I have felt a spiritual connection with only a few people during my life. And each time, the connection was immediate and emotionally powerful. The strongest connection I have ever made was with my high school debate partner, David McAndrew. I met him the first day of school in my junior year, and our debate coach paired us up two weeks later.
After the placements were announced, David and I became a team - a serious, hard-working, dedicated, persuasive debating team. I loved how he could focus his efforts and get down to work. For a sophomore, he was incredible! We found that we could communicate during a debate simply by looking at each other. It was weird. I could tell what argument he was considering just by looking at him. Sometimes, I would pull the evidence card he wanted without any verbal communication. He'd take it, wink at me, and then deliver an eloquent rebuttal that was exactly on point.
David had bumped my friend Eric to the junior varsity team, and Eric was not happy with his placement. I got a distinct impression that he didn't like David. Eric seemed to get over it, however, and he worked just as hard on the junior varsity team as he had the previous year as a member of the varsity team. To my surprise, my former partner, Jim, was not upset at all about being paired with Eric's former partner, Sara. And, Sara seemed quite content as well. Ultimately, we all accepted our team assignments and focused our efforts on beating the competition.
Early in the season, we easily defeated our rival school, Edison, and several other local high schools as well. Our first real challenge was an invitational on the western side of the state in October. The invitational tournament was on a Saturday, and Mrs. Weber decided we'd drive over on Friday night. It was a four-hour trip, and the debates started at 9:00 in the morning. Jim drove Sara, David and me. Mrs. Weber drove Eric and the rest of the junior varsity team. We packed into Jim's Volkswagen Beatle on an unseasonably warm October evening. We were all in tee shirts and shorts. Jim and Sara were in the front. David and I were in the backseat.
It was kind of exciting to be going out of town with my closest friends. We were all a little nervous about the tournament, but we were enjoying the drive and being together. Jim and Sara had recently become something of a couple. They had started going to various school functions together, and the rumor was that the Dean had caught them kissing in the choir room. It struck me that Jim and I were not spending any time alone together as we had in the past, and I didn't even know if the rumors were true. Seeing as we were all among friends, I decided to ask. "So, the gossip mongers would have me believe you two were making out in the choir room. What's up?"
Jim and Sara broke out in nervous laughter. "Well," Jim finally said, "I wouldn't call one little kiss making out, but I guess it depends on your point of view."
Apparently, David hadn't heard the gossip, and he seemed surprised. "Are you guys a couple?" he asked in an overly naive tone.
"Well, are we?" she asked. There's nothing like being put on the spot by a car full of your friends.
Jim started laughing again; well, giggling actually. Everyone, especially Sara, waited for his answer. "Yeah, if you wanna," he finally said to her.
Sara leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "OK," she replied. And with that, another high school romance had officially begun.
"Aww, how romantic!" David teased. Reprising his naive tone, he asked another question. "Are you guys gonna' do it tonight?"
Sara turned around and gave David the finger. "Enough of that, sophomore, or you'll find yourself in the Junior Varsity car where you belong!"
We bantered back and forth for another hour or so. Then, we stopped for dinner about halfway to our destination. We met up with Mrs. Weber and the others as planned. Everyone from the other car noticed that Jim and Sara were holding hands. After dinner, Mrs. Weber cut to the chase. "Look, you two," she said to Jim and Sara. I'm glad you like each other, and you make a cute couple. Just don't get any ideas this weekend. Nothing more than holding hands - or you're off the team. Get it? Nothing more! Joel, keep an eye on your friends." With that, she called for the rest of the group, and we all loaded back in our cars for the final leg of the trip. As it turned out, my leg became a significant part of the rest of the journey.
After eating, I was a little sleepy and sort of stretched out quietly as much as I could in the back seat of the Beatle. Because of the cramped quarters, my bare knee was touching David's bare knee, and I started to feel tingles - actual tingles - all up and down my leg. God, I couldn't believe how incredibly good it felt! I was barely touching his knee, and it was getting me excited. I didn't move hoping to prolong the contact, and I noticed David made no movements away from me, either. The steady, rhythmic movements of the car intensified the feeling. I started to get an erection. I prayed that no one would notice. I wondered if David was feeling the same tingles. I couldn't believe he actually was.
About an hour down the road, Jim stopped for gas, and we all got out of the car. A few minutes later, I decided to get back in because it was turning a little cool outside. Jim and Sara were coming back from buying a soda in the station. David got back in the car with me. As he got in, he reached over and rubbed my thigh! I was so shocked; I didn't know what to do or say. He looked at me and winked, just as Jim and Sara arrived back at the car. Then, he mouthed the word, "Later." I was speechless. I couldn't believe what seemed to be happening. My heart was racing, but as far as I know, I maintained a blank expression. My head was spinning with questions for the rest of the trip.
When we got to the motel, I found out that there was to be two or three to a room. Jim and I were signed up to share a room. Mrs. Weber and Sara, being the only females, were also sharing a room. David was to room with Eric, and Steve, Mike, and Randy were all in one room. I was relieved that I was rooming with Jim. That way, I wouldn't have to deal with David any more that night. Truthfully, however, I was somewhat disappointed at the same time.
"Hey, Jim," David said, "Switch with me so Joel and I can work on our arguments for tomorrow."
My stomach sank. Oh my God, what the hell am I going to do? Probably because Jim knew David and Eric were not very comfortable with each other, Jim agreed to the switch. He and Eric headed off to find their accommodations. Mrs. Weber called them back and reminded everyone to stay in our rooms, get to sleep early, and be down in the lobby by 7:00 a.m. so we could eat breakfast and get to the tournament on time. When she was done, David turned to me and said very quietly, "You, come with me." It was an order. I followed.
The room was obviously inexpensive. The school didn't have much money, at least not for the debate team. Football got much more generous support. The room was small but clean. Then, I noticed that it had only one double bed. Up to that point, I hadn't thought I'd be sharing a bed with David. Now, there seemed to be no other choice. I was scared, excited and nervous - all at the same time. I put my things on the floor and went to the window on the other side of the room to look out. I felt David come up behind me. "You look nervous," he said. "What's wrong?"
Boldly, I decided to find out what exactly he had in mind for the night. "Well," I said turning around. I was looking him in the eye, maybe a foot away. "You rub my thigh, wink at me and whisper "Later." Then, you maneuver yourself into my room by switching roommates without even asking me. If a guy did that to you, wouldn't that make you nervous?" I was surprised at the angry tone in my voice.
"Depends on the guy," David shot back. He turned and walked to the bed, sitting on the edge. He was very quiet. I let the silence hang in the air. He owed me a better answer than that.
"Look, Joel," he started. "I'm sorry about all that. I was just messing around. Please don't be mad. If it bothers you, I won't do it anymore. I promise."
"I'm not mad at you, David. I just don't like to be messed with, okay? For a while there, I thought maybe you had a thing for me. Now, I know you were just messing around. Let's just be straight with each other, okay?"
Ooh, interesting choice of words, I thought. I hadn't intended any double meanings.
"So, that means you're straight, right?" David's question was asked with almost no inflection in his voice.
Damn him and his awkward, direct questions. Not about to be put on the spot, I shot back at him, "Tell me first, are you?"
His answer stunned me. "No, I'm not totally straight," he said. And I do have a thing for you. You may hate me, but at least I told you the truth. And, I've answered first. Now you tell me, are you totally straight?"
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