Narratively readers: You’ve told us for years that you want space to tell your own stories, so we’re trying something new. When we published My High School’s Secret Fantasy Slut League earlier this month we asked for your boldest, most unexpected high school scandals—in 500 words or less—and you delivered. Here are the mini memoirs we loved the most.
I Got Crushed In a Field of Boy Corn and Girl Corn
As I detasseled corn under a brutal sun, I realized the toxic rumor mill of the rows was the safest place for a teenage girl.
By Rebecca Evans of Star, ID
My first day of detasseling, I wore flip-flops, and my big toenail tore from its bed when I tripped on a stone the size of a cat. You don’t look down, toward the ground, walking rows of corn. You don’t look up either. Once you get the knack, you meditate, you pull, tassel after tassel, drifting in dirt, drier than desert, weaving between stalks.
I didn’t know until that first day that there’s boy corn and girl corn. Four female lines for every male. Four for one. That seems right. The males keep their tassels, preserved, intact, like peacocks fanning their feathers. Their pollen dust blows into the silks, the satins of the girls. The girls must have their tassels plucked, like cutting clits, ensuring female pollens cannot contaminate the sacred cross-pollination.
By my third day of yanking tassels, despite the heat, I learned to wear a tee over my bikini top. Learned to cover myself. Those inner rows steamed like saunas, 10 maybe 50 degrees hotter than weather in the regular world. I covered myself, though I wanted to bake and tan and brown into another nation. I covered myself because those girl leaves cut like machetes, left slices cross my belly and ribs. I covered myself out of need for protection from the other girls.
Girls cut like that, and I learned this on my sixth day of jerking tassels. The other detasselers chattering across the rows, over the tops of tassels:
“I heard she gave it up for Joe.”
“She only did it with him because he’s on the football team.”
“Not true. She did it with the whole team.”
“I heard she didn’t actually do it but gave the whole team head.”
“Did she swallow?”
“Probably. Look how fat she is now.”
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“She might be pregnant.”
By the time school started, the detasslers spread those rumors and the girl in question had had a baby or an abortion or an adoption. Sometimes two.
I’m glad I took that job, there in the field, with the cheerleaders and jocks and heads. Those of us present weren’t talked about, and at least I avoided summertime gossip. I bought a hat by the third week detasseling, tugged it lower to conceal my now-bleached-out eyebrows. I kept covered to remain undercover — fly on wall, fly on shit, shit on shit. I wish I’d had the courage to speak up for the girl, to stand up against those of influence. I only learned to stay silent and covered. And later, ashamed of my silence and coverage.
After a month detasseling corn, my scalp, despite my cap, still peeled from the burn, my hair stayed silver-white as though I’d aged, every day lasting a decade. By the end of the summer, my toenails ripped, my scalped picked, my hands calloused, and me, much more damaged for that life between those rows.
Why I Rooted for the Romance of My Teacher Friend and a Student
I watched as Samantha fell for a senior in the school where we taught abroad. Even though I knew it was wrong, their love was real.
By Barrie McIntyre of Astoria, NY
Samantha had the year-round tan of a South Jersey native and the body of a cartoon. She wore Forever 21 tube tops and sandals that wrapped around her ankles. On her prep periods, she watched Real Housewives on her laptop. She was 22 years old, and we were both escaping the drudgery of the tristate area by moving to North Africa and working as kindergarten teachers at an American school in Morocco. She was my best friend, and we were having the time of our lives. They say that expats who move to Morocco are looking for a sunny place for shady people. I don’t think we were shady but we were prone to making bad decisions.
The school we worked at ran from nursery through 12th grade and was attended by the children of diplomats or hotel owners or lighting designers for kings. The community was small, and the school looked like the one they go to on Beverly Hills, 90210. Samantha and I didn’t have much contact with the high school, but we saw the juniors and seniors out at the clubs on the weekends, and it was normal to chat with them, say hello. The city we were in made its living from tourism, so clubbing was king. Being from South Jersey, Samantha was into it from the jump, but I started off going out ironically. After a month though, I was walking home at 7 a.m. wearing a sequined miniskirt and platform boots with the best of them.
We didn’t drink and smoke with the juniors and seniors, but we didn’t hide it from them either. They were doing it too and we were all too blurry to care. The high school students in Morocco seemed different than their American counterparts — sophisticated and worldly in a way we had never been growing up.
