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My Debate Partner

by Joel Young

Chapter 7

Breaking My Promises

I can't say that I enjoy roller coasters. Although they stimulate all of your senses at once with their rocket-like speed and alternating highs and lows, they sometimes leave you feeling numb at the end.

I was numb from the emotional roller coaster I had been on for the last 24 hours with my debate partner, David McAndrew. In that brief span of only a single day, David and I had gone from flirting with our sexual attraction to admitting our feelings for one another. I had my first complete sexual experience with anyone - ever, and I had felt the most incredible physical and emotional joy imaginable. Then, I almost got caught in the arms of my male lover by my favorite teacher, who was furious at me for being late to the first important tournament of our season. We had done superbly well in the morning rounds, only to have been defeated in the afternoon by a team of mean-spirited snobs. And, then, I was back up top of the world when David and I held each other in a darkened corner of a strange school, and he had called me his boyfriend.

The numbness set in as I shifted back to pretending that David was just my Sophomore Debate partner. We headed back to the cafeteria for the awards program where our defeat would become known to our closest friends.

It didn't help my need for a little equilibrium that there was a sense of excitement in the room as David and I entered and found our teammates. Everyone seemed to know that this tournament would set the stage for the State Championships in December. Favorites for that competition were about to be identified, and the coaches seemed just as keyed-up as the debaters. David and I had spent so much time holding each other in a remote part of the building that the awards were ready to be handed out when we finally arrived.

"How'd it go with Kettering?" Jim asked. David and I looked at each other and then looked back at our group. We just shook our heads to communicate our loss. "I blew it," David said.

We didn't have time to ask about Jim's and Sara's battle with the geeks. And we knew nothing of how the Junior Varsity had faired any part of the day. The audience was asked to be quiet as an official climbed the stairs of the makeshift platform stage.

We didn't take any awards, although we later found out that our Varsity team had a 5-1 record. Jim and Sara were undefeated, and David and I had only lost to Kettering, who took first place honors at the tournament. Two other Varsity teams also had 5-1 records, and they beat us on the speaker points that had broken the ties. Although our morning scores were top flight, the judge in our final round was not generous in handing out speaker points to us. He had even written some nasty comments about better preparation and learning to withstand pressure. We finished just out of the awards in 4th place. The Junior Varsity wound up in the middle of their pack with a 3-3 record for the day.

As we collected our things to begin the trip home, I realized that I had broken both of my promises to Mrs. Weber. While I had promised that we would arrive on time, David and I had been late. I had promised to win, and we finished just short of an award. I felt like the old phrase about being a day late and a dollar short was branded on my forehead. I slunk over to apologize to her. She gave me her full and immediate attention as soon as I came near, but I never got a chance to apologize.

"I won't pretend," she said, "that I'm not disappointed in your behavior at tournament. I hope you've learned that there's a wrong time even for things that feel right. And please believe me when I say I'm not judging you're ... lifestyle choices. But from now on, you room with Jim and David rooms with Eric - no switches. And in the future, you'd better keep your personal affairs out of your team's tournament time."

She paused long enough to see the tears forming in my eyes. "And, by the way, you should probably know that you're the best debater I have ever coached - and a fine person as well. And although you screwed up big time this weekend, I love you like a son." She gave me a big hug and then went about tending to her other responsibilities.

When I saw David again, I made a decision. "I have got to get some down time," I told him. "Please don't be mad, but I'm riding home in the other car."

"It's okay," he said. "I understand, but you go with Jim and Sara, and I'll go with Mrs. Weber."

That was even better with me, and it made me realize he really did understand.

Fortunately, my parents were already asleep when I got home. I wrote them a note letting them know I was home safely and how we had placed. I begged off Church the next morning and asked them to please let me sleep in late.

Once I fell into bed, I relived the entire experience in my mind several times before I relaxed. I reached several conclusions before I finally went to sleep that night. First and foremost, I knew I loved David, and I wanted to be his boyfriend. Second, I would never again have sex with him at a debate tournament or any school function ever again. Third, there was something very wrong about the way Kettering had beaten us, and I was determined never to let that happen again. Those issues settled in my mind, I let sleep overtake me.

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