[KS] The Rumour Mill

Jun 19th, 2013
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  1. Original post:
  3. Everywhere I went, I heard it. The whispers. Well, that’s how they started off. Just whispers. Inevitably, though, they turned to hushed voices, then casual speech, and sometimes shouting matches.
  5. No one ever took a side. For long, anyway. Whatever story cooked up the most trouble; that’s what they sided with. Then when someone defused it, another, even more outrageous story was circulated. I kept thinking they would reach some kind of upper limit. They kept proving me wrong.
  7. It all started with a single slip of paper, as I understand it. A hastily scrawled note, nearly illegible, dropped from somebody’s pocket or bag in the school building. I don’t know who wrote the note. Maybe no one does. But I do know what the note said.
  9. ‘Mikado and Hakamichi are lovers.’
  11. The rumours spread like wildfire, as rumours do. That was when the whispers started. The sideways glances, too. I had no idea what was happening for the first week or so. It wasn’t until almost the end of the second week of ever-present stares that it was brought to my attention.
  13. It was a freshman girl that asked me. She just bounced right on up and said it.
  15. “Did you and the Student Council president have sex?”
  17. I was taken aback. Flabbergasted, even. ‘Did we have sex’? It was a preposterous notion. “Of course we haven’t,” I replied. “Why would you ask that?”
  19. She told me she heard it from a girl in her class. When I pressed her, I found out that that was what all the whispering and staring was about. They were judging me. And Shicchan, too. Shicchan didn’t seem to notice, or even know that anything had happened, but all the attention bothered me.
  21. Still, I put on my usual happy mask and went about my business, trying to be as un-bothered as I possibly could. It was just talk, after all. What harm could come from it? And so I let the kids have their whispers. They’d grow tired of the rumour soon enough, if Shicchan and I didn’t say anything.
  23. It’s like that thing the teachers always tell us about bullying; ‘if you ignore it, they will stop’. So I ignored it, day after day. But the days became weeks, and the weeks became months, and it never stopped. If anything, it only got worse.
  25. Certain students became somewhat confrontational about it. The ‘did they or didn’t they’ talk became ‘they’re using it for attention’ or even ‘they wrote the note themselves’. While there was the odd occasion that someone would stand up for us, they were mercilessly belittled when they did. They joined the crowd out of fear.
  27. Shicchan noticed my ongoing distraction. I couldn’t keep it a secret. I told her about what had been happening. She was furious, of course. I cautioned her against doing anything about it, though. I didn’t want to bring her into it. I cared about her too much to allow her to be hurt by petty high school students.
  29. Shicchan didn’t seem to feel the same way. She smiled, but it wasn’t a real smile. It was one of those smiles that don’t reach your eyes. A sad smile.
  31. Her response was “I understand.” Nothing more, nothing less. It made me feel bad again. We sat in silence for a long time; together, but alone. Eventually, Shicchan told me she would handle it. That she would figure something out, and that I should call it a night.
  33. I couldn’t argue. She picked me up from where I sat and marched me out of the School Council room towards the dorms. Oh, man, if only she’d known what we’d find when we got to my dorm.
  35. My door was covered with huge graffiti, applied with pink paint. ‘Lesbian’… ‘attention-whore’… even a few things in English that I couldn’t understand. If Shicchan was furious before, then this was a whole different level of fury. She was trembling, her face beet-red and hands curled into painfully tight fists.
  37. It surprised me a little that she threw open the door to her own room and ordered me inside. It surprised me more that she left me there and locked the door behind her. In fact, it kind of scared me.
  39. Shicchan didn’t return until late in the night. She looked exhausted. I tried to ask what she had been doing, but she blew me off and climbed into her bed, only acknowledging me long enough to tell me to go to sleep. Difficult as it was to fall asleep with all the thoughts running through my mind, I eventually gave in to slumber.
  41. I was not prepared for what morning brought. Shicchan was pushier than usual, insisting I shower and get into my school uniform and such quickly. Instead of going to class, however, she led me to the auditorium, where all of the population of Yamaku was present. Students, teachers, nursing staff, the works.
  43. Shicchan directed me over to where the rest of our class was seated and told me to stay put while she said her piece. I was more than a little confused; how would Shicchan say her piece without me to translate? More importantly… why?
  45. One of those questions, at least, was answered as Mr Kurosaburo, the sign language teacher, stood at the head of the cohort with Shicchan and began translating for her.
  47. “It has come to Miss Hakamichi’s attention that there has been some unrest among the student body in recent times. It seems that there has been a culture of bullying towards certain students, in the form of slander, defamation and outright harassment. This is not acceptable behaviour at this, or any, school.
  49. “Under the Yamaku code of conduct policy, this kind of behaviour is prohibited. It is unacceptable at any time for a student to feel misrepresented or excluded by their peers; much less on the basis of unfounded and ultimately false information.
  51. “On behalf of the student or students in question, I will say now that all circulated rumours are false. What needs to be done is to improve the way the student body acts towards one another. We trust we will have your co-operation in this matter. That is all.”
