An Enemy from Within

javier's picture

So this is an essay prompt I've revised though I'm not quite finished. It's for a college and I want to finish it already. Feedback is appreciated and I'd like help in my closing paragraph.

"A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies" - Oscar Wilde

Othello and Iago. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. The Autobots and the Decepticons. History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined).

As I sat in English class I couldn’t take it anymore yet I was already used to hearing words that made me feel worthless. I didn't want to hear the voice anymore and I was visibly frustrated. So I shouted to my enemy: the one I loathe the most. Then the room resumed peaceful silence.

All men have an enemy whether they know it or not; that is a fact of human nature. Because of that, who our enemy matters since it’s better to have a weaker enemy than one stronger than yourself. But I never chose him: he chose me.

He is a stranger mostly although I've known him for 7 years. Throughout the years he had a distance between myself and he. Sometimes I think I never knew who he was until he appeared more obvious. He didn't exist, in my mind, until a few years ago. And that marked the beginning of my enduring pain.

To say he is cruel would be an understatement. He seemingly received pleasure from the pain I experienced. He is a monster yet walks like man. He is a creature of the night but only came out during the day. He came from nowhere and was everywhere.

Many times I felt like I could fight back some way whether with humor or a physical confrontation. Of course we did fight once at my house. My fists were red and bloodied and he forced my favorite brown leather belt around my neck. It felt soothing: the pain would finally be over. In my mind it was a noose. He was playing executioner that day: using a black mask to hide his monstrosity from my conscious eyes. Then realizing what he'd done, he immediately pulled it off my neck leaving without saying a word. Meanwhile I sat in bed paralyzed by what happened so I went to sleep and dreamed about people I cared for which made me feel worse. I was tired.

Days passed by and I didn't think about the struggle anymore. Some things made sense while others didn't. What I couldn't understand is how I'd won. I still felt defeated and without hope. I never asked for help because I didn't sought pity and often feeling ignored. For sometime I did but it wasn't enough. I looked for help from friends and family. And I never found it.

At the same time of the torment my grades started sinking faster than the Titanic. That didn't make sense either for I had thought of myself as a well student with excellent work ethics and the ability to assume a leadership role in any given situation. It’s apparent to most people that I am a natural leader. It was obvious that none of this made sense and not many people bothered to find out. I’d give them half an answer to spare me the anguish. My enemy is very smart too: cunning like a fox yet powerful like a lion. Those are the two qualities I don’t have, but perhaps I do and am not aware of it. Whatever the case is, I am unable to outwit my enemy. We constantly argue about who’s smarter on any subject. He reminds me daily how much I don’t matter, how worthless I am. That’s why I never stop reading books, essays, or articles on any topic just so I can beat him. I won’t stop either. I will beat him someday I think. And if I don’t then I can get back up and continue dreaming about the past.

Another week passes and his torment has become somewhat tolerable. I’ve eaten the same tablet for each day of the week and feel less weak. I am able to ignore him for short periods of time but every now and then what he says gets under my cold skin. My mind is a tad clearer than before so I know what I’m taking is extremely helpful. One day I refuse to eat the tablet and throughout the day my head is in pain caused by the withdrawal. He laughs at me for being so foolish and he has every right to: I thought I’d be fine without it but am not. That day was really terrible as well as the rest of the week because I don’t ingest the tablets kept in a small orange box. He comes back to torment me and when he’s done I breakdown in front of my friends. The ordeal is so surreal: I am in front of them and they continue talking with each other like nothing out of the ordinary is occurring. At that moment I felt invisible so I, too, pretended nothing was wrong. I swear I could hear him laughing from a distance. His laugh haunts me.

One day I find out I am all out of tablets. That was inevitable. My mama doesn’t want to get me anymore because apparently it’s bad for my health. She failed to understand that I needed them to keep myself together. She also wasn’t fully aware of my enemy. So I stopped taking them altogether and he knows this so he keeps up his act and continues tormenting me. I felt like I was able to stop him before. Now it’s made it more difficult, nearly impossible to vanquish him.

A few more times he fight with me. Once when I had tablets he tried forcing them all down my throat for if I took too many I’d probably go to the hospital. Another time he tried drowning me in a bucket of water but that was not his smartest move because I easily overpowered him. Again he tried the belt only to fail once more. His attempts at fighting with me ceased though I could tell he wanted one last fight that’d finally settle the issue. To this day I wait for that moment.

