do it.
In my situation, the guy (we’ll call him Yoyo, a nickname for him my dad coined) actually wanted to kill me, and he came to where I was with the full drunken intent to do so — and he was armed. I was saved by the fact he had only seen me once, and he was drunk, and it was dark, and my gut told me to just keep going when he called my name out. Had I turned around I have no doubt I wouldn’t be writing this right now.
I can’t write this post without explaining why he wanted to kill me, so here it is: I had stolen his woman, in his eyes. In reality she was out the door because he’s (obviously?) an unstable lunatic. But to him it was my fault she was leaving, and I was his enemy. He couldn’t let it go. (To be fair, I did swoop in pretty fast, and if I could do things differently I’d get in his face and tell him that I did steal her away — at a time when he was unarmed. I have no guilt or shame over what I’ve done.)
He came to find me, and he called my name, gun in hand. I kept going and got in my truck without even hesitating. Since then I’ve wondered what I could have done differently, and imagined all sorts of violent reactions where I get the better of him. Instead, I should have just called the cops when I knew he was driving around trying to find me, armed and drunk, and let the legal process take it’s turn with him. It would have saved me a lot of grief and I wouldn’t feel like such a punk. What I was doing may or may not have been an asshole move, but it wasn’t illegal.
For all I know, he still wants to kill me. But calmer heads prevailed and he’s apparently decided that either a) he won’t get away with his foolishness twice, or more likely b) he likes being a free man a lot more than he wants me dead. He’s kind of a little fellow, and would not do well at all in prison.
So no, I don’t take random assholes on the internet seriously. I’ve been told online by many a fool that they wanted to kill me and some of them were quite creative and graphic. It can be alarming, especially in the age of the dox, but there is nothing like that feeling in your stomach when you know someone is behind you intent on murdering you and the only thing saving your life is that they don’t know for sure you’re the person they’re after.
Because those seconds getting into my truck seemed to last forever. Despite being years ago it is still fresh in my mind and is one of the few things I want revenge for — because I was unprepared, unarmed, unexpecting, and I had to be a coward to get out of it.
“I should have…” is not a fun feeling at all. It sticks with you in an amazingly persistent way.
The point is that there is a huge difference between some temporary internet tough guy and someone who actually wants to and has the means to end you.
Well, and I’m a shameless asshole, but how else would I be a successful writer?