It was my novice year of speech & debate and we were approaching yet another series of out-rounds for which I had not qualified. For those less familiar with the organization of debate tournaments, allow me to outline their general chronology. In Missouri, tourneys usually span two days, the first day consisting of regular rounds and day two being when things really heat up. You’ve just spent the night in a hotel with three or more of your squad mates, often cold and on the floor (in my case) because some wanker demanded to have the bed for himself, and you’re completely exhausted but wired for the second morning. You push through the day’s events, either making it to quarterfinals or not, and then settle into an awards ceremony for those who succeeded. The awards ceremony itself takes place before semifinals of debate, allowing the vast majority of the attendees to scarper before the last few ascend the podium for their final bouts.
If your teammates, rather than you, placed in semifinals, you still had to stick around of course. We generally traveled to tournaments en masse by way of a bus, so the rest of us would sit and watch while our champions defended our name. Those champions were generally someone other than me.
I hadn’t placed at this particular tournament, but there was some confusion immediately after the awards ceremony that necessitated my missing the beginning of semifinals. While most of my team went to watch, I was saddled with the task of moving all of our luggage from the gym, where we’d left it, so the janitors could begin cleaning. One other girl and I got it all moved and arrived somewhere in the middle of the first speech (spied through the tiny window on the door), then slumped down to the floor in the hallway rather than interrupting the round by trying to enter late.
“Tell me your life story,” Brooke said quietly.
“What, like, the whole thing?” I asked.
“Sure, we’ve got time,” she replied with a smile.
Of course, there was no way I was going to comply in full. I had a lot of secrets at the time, and I didn’t want Brooke to think poorly of me. But with nothing better to do, I began to spill, and talked for the next hour and a half without pause.
The round ended, we loaded up the bus, and Brooke and I sat next to each other. Somewhere during the two and a half hour ride, I fell asleep, drooling sweetly on her shoulder, and woke only when we pulled up to our high school. I was mortified when I awoke, and in retrospect am surprised that I didn’t turn the darkness to day with the heat of my blush, but she didn’t mind. She just smiled and told me not to worry about it, and as we began to exit the bus, she turned and hugged me.
It was the first hug I had received in over two years.