Hatred dressed in three different guises

THERE is all the difference in the world between someone who doesn't like you and someone who is your enemy. An enemy is more than just an uncomfortable person to have around. Enmity is, I suspect, as irrational as love. It springs from the same unconscious depths, responds to the same unknown stimuli, and is not amenable to persuasion. Love often softens into cherished and familiar affection, or what was called intimacy until the word was debased by euphemism. An enemy's hatred rarely diminishes into dislike but is intensified by time until it becomes a force for destruction.

At three points in my life I have had an enemy. One tried to destroy me by wielding his power so as to undermine me in my job; another by serpentine mellifluous malice, and the third exercised a primitive, peasant urge for revenge. Of these, the second was the most dangerous, the third the most baffling.

The employer was a man who had hired me when I was in my late twenties; persuading me to leave the interesting and steady job I then held and join him in a new venture. I didn't really want to, but in those days I was accustomed to doing as men told me and my previous employer urged me to seize the opportunity. So I left - and found myself the victim of a man so mendacious I would almost say he was deranged.

I had, as he knew, two young children wholly dependent on my salary and the loss of my job would have been catastrophic. I worked as hard as I could, including weekends. Nothing pleased him. He undermined, criticised, ridiculed, and finally arrived uninvited at my flat one Sunday afternoon, holding my national insurance card, to suggest it would be easiest if I just left quietly. Even today, my pulse quickens and my colour rises at the wickedness of it.

The other two were women: and no one should belittle the emotional damage a nagging wife may do who has not been victimised by a woman's malice. I am not saying it is as bad as the violence of a brutal man, but it can destroy self-esteem and make every day something to be dreaded. It can smile, and smile, and be a villain: and so is often unremarked by others.

I dealt with my second enemy by remaining silent. One can, I found, side-step the need for conversation even with a close colleague; and silence offers no provocation. I think the nature of the woman concerned was such that she had to have a focus for her vindictiveness, after which she could be perfectly charming to everyone else.

The third person was Spanish, and from her I experienced the black hatred and desire for revenge that thrums through a tragedy by Lorca. She claimed to have lost her fiance in tragic circumstances, and so I introduced her to a couple of young men I knew. But her awkwardness, her good-Spanish- daughterly formality and lack of charm or conversation, made her intractable. My well-meaning attempt failed; and the frustrated love that must have been confined in her was corrupted and transformed into loathing for me. In the end her behaviour became so bizarre and repulsive that I had to call in the police.

It is too easy to label people with strong emotions 'paranoid', 'manic depressive' or 'obsessive'. These are terms that should be used only by psychiatrists. Hatred has existed as long as humankind and needs no label to elucidate it. Its origins, I think, lie in misdirected energy - the yearning to love, or succeed, to be rich or a mother - and so its target is usually someone whose energies are fully called upon and whose emotions are directed outwards.

Have I ever been someone's enemy? Have I focused this random black hatred upon a hapless victim? I probably did at school: most girls do, just as most girls have a 'crush'; it's a way of experimenting with adult emotions. But if I did, selective memory has expunged the occasion. I am fairly certain I have never, as an adult, made someone the target of my enmity. I've simply been too busy.