There was one senior we would see out every weekend, Adam. He had a puppy-eyed soulful John Mayer thing going on and walked through the marble hallways of the school strumming Oasis on his acoustic six-string. He had a vibe and you noticed him. Samantha definitely did. She was smitten, and after a few vodka-Sprites at the club one weekend, she started making it clear. Soon enough, Adam was making it clear back. At the end of a long night, Adam gave her a ride back to her apartment, which was owned by the school we worked, at and they hooked up.
They fell in love and it was real. Kind of like a Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande thing — you couldn’t help but feel it. There was also an irresistible element of subversion that fueled their romance; technically, what they were doing was wrong. On one hand, they were only four years apart age-wise. On the other hand, Samantha was a teacher and Adam was a student, even if they were in different divisions at the school. And his mom had just passed from cancer months before, which made something about Samantha’s role in his life unseemly. Still, there was a part of me that secretly rooted for them. I couldn’t help it.
Of course things fell apart. That kind of amour fou always does. The fire gets too hot. They became brazen and people talked. And Adam’s best friend was the son of the school’s headmaster and got freaked out enough to tell his dad. The headmaster was gentle and let Samantha finish out the school year, but they didn’t renew her contract.
I stayed in Morocco for another year, and Samantha moved back to the States. We lost touch. Adam went to college. He friended me on social media and I accepted. He has a wife now, a baby daughter. They live in Paris, where he works as an architect. As for Samantha, the last I heard she’s still traveling the world, teaching in South America. I saw a picture of her recently, out partying in a country with beaches and palm trees, her tube top riding high and glitter on her face.
The names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of those discussed.
I Still Wonder How He Knew I’d Be Home Alone
The track coach promised I’d be a champion — but he really taught me how to run from all the danger in my life…including him.
By Rebecca Evans of Star, ID
I opened our paint-chipped front door, seals frayed, and his silhouette filled the frame. 10 p.m. Maybe 11. At 14, and only a freshman, I still wore my running shorts from track practice. My mom waitressed round the clock. Maybe for the money. Probably for the absence. My stepfather, normally home and lingering, lounging, was surprisingly gone, though I don’t remember where. My older brother worked late. So I was left. Left alone.
It had to be early spring because I mostly remember that Indiana rain, sheeting down in veils, and despite the weather, I didn’t invite him in. Years later, I’ll wonder how he knew my address. Years later, I’ll wonder how he knew I’d be home alone. Out of embarrassment, I kept the two-bedroom shack with the overgrown, weedy lawn a secret from everyone at school. I had no visitors. I had few friends.
During track, he told me I had natural talent the way I ran that 400. Told me I could be a champion. Told me he built champions, like the boys’ state champ, also in the 400. Told me he could build me. So I stayed later, after track and cheerleading. I left his hand high on my thigh as he pushed me from starting blocks. Left his fingertips on my collarbones, when he told me to disperse my weight before I launched. He tucked a whole emptied eggshell into each palm, held my hands a bit too long, instructed, “Hold these loose.”
“If you squeeze, they’ll break.”
“Think of you being squeezed, breaking.”
I held those shells delicate-like and thought of the ways I’d already broken.
At the time, I was hungry for champion-hood.
He was the boys’ track coach.
He was the wood shop teacher.
He was at my front door.
Before him, I found other ways to stay after school. I ran bleachers with the wrestling team. I weight trained with the football players. I — the only girl amongst these boys — felt protected; they were my brothers. My brother was one of them.
He must have followed me home.
I usually ran the 3 miles. Even in the rain.
He must have driven slowly and without headlights.
From the shadow of the door, he placed his index finger on my chin, kissed me. Instead of desire or hunger, I dipped into coldness, began to shake. He stood for a moment. Certain he’d push past me, take me, do things that Daddy did, but instead he stuffed his hands in his tracksuit pockets, left.
I quit the extra training, but still broke the school 400 record.
The next year, I quit track, quit school, filled a trash bag with my worldly possessions: Levi’s, 8-tracks, books, track spikes. I ran away. And much later, I’d flee an abusive marriage. I’d tell myself that coach taught me well, taught me to push from the starting blocks, weight even across palms and feet. I never became a state champion, but I became a decent runner.