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Banned for Life

But the thing was, Mark was seeing somebody himself—a good friend of Megan’s named Paula Welk:  also one of the best-known girls at the entire school, but nowhere near as nice.  In fact, she was a stuck-up bitch—just perfect for Mark Powell.  So when he told me about Tammy, I figured here was my chance to talk about Gail.  I saw it as a sort of nuclear pact:  two nations who’d never strike first since each had the power to annihilate.  Plus, I considered Mark one of my best friends, and if you can’t trust one of your best friends then who can you trust? 

So I told him.  And he sat there, stoned and stunned, and said he couldn’t believe it.  And I swore it was true.  And he said, “Man, three times in one night!” 

“Four, including the blow job.” 

“And she knew how to do it, huh?  She really knew how to clean your pipes.” 

“Buddy,” I told him—since in that circle we called everybody ‘buddy’—“you’ve got no idea.” 

And he said he didn’t blame me.  Hell, Megan’s mom was pretty hot.  If he’d been me, he would’ve done the same thing.  Which was pretty reassuring, actually.  For some reason, we never talked that much about sex in that circle, and when we did nobody ever came across as chronically aroused as I was.  It made me feel like a freak; like some kind of redneck breeding animal.  But here was Mark Powell with the big thumbs-up.  I was alright.  I was a regular guy.  And right before I left that night, I said, “Hey, buddy, let’s keep this between ourselves.”  And I have to give him this:  he never specifically promised me anything.  But he did give me a look that said, “What, are you crazy?”  Which was good enough for me. 

Well, a week went by, maybe two.  And then one day I was walking down the hall, and who should I run into but Paula Welk?  And I said hello, same as always, and she shot me a look like I was the lowest life form every to crawl out of a compost heap and kept on going.  Like I say, she wasn’t that nice, so, at first, I wasn’t concerned.  But then she did it again.  And then it happened with another girl who I knew was good friends with Paula:  I said hi, and she said nothing but just kept on walking.  So, at that point, I was concerned, and sought out Mark and said, “Hey, buddy, you know that thing I told you about?” 

“What thing?”

“You know.  About Megan…?”

“Oh.  Yeah.  What about it?” 

“Well, you didn’t say anything to Paula, did you?” 


“She’s acting kind of weird.”

“What do you mean ‘weird?’”

“I mean weird.  Like she’s mad at me or something.”

“It’s your imagination.” 

But he wouldn’t meet my eye when he said all this.  And, come to think of it, he’d been acting weird himself—a little more distant, somehow; a little less friendly.  And, suddenly, I looked at him and knew he’d done it.  I knew he’d told Paula.  And I said as much, and he said he hadn’t, and I said, “Look, buddy, just tell me the truth. 

Because I don’t want Megan hearing it from anybody but me.”

“But I didn’t tell Paula.” 

“Mark, man, I know you did.” 

“And I’m telling you I didn’t.  But you know what?  Maybe I should.  I think it’s really shitty, what you did.  It’s low, man.  Megan’s a great person.  She doesn’t deserve this kind of shit.”

I wanted to kill that motherfucker!  It’s a wonder I didn’t do it then and there.  But I was still kind of in shock about the whole thing.  I was hoping it would just all go away.  But the more I walked around school, the more I saw signs it was spreading.  And this definitely wasn’t paranoia because, pretty soon, a sort-of friend of mine named Jack Horn came up and told me the story that was making the rounds:  I’d “molested” Megan’s mother.  That’s right, folks.  That’s how it played on the grapevine.  And Jack was just kind of joking when he told me that, but I flipped out and pushed him against the wall and asked where he’d gotten it from, and he named some kid I’d barely heard of, so I went out and pushed him against the wall, and he swore he had no idea what I was talking about, and so convincingly I decided Jack must have fed him to me to conceal his true sources.  You just didn’t want to cross those elite kids.  For myself, I’d all but stopped seeing them.  What was the point?  I could tell they all knew.  Besides, they were a lot closer to Mark than they’d ever been to me. 

The weird thing is that, for the longest time, Megan had no idea what was going on.  To this day I’m not sure how she stayed in the dark.  I guess people liked her so much they formed a wall of silence around her to keep her from being hurt.  Also, being a girl, it’s not like Jack Horn or somebody was going to walk up and say, “Hey, what’s all this about Jason molesting your old lady?”  But she did notice I’d stopped hanging out with Mark, and when she asked me why I said he was, simply, an asshole. 


“Because he is.” 

“Well, did something happen or– ?”

“No, nothing happened.  I just don’t like the way he treats people, that’s all.” 

And she agreed with me.  Megan always had a lot of misgivings about the town and school both, which was one thing we had in common.  We were both hypocritical insofar as we sought approval from the very people we partly disliked, but we had an unspoken pact about that:  you don’t call me on my bullshit; I don’t call you on yours.  I later learned that’s how a lot of relationships work.  But now my own bullshit was spinning out of control.  The girl had to know.  But how was I supposed to tell her?  There were so many times I almost said something, but the circumstances were never quite right.  And then one night I was driving home from the steakhouse and decided I’d write her a letter.  More than one English teacher had told me I showed some flair for writing, and I thought if I worded things well enough I might be able to minimize the fallout.  So, after my family had gone to bed that night, I got up and started writing, and the whole next day at school I was working on this letter, till, finally, I felt pretty satisfied.  I’d love to see it now.  I remember trying to adopt this worldly tone—“There’s no one to blame, it just happened”—with a lot of reassurances I’d never sought to hurt her, which, of course, I hadn’t.  And I remember I wrote this thing on a Thursday, and the plan was to give it to her the next day so she’d have the whole weekend to collect herself.  Thoughtful, huh?

Well, it never happened.  That Thursday, Paula Welk took it upon herself to tell Megan what was being whispered all over school.  Megan freaked out and ran home to confront Gail, and after a big, ugly showdown, she locked herself in the bathroom and swallowed half a bottle of over-the-counter sleeping pills.  But Gail broke down the door down, or something, and rushed her to the hospital, where she had her stomach pumped and passed the whole thing off as an accident.  So she got released, and when I called her the next day to ask why she hadn’t been at school, she told me the whole story.  Only, of course, she had it all wrong.  When the shit hit the fan, Gail sold me out, telling Megan I’d “taken advantage” of her when she was too drunk to know what she was doing.  But she knew.  Besides, I’d been buzzed myself, and she was the one who’d served me the beer—I mean who’d taken advantage of who?  And that’s what I tried to tell Megan, but she was too upset to listen.  She cursed me out, and said she never wanted to speak to me again, and slammed down the phone.  And, by then, I was so upset myself I broke down and confessed the whole thing to my parents.  And that’s when things got really ugly. 


Posted at 2pm on 10/15/2005 | comments are closed Filed Under: Fiction

"The sleep of reason
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