Looking for Hate

The Search for a Long Lost Nemesis

I'm looking for my childhood nemesis.

This is something I have been toying with for quite some time. I had come close to formulating it into a project, a sort of audio documentary, last year but then I abandoned it. Yesterday, as I zipped down Wellington on my flashy new bike, I think I saw him walking on the street.

I should note that my eyesight isn't great and that my ability to accurately identify people at more than five metres is getting rather patchy. That said, I'm pretty sure it was him, or at least I was sure enough at the time to nearly get doored as I tried to decide whether to double back and make another pass. I ended up riding home, chewing on old ideas.

Why am I looking for my nemesis?

It is more than the passing curiosity of seeing how someone turned out. If that was the only impetus, then I could bite the bullet and resort to Facebook. I have a vested interest in tracking down this guy, we'll call him Montague for now, because he unwittingly plays an important role in the stories I tell about myself. These are the stories I tell to show who I am, to cast myself in a certain light, self-revelation through light entertainment, but they are also the stories I tell to myself by extension and in that telling take on a certain life of their own.

I might be cursed with an elephantine memory, one that often would be better off forgetting certain things, but I know that it is far from flawless. My memories of a fierce rivalry fifteen years ago are surely incomplete; they bear the scratches and tarnish of the passage of time, the flurry of frequent retelling. The question though is to what extent?

In my account of things, the third and fourth grades were a time of bitter enmity between myself and Montague. I would devote much of my free time, and there was a great deal of this in the alternative school system, to drawing a series of graphic comic strips in which he was the title character. Super Montague, essentially a stylized stick man with a cape and a mask, was a sort of tragic hero who would endure unmentionable forms of violence throughout the half dozen frames of a given strip. Without fail, each misadventure would culminate in his severed head flying through the air to land impaled upon a stake, gore dripping down in bold pencilled squiggles. Considering the sheer volume of these things that I produced, it sometimes puzzles me that I wasn't referred to some kind of therapist. If one of my students used the back of a provincial math test to draw a man getting perforated by a gatling gun and eaten by crocodiles while napalm fell from the sky, I would at least ask them what they were trying to say.

I'm not sure how we grew to dislike each other, or who really started it. We seemed to actually have a fair bit in common, including a vague interest in history. I do recall taking exceptional glee in heaping scorn on anything Montague liked that I was unfamiliar with. Such was my entirely unfounded loathing of my nemesis that I probably spent about as much time wishing him harm as I did watching television.

I remember forming gangs, calling on allegiances from friends in other classes to aid in the school-yard battles. These were not real battles, because we all were acutely aware of the risks of operating in a strictly violence free zone. The best you could ever hazard was a solid shove, or a quick underhanded punch to the ribs. This worked to my advantage, as I was rather slight and a good couple of inches shorter than Montague. In a real fight, like those of grandfather's tales, I wouldn't have had a chance. Luckily, this was not a matter of mortal combat but something closer to politics. I remember being able to muster more supporters when it came to battling for control of the play-structure, bellowing war cries as I led the charge to the top of the snow mountain. Even from my own account of things, I was pretty awful, perhaps even a bit of a bully. But what if I wasn't?

The question then is to what extent has this version of events shaped who I am today? Is there something about how I understand myself that is predicated on a memory of certain events? What if things happened very differently and my version is a narrative that has evolved significantly over time to meet a certain need? Does that change the way I should see myself? Obviously there is only so far one can go in tracing back the tendrils of the past, the root truth likely remains hidden beneath the soil. I think it's still worth pursuing, a case study in that strange interaction of narrative and identity. I want to find my nemesis and get his side of the story.

Stay tuned...