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My Debate Partner

by Joel Young

Chapter 5

"Take The Lead. You Can Do It."

It may seem a little strange, but it never really bothered me that I found myself in love with my debate partner, another guy, when I was only sixteen. Loving David, and making love with him, just seemed so natural. I never felt guilty or ashamed. I only felt the joy of loving him and having him love me back. I did feel terror, however, when we were almost caught by our coach in a motel room. We wound up having to find our own way to the first major tournament of the season.

The front desk had called us a taxi, and we arrived at the tournament at 9:10. David had raided the motel vending machine while I was in the shower. Breakfast was a candy bar, peanut butter crackers and a soda in the back of the taxi. It crossed my mind that my mom would probably have been more upset with me for eating junk food for breakfast than she would be about my relationship with David. She regularly preached against junk food, but I'd never heard her say anything bad about gay people.

Breakfast and the taxi took almost all of our money, and we were left with only about $2.00 between us for lunch and dinner. Although we were technically 10 minutes late, we were actually there in plenty of time. Several schools hadn't even arrived yet. Mrs. Weber saw us come in from across the school library which was serving as the reception area. She looked at her watch and pointed directly at me, letting me know she knew we were late.

While Mrs. Weber talked with some of the other coaches, David and I found the rest of our team. There were the natural questions, including the inevitable "Where the hell were you?" Our peers, however, were more understanding, less judgmental and far more gullible than Mrs. Weber.

When we finally received our schedules at 9:30, David and I immediately sat down to identify the schools we would face during the day. It was a confusing and poorly organized schedule, but I finally figured it out. By reputation, our first two opponents were fairly weak.

"Holy shit," I whispered to David when I deciphered the schedule for the third round. We were up against last year's State champions.

"Holy shit good? Or Holy Shit bad?" he asked. His questions brought back all the memories of our first kiss and the lust filled evening that had followed. I blushed, and my face turned beet red.

"This time, it's bad!" I replied. "We're up against Kettering in the final round." Even David took pause at that announcement. Their Affirmative Team had been undefeated for two years running.

All I really wanted to do at that particular moment was to find a quiet place to collect my thoughts. I wanted time to think about the direction that my relationship with David had taken. I wanted to rethink whether Mrs. Weber had really figured out that David and I had become lovers in the motel room. I wanted time to prepare myself mentally to face Kettering. But all of that had to be put aside. We had ten minutes to get to our first round.

As expected, the first two rounds were relatively easy. I fell into my "debate mode," and forced myself not to think about my personal relationship with David. Although we wouldn't find out the results of the first two rounds until the awards program at the end of the day, David and I were confident that we had won both debates. One team had done a fairly decent job of rebutting our arguments, but David's deadly analytical skills had found flaws in their logic. As for the other team, well, let's just say we showed no mercy.

We borrowed some money from Sara so we could both get a decent lunch. When we had all sat down at the cafeteria table, we learned that Jim and Sara also had two good rounds. We were fairly confident that we were probably 4 and 0 at this point in the competition. We didn't really know anything about the team that Jim and Sara would face next, except that we had picked them out in the food line. Jim said they looked like total geeks. Sara reminded him that the Jocks at our school say the same thing about us. We all avoided talking about the upcoming debate with Kettering. If we had talked about it, we would have to admit that David and I were probably going to get creamed. I wanted to lean against David for emotional support. I wanted to feel his arms around me. But, of course, we couldn't touch each other, or show affection, or acknowledge our new relationship in any way. It added to the strain, as did a shortage of sleep.

Mrs. Weber came over to where we were sitting just as we finished eating. I was surprised when she put her arms around me from the back and leaned over. She seemed to be a totally different person from the angry teacher who had struck terror in me earlier that morning. "Joel," she said, "this next round is on you. Take the lead. You can do it. Don't let Kettering's reputation intimidate you. You've faced tough challenges before, and you're ready for this one." She patted me on the shoulder, and then she sat down by David.

"Mr. McAndrew," she began. "You know how to find the weakness in any argument, but sometimes, you get so involved in the analysis that you miss the obvious. Things are not always logical. Slow down, and don't be lead down the wrong path."

She then turned her attention to Jim and Sara. "As for you two, she said, "go kick some geek butt!" As I said before, Mrs. Weber was the coolest teacher at our school.

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