Now I am at near rest: I no longer agonize as much about seeing my enemy for I know he is fading away into oblivion. I still wonder why he‘d done all of this. I have an idea of why he came: to remind me of my pain that I never knew existed. He came from the past I tried forgetting. He made his away into my mind: the most inescapable place. I am him.


elph's picture

For admission to a major in "Creative Writing?"

I'd suggest frequent re-readings and modifications over a number of days until you feel comfortable with the message you want to convey.

Give it time... come back to it daily for at least a week... modifying sentence structure and vocabulary to reflect more accurately your revised thinking... paying particular attention to selecting the "right" adjectives, adverbs and verbs... not solely to impress, but because they are best suited for the job at hand!

If the essay is not intended to be seen as autobiographical, a separate disclaimer should be appended. As for me... dunno! :)

jeff's picture


I think the length and abundance of pronouns gives away the ending. I would lose as many of the I's and me's as possible (although to be fair, I am pursuing a style of first-person writing that recommends that as a rule). Plus, there is some over description.

One example, so you can see what I mean:

"Once when I had tablets he tried forcing them all down my throat for if I took too many I’d probably go to the hospital."

Short sentence, quick action, yet it includes: I, he, my, I, I'd. Too many.

The importance here is forcing tablets down your throat. First, description, what kind of tablets? Tums? Baby Aspirin? Advil? Antidepressants? Why are we meant to guess?

But let's unpack this some more:

"Once when I had tablets he tried forcing them all down my throat"

"when I had tablets"? Why does this matter, the ownership of the tablets? It adds a pronoun and no other information. If you're playing with pronouns, you need to get rid of as many as possible, so any hint at awkward phrasing disappears.

"if I took too many I’d probably go to the hospital."

Again, extra pronouns. Are YOU taking too many? If someone is forcing someone down your throat, are you performing the action of taking them?

Also, if someone is shoving pills down your throat, is their goal to send you to a hospital... or a grave? I'm thinking grave. Someone shoving pills down someone else's throat wouldn't be looking for their victim to then wake up and say "Go arrest XXX, that crazy bitch shoved pills down my throat..." So, internal logic is questionable there.

So, just on that sentence, we could condense:

"Once when I had tablets he tried forcing them all down my throat for if I took too many I’d probably go to the hospital."


"One time, he shoved pills down my throat to try and make it look like a suicide."

Or whatever.

In any case, you seem to keep backing away from him being real. You mention he becomes more tolerable, he is already fading away from your life, etc., but then want impact at the end.

In Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk didn't write: "Tyler Durden is seated next to me on an airplane. Something about him seems unreal, like he's really just a figment of my imagination." No, you have to sell us on him.

You mention your enemy wants one last fight, and you know it's coming? So, you're teasing us with an epic throwdown that is going to end this deal once and for all, the final battle for your soul... but that isn't what you're writing about now? Most stories don't tease the reader that there is a better story than the one they're currently reading.

Plus, were I using such an essay to apply to college, a sense of "I was once fucked up" is probably preferred to "Aren't I fucked up? And it still isn't over yet... want a front seat?"

You are fictionalizing self-harm as a separate person, but seem very strict that you not deviate from reality, as far as there being gaps in between incidents. I would eradicate a sense of a timeline through some sort of different construction. On the TV show 24, Jack Bauer has 24 hours to stop a terrorist attack, so everything they show us is about the terrorist attack. We assume he urinates during these 24 hours, but that is never accounted for. So that should be your goal as well. Otherwise, there are gaps that you have to put in that don't make sense when things are OK for a while in between, etc. Bullies typically don't bully and then ignore you for a month, then bully, then forget about you, etc.

Perhaps imagine the epic battle, and flashback into how you got there, then you can vignette the past experiences, and then use the action of the fight to bring things back to the battle and reset things (I'm cheating, that is the structure of the first chapter of my novel, hehe)

Anyway, enough to think about there...

Also, "An Enemy From Within" also gives out the punchline.

Like elph suggested, there is the issue of what kind of major you're going for. If it's chemistry, maybe this isn't the right essay. ;-)

Hey, Sexy Lady! Oppan Gangnam Style...

elph's picture

Quite informative...

I am confident that your suggestions will contribute to his submitting a winning essay.

Your willingness to devote the time and effort to provide Oasies with such helpful advice is clearly your forte!