What if you had the ability to ruin the life of your greatest enemy? Imagine taking all the aggression and resentment over this person you had bottled up within for years and passed it directly onto them. It would be a quick and convenient process, too. Just follow a few steps and, in a snap, everything they had to live for is gone. The best part would be that they would never find out that their ultimate destruction was all by your hand. Knowing that you were the culprit would be satisfying enough.
So, would you accept the chance to inflict pain on the one person who hurt you the most, even if it was your own mother?
For nearly 20 years, “David” felt like a prisoner in his house, his mother, “Freya,” being the warden. She was not the kind of warden who was staunch to maintain civility and protect her inmates. She was more like the crooked cell block guard who would beat an inmate with a nightstick before sending them to a month in solitary just because they looked at her weird. That is barely an exaggeration.
David was one of five siblings, with one older sister and three younger sisters. All of them came from different fathers, most likely due to their Freya’s difficulty keeping a relationship. The eldest daughter, Liz, was removed from Freya’s custody and sent to live with her father just a few months after she was born. Freya lost custody of Liz after she tried to stab the father… while he was holding Liz.
Just a few years after David was born, his own father went to prison. Now a single mother struggling on her own, Freya led a stressful existence. All she needed was something to take out her aggression on. She chose her son.
The abuse lasted from when David was 4 until he turned 17 and was not limited to just a slap or two on the wrist. David was his mother’s personal punching bag on a daily basis. She would frequently kick him down the stairs, lash out at him with an extension cord, or strike him a baseball bat (or whatever else she could use) until he was unconscious and bloody. She would often cite things such as her own room being messy as a reason for her actions. Once, she put a knife to his neck and had to be forced off of him by boyfriend of hers, who split shortly after. When she wasn’t in the mood to punish David physically, she would berate him verbally by calling him worthless, going off about how she couldn’t stand him, or comparing him to his convict father.
Ironically, David could almost say that he knew what it felt like to be in his father’s position, considering his mother never gave him much freedom of his own. A locked deadbolt on the front door prevented him from leaving the house. He tried every way to escape he could, including calling the police on her twice. It never amounted to anything. They always believed her. There was not much use in him trying to defend himself physically, either. He was a very skinny kid, even into his teens, while she was very large in stature and strong. David was never a violent person, anyway. He could never bring himself to raise a hand to his mother or stoop down to her level to take it out on anyone else, even later on.
David had other ways of coping, such as peeing in Freya’s iced tea, rubbing her forks and spoons between his butt cheeks before he served her dinner, or ignoring her screams for help during the time she suffered from kidney stones. By the time he was in high school, he turned to the bottle. That was not even enough to make him happy. He only felt resentment. His personality would adopt a coldness that poured into his college career. He actually found solace in his two-year college, earning a 3.7 GPA during his first semester and the admiration of his professors, only to come home to a mother who wanted nothing to do with him.
Despite promising him a place to live until he was done with school, he came home one night to Freya loudly asking him when he would move out. That coldness he had adopted allowed him to quietly tolerate her berating, letting his own anger slowly bottle up, but he still managed to keep it locked inside. But that was not what Freya told the police when she called them on David. She told them he was the one threatening her with violence and that she feared for her and her younger children’s lives. Wherever she got that idea from, David had no idea, considering he had been the one in fear of his life for the past 15 years. He decided to give her what she wanted. He was going to move out. Now.
David was free. With just a duffle bag on his shoulder, he promptly left the house to begin his life on his own. Freya was no longer a burden to him. He could walk wherever he may roam, and no longer live in fear of extension cord lashings or baseball bats to the face. While this should have been a moment of celebration for him, unfortunately, the decision threw David into a downward spiral.
He was unable to get to class on time, or at all during finals week for that matter. Thus, he failed his second semester of college, which he had worked so hard to succeed at. With no money, no college degree, and having amassed a collection of self-destructive habits, David struggled to survive in the big city. But, for almost three years, he had no place to call home.
Eventually, David found just the miracle he needed. He took up photography as a hobby, but a profitable hobby it became. The camera gave him a sense of purpose he had never felt before and, with it, the motivation he craved to work his way up above his impoverished existence. He found a full time job and got himself his own apartment. Things were finally looking up, with much thanks to his photography on the side. He began posting his work onto social media, which started earning him some unexpected attention, including (and most unexpectedly) his mother.
