Later that day, fucking around in the halls during passing period, I find this rainbow-striped snap bracelet on the ground. I swipe it up, carry it to class. While I’m supposed to be paying attention to whatever-the-fuck, I borrow a thick Sharpie marker from someone and write in large, salient block letters the word HOMO on the bracelet.


The game: Fag Tag.

The rules: you sneak up on someone and slap it around his wrist, then he is it for the next hour. After the penalty period elapses, he can remove the bracelet and tag someone else. If he misses, he has to wear it for another hour. If not, then you’re it or whoever’s it, and the cycle repeats endlessly.

This game makes us all strangely agile, sneaky, paranoid. I begin lingering in the classrooms after the bell, waiting for the halls to clear before exiting, sometimes even removing my shoes to slide more quietly over the floors and avoid that fresh Vision Street Wear squeak. I take alternate, lengthier routes between rooms, begin avoiding friends, often keep my hands stuffed deep in my pockets. I avoid the main roads, make use of shadows, monitor my surroundings by scanning reflections in windows or other glass surfaces. I never sit with my back to a door.

Toward the end of the summer, I set a distance record in the game, tossing the thing from three desks back at the wrist of Dave-O, held high aloft as he foolishly exposed it while asking a question as to whether the U.S. states reserved the right to declare war on one another. (That would actually be kind of fucking cool.) It snapped cleanly right around his wrist, and we both snorted, trying to contain our laughter. I whisper fag under my breath while he chokes on his question, finally expelling it, the teacher knowing something is wrong but utterly unable to figure out what it is. Dave-O giggles harder, the teacher answers, and it’s something about Congress or the Constitution or whatever.

(The true distance record, also set by me, is so unbelievable I seldom even bother telling the story. Riding shotgun in Jeff’s car, Eddie behind us in his, Rick next to him waving his middle finger at us. Some 60 or 70 miles per hour on 41 passing Little Chute. I just flung the thing out the window, scarcely even aiming with the side-view mirror. It snapped around Rick’s forearm as if drawn by a magnet. I could even hear them scream with delight. It was absolutely amazing, the most stunning feat of any kind I’d ever accomplished. Eddie started laying on the horn, celebrating, completely fucking stoked. When Jeff asked what the fuck was going on and I told him, he didn’t believe me. He thought we staged it, making use of a second bracelet. We argued about this for hours.)

The tally at the end of the summer: Jeff is for some reason singled out by everyone and has been it most of the time, compelling him to threaten to quit if we didn’t adopt some sort of slaughter rule. I am the only player who has never missed a tag, going so far as to apply the thing while targets were in or at urinals, sinks, or in the gang showers in the locker room. A rule proposal to adopt safe havens during standard gameplay is shot down by a majority. I successfully lobby for a rule change acknowledging ankles as tag targets as well after slithering beneath a shitter stall to tag Eddie, who had taken to illegally hiding out in bathrooms to evade tags.

Efforts to recruit new players were often rebuffed. I snapped it around the wrist of Michelle Chalmers while she read some hideous book of poetry in the library and she started crying, then tried to chuck the tag from an open window. In the surprisingly violent struggle to recover it, I was bitten on the hand and shoulder, and slapped, and I nearly punched her in her fucking fat moon face. The librarian broke it up and questioned us. I threatened Michelle (I will rip those sickening dreadlocks out of your rivethead skull, you fucking cunt) if she sang. She said nothing, went back to her bullshit book. I recovered the tag, plotted anew. My purpose is small, but real.

I became obsessed with the game, flagrantly violating our few and minimal recess and sanctuary rules to tag players even while they were at work. I once ambushed Eddie when he was dry-humping some chick from Xavier in the back of his Saab. I another time feigned an injury, and as Jeff stooped down to render aid…I got him.

The one rule which could not be negotiated was custodial responsibility for the tag. A player who lost it had to buy or otherwise acquire a new one from wherever it is you buy shit like this. If a standard playing period began without a tag, the responsible player was subjected to sudden, vicious Charley horses until he reintroduced the tag. The game was brought to an end as a result of the intervention of the school’s police liaison officer, who briefly placed me in a pair of handcuffs after I tagged him while he was boarding an elevator with another student whom he’d placed in custody yet not handcuffed, who then fled while Officer Petrowski was distracted. What it contained, I have no idea, but he wrote up a report and submitted a copy to the principal, who then notified my by-now largely indifferent mother, who just glared at me while shaking her head, saying nothing, not needing to.

The cop seized the bracelet, impounded it. The thought of that ridiculous toy sitting inside a sealed police evidence bag, forever and ever, amuses me to no end.