  53. When the elderly teacher’s voice stopped, the room was dead silent for naught but a moment. A flurry of gazes – worried, angry, accusatory, and guilty – quickly grew into a sonic boom of chatter. Yet, even with the ambient volume so high, a loud, derisive snort cut through the air like a whip.
  55. “You’re fuckin’ kidding me, right?” Miura said, getting to her feet. “You mean to tell me all this bullshit is for a couple of people spreading some rumours? Real life is a bitch. Grow a thicker skin. You know who you are. You brought this on yourself, you attention-whore.”
  57. As she spoke, her attention turned from addressing the crowd to looking me right in the eyes. Her snide smirk pushed me over the edge. I damn near jumped to my feet and shouted right back at her.
  59. “How did I bring this on myself? How am I an attention-whore? I never did any of these things! All I’ve done is go day-to-day hearing everyone talk shit about me behind my back. If people hate me, then fine, I don’t care! But don’t go making up crap about me and Shicchan just so you can get more people on your side.”
  61. I was surprised by how sharp my voice was. It had none of its usual lilting tone.
  63. “You think I did this?” Miki scoffed. “Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. It doesn’t matter. People dislike you, your stupid Student Council and everything you do. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen and go order McDonalds.”
  65. “I’d be more than happy to leave. I only came to this assembly to sort out this crap. But it seems to me like all you want to do is start fights. You’re only bringing attention to yourself!”
  67. “Ha! I’m the attention-whore, now, am I? Remind me again why we’re in the auditorium, getting lectured about bullying, of all things? Please. No-one was being that bad. It was a bunch of petty insults. Everyone deals with that. There’s no need to shit up a whole school just because your poor widdle feewings got a bit hurt.”
  69. I couldn’t believe it. The sheer dismissiveness of Miura’s words left me speechless. Thankfully, someone else was able to speak up.
  71. “I… I think it wasn’t M-Mikado that ruined anything…” Ikezawa said, getting to her feet as well. “It was the p-people that couldn’t contain themselves. They c-couldn’t just approach the situation with m-maturity.”
  73. Ikezawa visibly flinched as Maeda got to his feet with a loud groan, directing his tirade at her.
  75. “Maturity? Plenty of valid criticisms about the Student Council have been voiced. But as usual, instead of having a civil discussion, they’ve ignored them because we’re all apparently just haters.”
  77. “The treatment that Misses Mikado and Hakamichi received in general is disgusting,” Satou retorted, much to my surprise. “You’re all tearing into them like a pack of rabid dogs. I find it hypocritical that people are laying down holier-than-thou claims, while at the same time acting worse than the person in question.”
  79. “That’s right,” Ibarazaki added, standing up as well. “The Student Council can’t please everyone. There’re a lot of people telling them to fuck off, and a lot wanting to discuss things. That’s the exact problem, and you’re telling me that makes it okay to rip into them?”
  81. Miura’s laughter punctuated the room again.
  83. “Sheesh. Relax, bimbos. So we’re having a bad day. We have good ones too. It isn’t worth losing your shit over.”
  85. “Have you guys even looked at some of the stuff you’re doing? Right now?”
  87. Hearing Tezuka become involved took us all aback.
  89. “Even now I know that someone’s going to respond to me with more shouting or other stuff. Probably. Take a step back and look at yourselves. Don’t hate on someone because they’re different to you or want to express their love for someone else in a different way to you.”
  91. Ikezawa speaking up again was even more of a surprise.
  93. “Y-you guys are destroying what I thought we all had here. This p-place that I thought was full of really c-cool people is really just full of p-people being nice half the time then being as c-cruel and egotistical as the people at m-my old school. Be the b-better person.”
  95. “We’re in a school for hopeless cripples,” Miura sneered. “Why would you expect me to be anything but cruel or egotistical? We’re all the monkeys on society’s backs, and flinging shit is what we do. Stop being an idiot.”
  97. The thunderous ‘WHUMP’ that followed shocked everyone into silence. As if in slow motion, Miura’s body fell sideways, collapsing into a heap in front of a bunch of first-years. Where she previously stood, Shicchan now stood, nursing her clenched fist.
  99. The sudden halt to the argument seemed to shock the staff into action. It only took a minute for all the students to be sheparded off to God-only-knows where. That’s how it came to be that Shicchan and I were dragged into the principal’s office. And that’s how it came to be that we – along with a few others – were expelled from Yamaku Academy.
  101. That was a few months ago. Shicchan and I study elsewhere, now. We never found out what became of the other students involved in the argument that day, nor did we find out who was doing all those nasty things. All I know is that a lot of shit was kicked up for no good reason.
  103. I do wish things could have gone down differently that day, but I can’t change that now. I can only focus on the future, and know that if trouble comes my way, all I have to do is report it and move on. Trying to stand up to bullies only spurs them on to cause more trouble.
  105. But wouldn’t it be great, just once, if we didn’t have to put up with hatred? The world would be a friendlier place.
  107. Reality is so cruel.
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