Freya sent David an email asking him how he had been in the past few years. There was no mention, however, about the inciting incident that ultimately forced him out of the house. David, essentially, had a crossroads in front of him. Either he ignore his mother’s inquiry, given that she did not really deserve an answer from him, or he would answer her. He took a good look back on his life and on the lives he saw from the outside. With envious eyes, he would look at the children who had great relationships with their mothers. Maybe there was still hope for he and Freya. His physical wounds had healed, but his mental wounds had not. Giving his mother a chance was the best form of treatment, he figured. He picked up his phone and dialed her number.
The phone call was, probably, David and Freya’s most civilized conversation yet. David was almost taken aback to discover that he may have made the right decision to reconnect with her. Freya asked him about his whereabouts over the last few years and how things have been treating him. He answered her honestly, recounting his struggle with homelessness. He even confessed about the psychological damage that her abusive treatment had caused him, but added that he was, eventually, able to rise above his hardships. Immediately following what must have been a tough confession to make, from the other end of the line, David heard his mother chuckle.
“I never did a thing to you so you don’t know what abuse is!” Freya proclaimed through her laughter. “It’s your own fault you were homeless. So how about you -.”
David cut her off and hung up the phone. He could not bear another word from her. He would not have even been able to talk back to her had he let the phone call continue. He was fuming.
“I don’t know what abuse is?” he thought to himself. “I’VE SPENT TOO FREAKING LONG LETTING YOU DESTROY MY SANITY. NOW IS THE TIME.”
At that moment, the coldness which David had adopted after years of being his mother’s personal punching bag was cast out and replaced by a roaring fire that would fuel him to seek justice not just for himself, but for his younger siblings as well.
Freya was blind to what her son had gone through his whole life and even to who he was as a human being. However, David was able to use her blindness to his advantage. There were a number of things she did not know that he knew. He knew that his mother had acquired her current well-paying by means of dishonesty. On the resume that David had been ordered to put together for his mom, Freya listed a phony college degree. Freya was unaware that David knew this. She was also unaware that David had access to all of her email accounts and cloud storage accounts because he was the one who set them up for her when he was younger. He also knew that Freya was never one to update passwords.
Furthermore, Freya, most definitely, was not aware that, since he was 13, David took photos of every bruise, mark, wound, or bloody nose his mother gave him, which he had conveniently save to his Google drive. Not only did he have his own photos as evidence, but his little sister had been sending him photos via social media of her own bruises. The next step was to take his mountain of evidence against Freya to Child Protective Services
He explained to his local CPS the abuse he suffered in the past and the abuse his siblings were suffering currently. Due to legal allegations and convictions of abuse that Freya had faced in the past (David calling the police and Freya holding a knife to her daughter’s father as he held her), there was enough reason to warrant a house visit, promptly. The day after David reported his mother, CPS arrived at her house with the police. Just as they were knocking on the door, she happened to be in the process of giving David’s younger sister her daily beating.
An emergency removal of all the children from the house was initiated, followed by Freya’s arrest. She was released hours later, however. David was able to stay informed of Freya’s situation, while staying undetected, through the son of her best friend, a compulsive blabbermouth who would relay anything Freya would tell her to her son, who would pass the information to David, unbeknownst to either woman. With all the evidence David had provided to CPS, the removal of his siblings from his mother’s house, and her arrest, a legitimate case against her was developing. Freya was finally facing the lawful comeuppance she had been able to avoid for far too long. But, David was just getting started.
The day after the arrest, he informed Freya’s work, via both email and phone call, about her non-existent, yet very necessary, college degree. He was also sure to mention the events of the previous day. This sparked a background check, which ended up with Freya losing her job. The firing, ultimately, had her blacklisted in the only industry she was skilled in. To add salt to the wound, he deleted every cloud account and email address he made for her… which was all of them. Therefore, keeping up with bills, which she would barely be able to afford at this point, became nearly impossible. He followed that move by anonymously reporting her to the IRS for tax fraud, which she had committed for years by claiming other people’s children as her own. Since he lived with her as she was doing this, he had plenty of detailed information to back up this claim.
