Saturday, August 7, 2010



“You’re a zero. You know what that means. It means nothing. Zero means nothing. You are nothing.”

This is what Amber Raymond Christiansen yells in my direction during the twelve o’clock lunch hour. Amid a crowd of 285. Two-hundred and eighty-five people, students and staff all stand there watching. All know my name but don’t really know me. They think they know what is happening but they have no idea.

And the funny thing is… Miss Homecoming Queen Amber Raymond Christiansen is completely wrong. But no one will correct her. No one will be brave enough to tell her the truth.

Nothing is nothing and zero is in fact something.

But that isn’t what I’ll say to retaliate or respond. I’ll take the abuse. The foul mouth stench of Miss Amber I-am-screwing-the-entire-football-team-through-high-school-to-stay-popular Raymond Christiansen will continue to spew out the wrong thing. I don’t care. Because she is wrong and that’s all that matters.

When hens peck at each other it is typically an attempt for dominance. A clear cutthroat way at deciding the social order. Often the pecking can lead to serious injury or permanent damage if left unmonitored or controlled. In some cases the birds will kill one of their own.

Miss Randy Christen-the-bed has been my best friend since third grade. Even then we knew that friends aren’t really friends and enemies are like looking in a mirror. We’ve shared thirteen boyfriends since the eighth grade. Shared may be too strong of a word for it. I pick ‘em and she lets 'em stick it. It’s what you think it is. I get a boy and she gets jealous. It’s not that she’s prettier than me. I’ll be honest I’m the prettier one of us both. She just can’t handle it.

The blank shock faces of 285 hang in mid gasp. They know she’s wrong and they all know why. There’s not a chance she will get out of this. No matter what she says they already know. The world in a bubble is frozen standstill. Quietly awaiting the next actions. What will I say or do? In true girl politics it’s my turn to sling the mud and the only satisfaction I have is in knowing I don’t have to. Letting her continue while I’ve already won.

“You have no friends, no life, and are no one. I’m the one they love. You are riding on my…”

Yes they love you indeed. Love your face when it catches the… blame. Love your back when it’s… turned. Love. Secretly I think she’s in love with me and not the attention. I know the truth and the hate lies in front of it. We’ve spent the last eight years in a hate-hate-love relationship that I doubt will ever end.

She always did start the wars and I helped her win every battle. Hate attracts hate. And my calm calculated finesse for manipulation was just what she needed to get her way. For every boost to my ego she planted the seed for dissent behind my back. Knives were mere child’s play. We played with metaphorical hand grenades.

The snap of finger and a shake of the head meant little Jamie Freshmen had to change schools or least try to kill herself because the tiny little gossip of her meant goodbye social life, hello nine month jail sentence. This tragedy only worsened by the fact that Amber started the scandal. Between bedding boyfriends and manipulating the matriculation she talked and talked. Although they knew it wasn’t true they listened and kept talking. Each and every time it passed through home room down the front hall across the side lawn and back through the quad. It didn’t just stop there either. We weren’t friends and I was never exempt from the abuse.

Birds are carriers of Chlamydia. Just like the birds, girls spread rumors like sexual diseases. Unseen and underhanded. Silently destroying the tiny shred of decency among each other by hidden infection, if left untested can leave them completely barren and sterile. Passed on and on by each participant unknowingly. Thinking that the words are healthy and without harm.

One time my underpants were the main centerpiece on the ninth grade boy’s locker room wall. Of course the rumor was that I’d been a very disappointing student and Coach Andrews had to have a talk with me after school. The truth was that Amber I-lost-your-underpants borrowed my spare gym clothes after a visit with Bobby ‘visiting-fair-weather’ Varsity Quarterback.

Sometimes I think she left them there on purpose. Everyone would know whose they were. My first initial and last name inked into the tiny flowered waistband of the pink cotton bikini cut would point the red-handed finger in my direction. It was her word that told of the accidental indiscretion and her word that spread like a social STD. The gossip of my so-called liaison never quite went away. To this day its Amber’s only proof that she’s not the biggest supporter of after school athletics.

