"All my friends are gay and I feel responsible"

An excerpt from "Please Don't Kill the Freshman: A Memoir."

Published October 27, 2003 9:15AM (EST)

List of characters

linux shoe -- fourteen years old. freshman. best friend. homosexual. beautiful. has made me cry many, many times. disgustingly insightful. plays cello. reads philosophy. asked me why Tosca had to die.

plum sweater -- eighteen years old. senior. of the literary persuasion. very dry laugh. very soft (muddy brown) hair.

wonka boy -- fifteen years old. freshman. very fifteen. listens to angry music. thinks his parents are out to make his life a living hell. whines. needs someone. has completely random moments of blue-eyed beauty.

case boy -- fifteen years old. freshman. quiet in his own repressed way. listens to angry music. likes anime, guinea pigs, and the Metallica T-shirt I gave him for his birthday.

cherry bitch -- most beautiful girl ever. sixteen years old. sophomore. wears juicy red lipstick. smokes cigarettes like she wants to fuck them with her bright red mouth. makes art with her hands. makes sounds with her hands. makes beauty with her hands.

midwestern tackiness -- extremely neurotic French teacher. you know that one teacher in high school who was an utter bitch no matter what you did? yeah, well, she's it.

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45 minutes wasted in the counseling office. Please explain to me why everything moves so goddamn slowly. And why the counselors care so little.

In French, we watched a video about Vincent van Gogh. Midwestern Tackiness displayed through badly curled hair. "You need to watch this. It's culture." Fuck culture. Could you teach the language? Or, better yet, actually go to the country and hear the fucking language? Mad cow blabbering incessantly. Thank God I won't have to take this class next year.

Thin vegan lips explain excitedly, "Tre Arrow called me last night." I die of envy. I saw him at the earth club conference in the fall. What a God. A Vegan Adonis. The man lived on a ledge and crapped in a bucket! He should be revered, acknowledged, worshiped! Or, according to the assistant vice principal, he should bathe.


I pity the pretty little Mormon girls. Their mouths always curl up in disgust when they walk past me. The thought bubble above their head reads, "My dear lord! What a heathen!" Bitch. A conservative Baptist with big feet asks Wonka Boy, (hushed, embarrassed plead) "What's orgasm?" I cackle delightedly. Who will be the real heathen when her forty-eight-year-old pastor knocks her up? I must stop being so cynical. I know far too many angry twenty-somethings who got burned out in high school. Hanging out with these witty sarcastic vile twenty-somethings really helps me. I like them. My parents, however, do not. To them I am pleading with the raincoat men to come and rape me. I am trying not to drown. I am trying to bloom. Please don't kill the flowers.


My biology teacher is trying to give a review lecture for the test on Friday. I could get a zero on the test and still have an A in the class. It's kind of depressing. I think my time is spent much more productively by writing, glaring at her, sipping orange juice, and nibbling on cheerios. I am not an elitist. I am just a cheerio junkie. I wish I had my Mother Jones. It's easier to read and drown out her voice.

Rejected by the Plum Sweater and muddy brown hair. Loved and then rejected. Chastised and then stroked. STOP ABUSING ME!!! Oh, but I want more. Please don't stop. No! No more dihybrid crosses or punnett squares or sex-linked double-allele chromatic heterozygous codominant genotypic ratios! I'm going to start drooling like the rest of my classmates. And then, after that, she'll break out the safety crayons and we can have art time. Orange juice and honey nut cheerios are a delicacy. I had to argue with my science teacher last year to get into this class and now I sit here with these morons who don't give a fuck. Argh. I will not be an angry twenty-something. I will not grow into an angry twenty-something. I will not ... meet. my. fate.


Plum Sweater on my voice mail. Heart palpitations induced. What a nerdy goddess. I'm going to faint. My fingers are shaking. I can't decide whether to squeal excitedly with a friend or call her back. I decide to call her. We laugh. Our voices are fake. She sounds so young. Painting pottery tomorrow? Great. Okay. I'll call you when I get home. I can't get over it. Is it a date? Is she interested in me? I'm so fucked up. I am SOOO ... fourteen. I can't stop shaking. She said she finds me "interesting." My heart is pounding. I can't believe this. It's Plum Sweater.