Freya lost her job, her children, and lots of money. Her life was in shambles. The best part was that she had no idea that the author of her pain was her own son. But there was still more to come.
For years, David never saw his siblings in attempt to avoid his mother, but since they no longer lived with Freya, he took the chance to visit them at CPS whenever he got the chance. He was able to finally get to know them a lot better than before. He began to feel and think differently. For a long time, he was not even planning on being alive. He would often looking back on his days as a punching bag and wishing his mother had just finished the job. But, at this point in his life, he became more curious of what he was capable of and began mapping out a series of goals he intended to spend the rest of his life fighting to achieve. Going easy on the bottle was one of them, and he was already close to success.
Meanwhile, the son of Freya’s blabbermouth best friend continued to update David on his mother’s situation. Things had not improved. She failed to regain custody of her children. She was way behind on her mortgage payments. Her fiancé, the father of her youngest children, broke their engagement and was then in the process of trying to file for sole custody. That was the last he heard about her… until months later when, out of the blue and beyond all expectation, David received a call from his mother.
Freya did not even say hello before pouring into a sob story about the current unraveling of her life. Then, she warned him that he should find a place to lay low for a while. She revealed that, to avoid felony charges against her, she had fled the country. She was taking refuge in her homeland in South America and was staying with a family friend. This phone call was their first contact in months since David hung up on his mother for laughing at him for being homeless and denying having ever abused him. As she yammered on about things that he was already aware of, he coldly listened to her as if hearing a stranger’s confession. His apathy ceased when she surprised him a plea for his help.
She brought up David’s siblings and how much she had missed them since the emergency removal. Then, she started trying to convince David to go to the caseworkers and back her up.
“I never abused them or you and you should know that,” Freya said to him.
She had more to say, but David decided then that he was done listening. He cut her off to ask her if she remembered the many times he used to make Lipton iced tea for her. She was puzzled by the question at first, but confirmed that she did recall. He then went into detail about the many ways he would sabotage her tea, including using the pitcher as urinal. Her end of the call fell silent. He used that as an opportunity to reveal that the reason he would wait until after dinner to shower was to apply maximum damage to her forks and spoons when he rubbed them between his butt cheeks and mask it by mixing it into her food. He was not even sure if she was still listening on the other end, but he continued to recount his stealthy retaliations, recounting specific days that he knew she would remember.
She loudly interrupted him with a blast of hateful words. She cursed at him the same way she would as she stood over him, beating the skin off of him with an extension cord. She told him that she wished she had a better child, claiming that he ruined her life, not even realizing her insult would have been accurate if she were referring to the current destruction of her life. But, she had nothing on him, so he let her speak until she was out of breath. Then, he searched through his mental backlog of insults he had only dreamed of saying to her to end the conversation. He settled on one that borrowed from his mother’s vocabulary.
“Look Mom,” he said calmly, “you don’t know what abuse is and, honestly, its your own freaking fault this is all happening to you. Also, my bad for peeing in your iced tea.”
That phone call with his mother was the last time David spoke to her. It was also the last day he drank. He did not need the bottle anymore. His vengeance was claimed. His actions had ruined her life and continued to actively ruin her life, but he would no longer make an effort to contribute to it. He was done with her. He did not even need an apology. He just wanted to move forward.
All that was left for him was the life goals he still had yet to achieve. He planned to make photography, the most important thing in his life by then, a professional pursuit. He felt that would, not necessarily keep him happy, but, at least, keep him motivated. Happiness was never within his grasp. It was not as if he felt depressed. On the contrary, he felt nothing most of the time, but he preferred it that way. Other than photography, it was most successful in helping him cope, since enacting revenge on Freya was no help.
There is nothing liberating about revenge. David realized that when ruining his mother’s life had no hand in making his any better. He wished things could have turned out differently for him. He wished he could have had a real family, one that loved him. Even more than that, he wished he knew how to love back. He wished he had a real relationship with his mother, one without pain or resentment. He wished that he did not have to cause her the harsh life she was now living. Above all, despite the apathy he had contentedly adopted, he wished he could be happy. Instead, he was cursed to spend his days just wishing.