Place your bets and forget the cock fighting. This will prove to be far more entertaining if not deadly. Hens locked in a cage fighting and pecking. Trying to see who will take out the biggest piece before one backs down. In the event neither one caves there’s no other option… death. In this case, social murder.

My response to the boyfriends wasn’t fire with fire. I didn’t care. Any guy that was into what she was selling was never interested in me… or any other girl. There’s the fun. Amber didn’t have any true friends. Not one of the people she called anything cared whether she lived or died. But they would listen to what she said. In that I always found my way around the hearsay. Being her right hand always had advantages.

People wanted to know where and what? She was the promiscuous Marie Antoinette of the Junior Class. And they all came to me. I was her mouth and word when the interests suited her.

Where does she get her hair done? I would say her secret ingredient was a dollop of extra special from the Varsity Quarterback. The girls said, “No, really” with a gasp and hand on the mouth. I said, “No. Really.” With a matter of fact and a wink for the punch line.

When the newspaper poll asked who is more interesting the Homecoming court or the Student Government, I told them Amber Reads-Cosmopolitan doesn’t think student politics can hold a candle to royalty when there’s real problems like ‘where do we get the booze to spike the punch at the homecoming dance’ floating around.

And that they ought to just serve chilled white wine in the faculty lounge to solve the teacher’s continued problem of a broken water filtration system.

To this was her undoing. I knew her truth and lies. The small things that could break a person down and tear them in two. Like a mother with a bad habit of chasing her pills with booze, while her absentee father chased the newly adult adolescent males around the swimming pool of the Four Seasons on weekends. But those weren’t the interesting details. Only I knew where it really hurt and it wouldn’t take a thousand tiny jabs to take down the queen of the coop. Just one strategic blow and down she would topple.

“No friends! Don’t you have anything to say, ZERO? Oh my what-the-f***… the cat’s got your tongue?”

See, there are some tests that you hope you never fail. And some instances in this life where zero means far worse than nothing. Nothing is a far better fate than getting a zero because in that instance it definitely stands for something.

Standing in the middle of the quad with all two-hundred and eighty-five faces pointed in my direction I drop the metaphorical atomic bomb. The one piece of social hearsay that was truer than anyone would have ever really wanted to know. There it was spread loud and clear across the front page of the daily Times and school newspaper Tribune. A full-page newspaper article that rests in at least one of every hand of the 285 standing still in the midst of this pecking contest.

“Have you read anything interesting Amber? Maybe you should.”

In this instance Zero means something.

Something private.
Something life or death.
Something shared in complete confidence.
And I suppose that confidence means something like zero means nothing.

Homecoming Queen tests positive for deadly disease. Promiscuous Teen shares private test results with the public in hopes that it will save lives. School board calls for mandatory education and counseling for entire district. Public rallies over unexpected epidemic.

The unexpected was predictable. And aside from knowing my name, the thing they had no idea about is now inescapably everywhere. The only thing unexpected was the reaction on her face.

Zero is something. Nothing is nothing. She’s wrong and no one will be brave enough to tell her the truth.

Zero or No? Which is it? It’s a bit of a laugh and a long story. This is based off the idea of gossip and something a stranger mentioned out loud to a crowd two months ago over coffee... chocolate for moi. Working in circles is interesting. It always comes back to something else. Anyhow reading Less than Zero by the lovely Bret Easton-Ellis, for the first time in over a decade and I’ve completely decided to switch gears. Something short will become something longer. It took a couple of... actually several days to make that choice. hint... old mixtapes make for amazing ideas and it's nothing that hasn't been seen before. If… I can’t tell you more right now but I’m excited though! For tonight enjoy. kisses for those you love and there should be no hate toward anyone. m.

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