Fucking Plum Sweater. What a bitch. She has company, church, cleaning, The West Wing. After more than twenty-four hours of a girlscout-knotted stomach and shaking hands, I am told I have to wait until Saturday. I'm going to wring her neck after I hold her forever. My fingers click idly. I find this boy I know and ask him to come over. I tell him I can't be alone. My shiny Linux Shoe agrees and scurries. We eat toasted cheese sandwiches and I rub my nose into his 100% cotton trousers. Such a marvelous fag. He tells me about making love on fresh-cut grass. I want to cry. I'm supposed to be hugging a Plum Sweater. These gray trousers will have to do.


Linux Shoe and I attempt to learn, even though it's our spring break. We go to a pseudo-hip bookstore in the middle of suburbia and browse homosexual literature. He defines boys by their height and weight, similar to coffee drinks. Venti dark roasts and grande tiger mochas. I'm sipping hot chocolate and he's burning his lips on chai tea. The tea ends up in his lap anyway, thanks to my shaky hands. This was only Thursday.


Forced out of slumber to argue with my hair. I claim defeat and face day three with my Linux Shoe. He is appreciative for his cardboard poetry magnets and faggot anthology. We stuff ourselves with homemade Mexican food and brown bottled cream soda. I'm ecstatic to not be alone.

I don't understand girls who -- wait, never mind, I just don't understand girls. Especially the ones who smear their faces with brightly colored crap every chance they get. I want to shove that lipstick pencil into her eye. Oh, the people you can judge while riding public transportation. We return home to my bed and our bad music. We listen to muses this time, angry horny anti-Catholic ones with names like Paula and Tori. He smiles. I cling to my Linux Shoe and rub my head into his belly and smell his clean blue shirt. He was always the clean one. My digital clock ticks. I am left alone in my empty double bed.


I take a shower and sigh. I am not looking forward to Plum Sweater, amazingly. We chase each other through the phone lines. Eventually, 2:45. I get as little work done on my eight-minute speech as possible. We lazily paint pottery. She tells me about choosing a school, her best friend's competitiveness, birth control, her mother walking in on her when she was having sex. I feel like she could drown me in a spoonful of water or crush me with her fingernail clippings. I realize I have no chance.


Linux Shoe was choke-sobbing this morning. His parents removed the modem cord from his vein. No more instant messaging and e-mail attachments and online diary poetry updates. Plum Sweater at her locker. I pause briefly to toy with her hair and she smiles. The boy with the giant black case (Case Boy, even) returns home from Alaska. He gives his Braid Bitch a stuffed moose with a painful smile. I can't wait to cut off all her hair when she breaks his heart.

My Linux Shoe gives me a poem in black ink. I lovingly shove it into my black backpack. Teacher gives us forty-five minutes to fill in a worksheet. I sigh aimlessly and scribble, waiting to run to English class where I can do nothing.


My Linux Shoe's current crush is telling me about hepatitis. I like his long smooth neck and think he would look good with Linux Shoe. How adorable. He has shaky hands that shuffle his note cards weakly. I think of Linux Shoe's wish to kiss calloused fingertips. Damn him for being him. I'll just keep lusting vicariously through Linux.

So exhausted. Four hours in a smoke-filled pool hall that I did not want to be in. How many times did I explain to the Case Boy that I did not want to go? He pulls in to the driveway the same time as my mother and I (we have finished our tedious errands and have not yet stepped out of the car). "Come on, you're going." I grind my teeth silently and humiliate myself, hitting balls clumsily with an oversize stick. Case Boy reminds me to stop whining and being such a bitch and I should be glad to get out of the house and not sitting on my fat ass in front of the computer. He has not touched me but I feel like I've been slapped. I grimace and shut my mouth. I feel like a fool and my desire for my Linux Shoe grows stronger (we spent the greater part of fourth period pointing at boys, giggling, and making erotic statements). When I leave the pool hall, tired and considerably more humble, Case Boy escorts me out and gives me the most disgusting hateful smile when I tell him I won't be coming back.


