“You’re a liar,” I tell Nate.
Nate looks down his nose at me and smirks. “You don’t even know me.”
True. We hang out in different circles. But I’ve seen the Nates of this world in action. He’s all about the package. Having the right look, joining all the right clubs, saying the right things. Mr. Popular. Mr. Perfect. But I know otherwise.
“Okay,” I say. “Let’s play.”
“The Tie Game.” I shut the biology lab packet and point to the front of the room where Mr. Phillips stands, once again wearing one of his hand-painted ties. “What do you think of Mr. Phillips’s tie?”
Nate’s eyebrows narrow as he studies the swirls and blobs of color. “It looks like all of his other ties.”
Mr. Phillips is an artist. This year’s he’s been applying his talents to his neckties. Those of us in the front row get a painful eyeful every day.
“But how do you feel about it?” I ask. “Do you like it? Do you think that tie is an attractive clothing accessory?”
“It’s…” Nate straightens his own tie and fidgets with his pencil.
“Say it,” I urge him.
“It’s really, really ugly.”
“But last month, you told him that tie was nice.”
Nate looks at me like I’m some kind of creeper. “And you remember everything I say?”
“No, I remember your tie comment because it landed my ass in dentition.”
“Wait. You’re blaming me for you getting another detention?”
“Damned straight,” I say. “You asked Mr. Phillips if the tie was new and if he made it, and when he said yes, you told him it was nice. As I was gathering my books, Mr. Phillips asked me if I agreed with your artistic assessment. I told him art is a personal experience and that a single piece of artwork can create different responses from different people. So theoretically art isn’t good or bad. It’s not pretty or ugly. Nice or not nice. I tried to walk out, but Mr. Phillips tightened the screw. ‘But I want your opinion, Rebecca,’ he said. ‘You’re an artist. Do you think this tie is nice?’ That’s what really pissed me off. I didn’t go into class thinking, ‘Hey, I’m going to tell Mr. Phillips his tie is ugly.’ But he insisted I give him my opinion.” Even now, just thinking about it makes my blood boil.
Nate quirks an eyebrow, which disappears under a perfect black wave of hair. “And what did you tell Mr. Phillips?”
“That his tie looked like two mating squid in late-stage rot.”
Nate winces. “Not too smart.”
“But Mr. Phillips asked for the truth. My truth.”