With little forethought, I once, years ago, played an internet prank on someone who had done me wrong. Although we — I had a partner-in-crime, who went along with it to be there for me — acknowledged during the execution how childish it was, we were high on revenge and our own cleverness.
The rationalizations started immediately after we stopped giggling: He deserved it, what we did wasn’t that bad compared to what he’d done, etc., etc.
But soon after that, when I was left alone, the guilt and anxiety started to creep in. My bravado about getting caught while we were laughing over the computer (Who cares if he manages to trace the IP address? We’ll concoct another story!) had transformed into a fear that what I had done, if he ever found out, would irreparably sink me in his eyes. Even with all the pain and resentment I’d been nursing, I knew I didn’t want that kind of damage. I wanted to cause just enough damage, just the right kind of damage. But damage, of course, is hard to control once you get started causing it.
The spirit of the joke faded away.
And what was left for me? However much I tried justifying everything, the truth was this: I had intentionally done something that could have inflicted pain on others. To make myself feel better, I had indulged the most bitter and resentful parts of myself.
Now I had sunk — in my own eyes, even if not in his.
The next day, my internet went out.
Photo: Spider outside my window, October 2015