I promise myself I'm going to laugh about this someday. My dreams are obscure and frightening but I refuse to leave them. Linux Shoe greets me in the hallway. We pace to the choir room and gnaw on our cuticles. I shuffle to the classroom of France and Midwestern Tackiness. I ask her if I can turn something in and she tells me not to be rude. I promise myself I'm going to laugh about this someday ... Elijah Wood can't act. His portrayal of Huck Finn makes me want to vomit. My Linux Shoe sits by me at lunch in his classic black jacket. I squeeze his blue jean-covered knee and hate the Case Boy for trying to tell me that Linux Shoe will not find anyone. To quote Wonka Boy: "LYING BITCH." He is right. So right. I can't wait to program a computer and get yelled at by a boring ex-hippie (a substitute, obviously) ... Linux Shoe follows me home and into my bed. We waste time, drinking too much, holding each other. We finally give up and walk around the neighborhood, softly revealing secrets to each other in the clean quiet of the evening. Fresh-cut grass is everywhere. We laugh. We sip cold water and continue to giggle. I try, so hard, not to cry when he leaves.


My weekend almost completely devoid of Linux Shoe. He wanders into the library and flops onto a wooden chair. I peel the black headphones off his head and hug him around his shoulders. We miss a beautiful pizza, poetry, Braid Bitch's birthday party. We bite our lips so hard they bleed when teenage pseudo-elitists dressed in sophisticated black turtlenecks read political magazines. We desire their shoulder blades, arms and waists. My lip hurts. The sun falls into the earth and I walk with the Wonka Boy. He bounces on an invisible pogo stick, explaining and describing his first game of spin the bottle. I nod and try not to smirk (FAILURE). I chew my raw fingernails, waiting to touch my Linux Shoe.


I love her Midwestern Tackiness. I've learned to giggle when she screams, read my book of patriarchal theories when she tells me to study, and I refuse to rat on anyone who flips her off. It's just hilarious. I move into a political class next and ignore the teacher. Three tests on Thursday. My grade is going to rhyme with fuck ... My neck throbs. Fucking state tests. Neck bent over fill-in-the-bubble hell. I feel sick to my stomach. Maybe because Linux Shoe was not at lunch or because I have no more clear packaging tape. Oh my dear and undying love of adhesive. What would my locker look without you? It would be a tragedy. I'm starving, but I don't want food.


Linux Shoe whines loudly about his inability to write, lack of a boyfriend, overinterest in the straight boys. I sigh and hit his cheek with the back of my hand. He honestly believes that if he does not have a boyfriend before he turns fifteen, his entire life will be over. No reason to live. No will to go on. Because, so far, this is his entire life. And he's gone his entire life without a boyfriend. I laugh and shake my head. When he sits still, he wears a cloak of longing that presses down on his shoulders, pushing him into the ground, weighing down the corners of his mouth. I keep my mouth closed, because if I opened it, tears would come out. Some beautiful man is going to steal him away from me someday. Too soon. Far, far too soon.


Yesterday I learned all my friends are gay and I feel responsible. Wonka Boy, the boy with black hair, exploring his uncertainty as I sip Sprite. I hold him, filled with guilt. Not a bad score. Out of four male friends, I've managed to turn 2.5 gay. Beat that, Margaret Cho. In an hour I'll be in English class, flunking my Fuck Finn -- er, Huck Finn test. I'll be listening to Wonka Boy and Case Boy argue, and Case Boy will devalue my humanity. Cherry Bitch, my insomniac, pries secrets from cold tired fingers and I click for her like a happy dance. Just one of those insane rich messed-up beat hippie-chick bitch art girls -- fucking Cherry Bitch. Plum Sweater looked zombielike this morning and I made desperate attempts to console her (failure as usual). I stayed up far too late with my Cherry Bitch and my eyes are raw and sore. Sleep.


Suffering through bad luck. Yesterday I took the MetroAreaExpress (MAX) to a place of communal teenagerism (malls make me itch). Wonka Boy admits his homosexuality over a giant slice of pizza. We buy gifts for the Case Boy (a Metallica T-shirt and a cheetah-print fez). Case Boy will be ungrateful (expected).


My Linux Shoe and I waste away the last few hours of the weekend. We shove M&M's into our mouths hungrily, walk, hold each other. Earlier he visited me at the library. Easter Sunday, so the place was packed with emptiness and silence, except for a cello, a flute, and a cute boy making free coffee. Curry sucked down three mochas and a black tiger. He frightens me. I come home and wait for my Linux Shoe, resisting Monday like a fussy baby who presses her lips together and refuses to eat applesauce. This was only Sunday.


