This title is a direct reference to a short subject I heard at university. The author was a strange girl of moderate build, who, already pale, would powder her entire body in talcum and then accent her eyebrows and lips with a dull chocolate lipstick. There may have been a hint of yellow eye shadow that made her look somehow jaundiced, though that may be an invention of a memory working too hard to remember. She had a huge diamond engagement ring and wore corset-like shirts of a gauze-like material that she had to lace up the front and tight faded blue jeans that made her butt look wide and flat.
Her story was basically a rant about how annoying her roommate was and how she had coped with her by blasting a song entitled ‘Double Agent’ whenever the girl entertained her friends. I think that the roommate was a music or dance major and this seemed quite irksome to the strange thin girl because she was always singing or playing show tunes or something equally annoying.
I hated the story so much, I think, because of that engagement ring. I couldn’t really hear what she was trying to say. My criticism of her work was completely out of line, based on my jealousy that she was engaged. I think that the fact that she was taken, that I had noticed she was engaged before I had even had a chance to develop a crush on her had transformed all of my thoughts about her to negative ones, and it was through this filter that I heard every word that came out of her mouth.
Every word she spoke, as the weeks went by, seemed more inane than the last. Her early stories were gothic vampire tales set in the American south. I didn’t like those at all, with their hinted-at lesbianism and overwrought dialects, because they made me feel threatened. I found that I listened to her every word so intently, just waiting for her to slip up and say something incorrect, something that would violate the reality that she had tried to so pain-stakingly build up for herself through her makeups and monologues.
I began to hate her as if she had destroyed a relationship that had never existed, had never been even hinted at. I had never felt so unnoticed by somehow in my life. I would stare at her throughout the entire ninety-minute class and when she would read one of her pieces I would pick it apart like an abusive husband just looking for a reason.
‘Double Agent’ was, I think, her last piece in that class. When she had finished reading it she received an appreciative round of applause from the class. When we all went around the table giving our initial reactions to the piece, the consensus was that the story was an overwhelming success and her best one to date.
I, on the other hand, was not so nice. Starting with the title, which I complained was more rip-off than homage, I detailed everything that, in my eyes, had made the story the most boring and stupidly written thing that I had ever heard in my life. After I finished my critique I waited for her response.
I felt as though this was to be something akin to a first kiss for us. That my abusive comments would somehow set off a passion for me that she must have had somewhere deep inside. I waited for her to throw a tantrum, to crumple up her story and throw it in my face as she stomped out of the classroom, screaming obscenities at me. I thought about how romantic it would be to chase after her, offering her my most humble apologies for completely missing the point of her piece and how through her tears she would glare at me and then finally wrap her lips around mine, smearing her chocolate lips and white talcum across my face while forcefully pushing my head against one of the battered wooden doors of the University English department.
Instead, however, she simply looked at our instructor and let him make all of the counter-points to my attack. He proved, in the end, that my take on her piece had been completely wrong. There was something wonderful, he had said, in the almost inane voice that she had written the piece in. It seemed real, he said, it seemed the most honest thing he had heard all semester because it was so lackluster and seemingly pointless.
He even turned some of my own points back at me, stating that he couldn’t understand how I didn’t get it. That considering the output I had made throughout the semester I would be the story’s most outspoken champion. I shifted my glance back to her face and once again she wasn’t looking in my direction; She was looking at him with a meek smile on her face.
I learned two things that day.