The List comes out the week before prom, every single year. And every single year, the teachers try to get ahead of it. They make empty threats, warning the boys that if any person is found to be associated with The List, they won’t be able to go to prom or walk at graduation. And yet, that doesn’t stop The List from making its way through the school: taped to lockers, stapled to bulletin boards, and dropped on every lunch table.
No one really knows how the tradition got passed down year after year, but The List is a fixture at Coolidge High. And it’s crazy, because everyone kind of looks forward to it. Like, even the ugly girls talk about it.
There was a rumor one year that Mr. Beckerman is actually the one who creates the list, and that’s why the school has never caught anyone. I mean, when you think about it, it’s literally insane that no one has been identified, even with security cameras basically everywhere except the bathrooms and locker rooms.
Everyone remembers when he asked Cassie Mendez how she got those scrapes on her knees. She answered so innocently, “Field hockey,” and he goes, “Kyle must love your field hockey,” and then looked at Kyle and shrugged. It was so inappropriate.
No one even laughed. The whole class just stared at him, like, the fuck is wrong with you, dude? We all hate Mr. Beckerman. He seems like exactly the kind of loser who would get his jollies by making people feel like absolute dog shit.
This year, it was even harder to stop it from making rounds once people took a picture of it and started texting it to each other. The teachers were out in full force, crumpling up every copy they could, but it was too late.
It’s so predictable, too. All the pretty girls, like Maria DaSilva and Courtney Johnson and their whole group walk around, their butts even tighter than usual, just being so holier than thou. They don’t say anything specifically, but they don’t have to. It’s just so obvious that they feel so validated by The List.
I kind of noticed that this week, they’ve all been wearing their shortest shorts and skirts, and their tightest and brightest clothes. It’s like, I think they wanted whoever makes the list to get a good last look at them. Maybe I’m crazy, but I wouldn’t put it past them to do whatever it takes to boost their rankings.
And secretly, you know that Megan Fitzpatrick is just devastated to be the bottom of their group. Even though she’s ranked number four in the entire class, I can just tell she’s upset that Ashley Ogden—who is, like, her best friend—got ranked number three. I’m not sure whether it’s true or not, but Tom said that Megan ran into the bathroom crying. She probably did, knowing her.
And like, yeah, of course I looked at the list, but every time I did, I just heard my mom’s voice saying, “We raised you better than this, Daniel.” But it’s honestly impossible not to look at it. It’s everywhere, and everyone’s talking about it.
I’m a little ashamed because I felt—I don’t know—relieved? when I saw that Rebecca Morris was in the top 10. She’s my prom date, and like, as much as I don’t want to care what other people think, I clearly do. And yes, of course she’s super pretty, but the best thing about Rebecca is that she’s super cool and nice to everyone. I’m super into her. And it feels pretty awesome that she was number eight on The List.
It really brings out the worst in our whole school. A bunch of busybodies, looking at this baseless pile of crap. We don’t even know who wrote the thing; our best guess is a lonely old scrooge who can’t teach us chemistry. So why would we let some pathetic jerk affect our chemistry as a class?
I know I’m starting to sound pretty holier than thou, but I’m definitely not. It’s just that I sat next to Madeline Walker in fifth period today, and I’ve honestly never felt so bad in my life. She didn’t say a single word the whole time. I couldn’t even look at her. If I were in her shoes, I would have wanted to evaporate. I would have wanted to be anywhere else in the entire world than in school.
Because she knew that we all knew.
It wasn’t like I could say anything to her, either. The List was out, and somehow, that made it official. While Maria was silently gloating, and Rebecca had the luxury of paying it no mind, Madeline would have to live with the judgment passed down by some invisible coward.
I couldn’t be like, “Fuck that list. Nobody cares.” Because clearly, everybody cares. It’s all they can talk about.
But Madeline did nothing wrong. She’s only ever been nice to everybody. And yet, some asshole bothered to put her name down last.
I couldn’t tell her something inspiring or whatever, like “You’re beautiful on the inside.” Because that is so patronizing and lame that it actually makes things worse. It was tempting to just sit there and pretend everything was normal and okay. But it was anything but okay to let someone feel like that.
So, I just reached out and held her hand.
She didn’t cry or shrink away. She just squeezed my hand back and said, spicy as a habañero, “Don’t you dare feel bad for me, Fox. One day, every single one of those fuckers are going to kiss the ring.”