now as most of you probably know, I’m super interested in espionage and I was thinking the other day about how far this goes back and anywhere here is a story from when I was nine (9) years old
back in middle school I was friends with a bunch of people who were probably as dramatic as I was (read: very) and so we would have “massive” falling outs every other damn week. I’m talking full blown middle school warfare where we would sometimes fall out for up to a week at a time. who was at fault always rotated, but like clockwork someone would be accused of the ultimate crime – “Splitting The Group Up” – and ostracised until we all forgot about it or someone else tried to Split The Group Up.
now I enjoyed the drama as much as the next kid but it was getting kind of… stale, you know? I wanted to Spice it up a bit. one day, I saw my opportunity.
the kid who was Splitting The Group Up this time was a kid called Ross. I was sneaking around the cloakroom one lunch break when I spotted him in there, hiding because whenever we saw him we would chase him across the playground screaming insults, which was as you can imagine very unpleasant. I looked at him. he looked at me, expecting a barrage of insults.
“hey,” I said, holding out a piece of my fruit roll-up as a peace offering. “wanna be Secret Friends™?”
thus the concept of Secret Friends™ was born. basically, two people from the opposing groups would actually be friends on the downlow. in public we would taunt and insult one another with the rest of the group, but in private we were still friends, organising clandestine meetings and passing information to one another about what the groups were planning. I organised most of the codewords and protocol, with input from Ross, as we were the original Secret Friends™, but as the dynamics shifted in the group and different sets of Secret Friends™ were formed, the techniques grew ever sneakier.
before you knew it, it was full on espionage. we had codes. we had certain ways of wearing our uniform to pass messages (top shirt button undone = safe to meet behind the bike shed at precisely 12:06. top button done = attempt no further contact until informed otherwise). we had dead drop zones where we would hide letters and notes to be picked up later. we had certain insults we would throw out in full view of our own side that would send a secret message to the Secret Friend™ in question. we would, on occasion, pretend to defect to the other side, just to be closer to the Secret Friend™ and funnel information back to an inside source in the original group.
quickly, both groups found their plans being compromised. it was a constant battle of secrecy and wits. suspicions mounted and mole hunts were frequent. I remember being followed into bathrooms and finding people spying on who was coming by my house after school. on one occasion, I was interrogated in the Tree House as to my whereabouts on a certain night, and on where I had been during first break at school (dropping a letter off at one of me and Ross’s dead drop zones, but of course I didn’t tell them that). on several other occasions, I was the one spying on front doors and demanding answers in the hallowed halls of the Tree House.
eventually, Ross and I realised that something had to be done. gradually, over many days (a long time then – can I remind you of the fact that we were nine years old at the time) we framed a girl in my group, Gemma, as the traitor. we planted evidence. I forged her handwriting (to this day I am excellent at changing my handwriting, and I put it down to this). straight-faced and unashamed, I informed my Group Leader that I had spotted Gemma fraternising with the enemy. she was put on trial and found guilty. Ross and I shared a knowing signal of triumph (I unwrapped and ate a red Starburst sweet as I passed him) and life went on.
how did I deal with the stress? I don’t know. all I know is that in the face of true loyalty, sacrifices have to be made. as for ross and I? we were never caught.