Sadism is abundant in my novels. I think it comes from a lifetime of being bullied. I understand bullies the way a leper understands gawkers. When you’re a loner like me, an introvert, someone who’s weird and a peacemaker, you’re a magnet for bullies. I recognize the type right away. They come hard at you, prop you up to a ready-made audience (the main source of their bravery), then do the magic trick of looking like the victim.

I’ve long stopped being fascinated about stopping them. Let’s face it, if a bully has targeted you, you’re probably not the kind that’s capable of defending yourself. Bullies have a sixth-sense about these things. The most dependable thing is to run away. Maybe you’ll get lucky and befriend someone who’ll kick a bully’s ass. Maybe you’ll learn martial arts. More realistically, you’ll run away because the bully’s convinced the world that you’re the bad guy and you must be extinguished.

Case-in-point, my record against bullies is 7-7, but in the court of public opinion, it’s 0-14. People don’t like it when the victims fight back (and win). Part of the complexity is the mob. These are the cowards who depend on the bully to win because the bully is the tide that raises their ships. A loner winning a fight isn’t going to raise their profiles. So, the worst part about bullying isn’t the insults and the punches; it’s the propaganda and the smears. You’re a loner, so you must be a creeper, a possible rapist, a racist, a homophobe. You likely beat children. Think about it, the bully tells everyone, this target’s an introvert. Introverts are weird!

I’m more fascinated by the multi-layered depths of a bully. Bullies are rare people who pull off what many people can’t even if they tried. They’re a unique combination of victimhood and brutality; it takes a lot of tunnel-vision, a lot of cognitive dissonance. The creation needs just the right amount of pain, sadism and showmanship to succeed. It’s the secret reason why it’s so hard to walk away from a bully even as they cut us. They’re diamonds. I felt strange the day one of my bullies self-destructed and divine intervention finally took its course. I had long run away by then, of course, but I did watch from afar waiting for an end to a story I’d been a part of. There isn’t a word to describe my feeling, only that it wasn’t quite sad, happy or justified. Maybe the closest word was bored. The bully’s dramatic shitshow was mesmerizing. He had gotten away with it for so long, amassed a giant mob and just like that he bursted like a bubble and all his zombie followers started scattering to the wind, looking for other bullies to leech on to.

Perhaps our species is forever damned to spawn bullies. I have learned that we love them, even if that love is to love to hate them. They wouldn’t exist without that. It’s not their pain or viciousness. It’s their audience. The bigger the audience, the bolder the bully, which makes me wonder: is society the real bully?