When I was a teenager, I was convinced that someday I would become a professional artist, despite the fact that I only exhibited what could be called "talent" in one out of every ten pieces I worked on. I was convinced that this was a mere bump in the road to stardom. After all, I reasoned, Van Gogh's artwork was considered trash when he was alive, and it was only in death that he actually became famous. Maybe my artwork was the same.
Aside #1: And people say I had an ego. Pshaw.
Regardless, when I moved to a new school at the beginning of my Sophomore year, I enrolled in a mid-level drawing class to hone my "abilities" even further. Taught by a gruff, mustachioed ex-coach that had no artistic ability or training whatsoever, I could tell from the first day that the rest of the year that I spent in that class would be completely wasted, and that it wasn't going to help me in what I then saw as my future career.
So I spent most of my time slacking off rather than working on whatever assignment we'd been given, talking to the other five guys that were sitting at the same large, square table as me.
Amongst these fellows was a goateed teen named James. With his long, black, greasy hair and affinity for wearing suggestive t-shirts with massively baggy pants, he was usually the singular scapegoat our teacher chose to scold if we were in trouble as a table (which we often were). He must have been used to this sort of misdirected anger, as it usually rolled off his back without affecting him at all.
Aside #2: This is where I would normally imply that he was verbally abused at home on a regular basis, but to save time, I'm just going to say it: He was verbally abused at home on a regular basis.
The rest of us at the table appreciated this, and would often pontificate about the injustices served to him and how much we appreciated him taking the fall, in order to make his plight seem worthwhile. This semi-symbiotic relationship between James and the rest of us worked, much to our collective surprise.
Then, one day about midway through the school year, James was telling anyone that would listen that he was planning on going over to a friend's house after school to have an "airsoft gun war" (as he called it), and that he'd brought his (unloaded) pistol to school so he didn't have to stop at home to pick it up on the way to said "war." Since our school didn't have lockers, and required students to carry around their backpacks all day, this was a particularly risky decision. But he'd made it to our shared fifth period without any harm befalling him, meaning he only two more to go.
After James' admittance that he was packing pellet-firing heat on school grounds, the six of us discussed the finer points of guns, shooting things, and shooting things with guns. During this conversation, James had a weird gleam in his eye.
"Do you know what would be cool?" he asked, not pausing for responses. "If someone took a picture of me holding this with the classroom behind me."
Aside #3: This is not EXACTLY what he said, but rather the general idea behind what he said.
Realizing that no one had a camera, and never wanting to miss an opporotunity to impress my peers, I stupidly offered to take a picture with my then-slightly-uncommon camera phone, to be emailed to him afterwards.
So we set up the photo, and I took it just as the teacher had his back turned. As promised, I sent it to him, and after that class ended, forgot about the situation entirely.
That is, until the next week, when I was called into my school's principal's office. Upon entering the room, I was informed that I was to be suspended if he found out that I was lying about anything said in the following conversation. Sweating profusely, I agreed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Aside #4: I wasn't afraid of being suspended, exactly, I was afraid of what my parents would do to me if I was suspended.
Opening a folder, he showed me a full-page printout of the picture I'd taken of James holding his airsoft gun in our art class.
"Did you take this picture?" he asked, handing it to me.
Not needing to look down, I shamefully replied. "Yes. About a week ago."
"James said you did. He also said that the gun was Photoshopped into his hands, and that he really didn't bring anything like this to school. Now, I've looked closely at the pixels, and I can tell this isn't Photoshopped. Did he really bring a gun to school?" he asked, crossing his arms.
Aside #5: I'm not even exaggerating with the whole "I looked at the pixels" thing. I swear.
In my mind, protecting James wasn't worth getting suspended over, so I told him the truth like I'd promised.
"Yes, he did. But it was an airsoft gun, and it wasn't loaded!" I added.
"That doesn't matter," he said. "He still brought a weapon to school, and will be expelled because of it. Thank you for your honesty. You may go back to class now."
Feeling like shit for sending James up the river, I went back to class and waited to be shunned by my art-room classmates later that day for what I had done.
But I wasn't. Apparently James had named all of the people at that table as accomplices to his "crime," and all five of us had been grilled by the principal. Not a single one denied that James had indeed brought the gun, meaning I wasn't the only one who valued my own educational safety over that of another student's. This made me feel better, because in my head, it was better to have split the blame rather than take it all.
Two years passed, and James was finally allowed to come back to school. Forgiving me for what I had done, we became friends again and began to hang out regularly. We had a good relationship.
Or so I thought. I would learn a year later, after we'd drifted apart again outside of high school, that during this time, he'd kissed the girl I'd been dating. On two seperate occasions. Once while I was in the same goddamn room.
So if you learn one thing from this story, dear reader, let it be this: If you rat someone out, even as part of a group, and they claim that they've forgiven you, I promise they haven't. People hold grudges, and will take every chance they get to make a move on your girlfriend when your back is literally turned.