Monday. Now. Today. Welcome to Career Week. Please shoot me. Please. Please. Stuck in one classroom for an entire fucking week. What have I accomplished today? We arrive, play overused get-to-know-you games, and then he lets us out to wander the halls. I feel lost. Returning, we make collages, read worksheets, and fill out surveys that will tell us what we want to be when we "grow up." I know I'm in kindergarten because we can't leave the room unless we have our laminated name tags on blue yarn. Cherry Bitch jerks clumsily in a silver shopping cart, running up and down the hallway. She manages to pick yellow weeds and tape them to my locker with a note: "'heart' the Cherry Bitch." I pluck one of the yellow weeds blooming on my locker and twirl it between my fingers. I hand it to a girl whose name I don't know, but she wears a pentagram necklace, too. She just smiles and thanks me. It is good to remember that not everything is hate ... I'm just sitting here now, staring at the clock, loathing nonproductivity and the twangy country radio music station he insists on playing. This girl behind me is whining and blubbering about her ex-boyfriend. I resist the urge to slap her as hard as I can. I don't hate my peers, simply because it's a waste of time. I can, however, dislike my teachers who breed and favor these apathetic products of noneducation. I've wasted six hours here. I could be at the library or in a park or visiting a museum or ANYWHERE but I'm here. I hate school because it is so traditional and accepted and so normal. What college would take me without a high school diploma? Good colleges, traditional colleges, would not. Sometimes I acknowledge it is not the fault of the school. It's my own fault for being so unmotivated and ready to blame. I see these things but do not react. Four days until the beach. Forty-five minutes until I can leave. I must keep breathing until then. I'm tempted to just pass out. It would be grand. It would be art. Would anyone notice?


Fuck. All I can say about today. Cherry Bitch grins lopsidedly and gives me little yellow pills: Vivarin. I fill out more career-grown-up worksheets and then scurry to the bathroom in my fuzzy blue slippers and cup my hand under the dirty faucet, holding water on my tongue and swallowing down the pretty little pill. I hate pills. Swallow down another one during lunch with 100% strawberry-banana juice. Now I feel like a mess. I dunno if it's the Vivarin or Cherry Bitch or the worksheets slowly making me insane. My palms are sweating silver bullets and I feel shaky and anxious. I want to write and I don't want to write. I hate this ... it finally wore off. Thank God. I paced around the school, then tried lying down on a couch in a teacher's room, but I couldn't calm down. My palms were sweating, then freezing, and I felt like I had a fever, and if I ever threaten to take mescaline, please stop me.


Camped out in front of my locker like a homeless person. Waiting for a security guard to yell at me. They pass by numerous times and do not even look at me. I should be in class. Instead, I open Bukowski's "Tales of Ordinary Madness" and read with a look of confusion on my face. I find this beautiful. No. one. notices ... Cherry Bitch lets me wear her cat-eyed glasses. I feel silly and vain and I like it. I walk home and eventually kiss the Wonka Boy (supposed to be gay). He shoves his tongue in my mouth anxiously, awkwardly. Too much like a child ripping open a shiny Christmas present only to be disappointed. Curry wore a candy necklace today and I tried to bite off some candy and ended up making his neck bleed. What a tragedy. My hands are cold. My feet hurt. Career week only gets worse, I think. Tomorrow we have to write notes to the presenters we saw today (like the woman from State Farm who tried to convince us that selling insurance was a fun, interesting career field ... LYING WHORE). That could take at least two hours ... Vivarin. I believe this calls for Vivarin.


Closer to the end, but when I stick out my tongue I can't taste it. Walk home again, stopping by the wife of Burger King for an ice cream cone. Wonka Boy and Case Boy laugh. I shuffle my feet. I waste hours listening to music and packing for the beach, then braiding my hair, anxiously awaiting the last few hours of career week. Last night, at the band concert, I was confused. Vegan Grrl wraps her arms around my shoulders and holds me protectively. She smells like the earth and very cheap laundry detergent. We listen to our peers play music, resting on each other, her arm on my shoulder, my nose in her neck. It feels nice. I switch between cuddling her and sucking a boy's neck. It was a strange evening. Today lacked such oddities. It also lacked Cherry Bitch. My Greasy Buddy Holly makes nightmares and dreams more real. I question everything and eat chocolate. Thursdays are terrible days. Near the end, but not close enough to taste.

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"Please Don't Kill The Freshman: A Memoir," by Zoe Trope. Text copyright 2003 by Zoe Trope. Used by permission of HarperCollins publishers.

By Zoe Trope

Zoe Trope is the author of "Please Don't Kill the Freshman: A Memoir."


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