The old high school had been designed with segregation in mind; when that particular historical anomaly was finally put to deserved death, The Powers That Be were left with two buildings a mile apart, one newly empty, one full to capacity and then some. "Waste not, want not," they chanted, and the presumably-inferior facility was officially proclaimed the Freshman Building.
I don't really know if the class of '72 objected to this treatment; as a member in acceptable standing of the class of '69, I was not expected to have any interest in the opinions of the frosh despite the fact that, owing to various weirdnesses that had befallen me in the name of "education", those frosh, being my age or thereabouts, were more truly my peer group than my mostly-three-year-older classmates. Besides, the freshmen were a mile away, so interactions with any of them were few and far between. If any of them were aware of my existence, it would have been news to me.
In mid-April of 1969, the phone call came: "We're going to be missing a couple of people for the debate tournament on Saturday, the nineteenth. Can you fill in?" Thinking I could probably bluff my way through it, I said I could.
Came Saturday, and I took the bus downtown to the school. It wasn't too long before I discovered how horribly unprepared I was for the rigors of formal debate; while I had already developed a fair skill for skewering opponents, I wasn't always playing by the rules as written, and it cost us points. Dejected by my poor performance, I did a fairly lousy job on the Original Oratory event, spewing out some nonsense about how to avoid cheating on tests, half vaudeville, half Max Shulman's Barefoot Boy with Cheek, and wholly appalling.
The next speaker was Alice Genevieve. (Well, that's not her real name, but what it was is not that important to the narrative, and while "Alice Genevieve" sounds sort of awkward to these ears, so did her real name, so we're going to call her Jeannie.) I didn't know much about Jeannie. First and foremost, she was a freshman (freshperson?); I wouldn't have seen her anyway. She was the kid sister of a classmate, which means that anything I was likely to hear was complaints about that "little pest" or something equally complimentary. And while the older sister was forward and outgoing, respectably pretty, maybe even sort of beautiful, the younger one came off as sort of mousy and nondescript, a flower forever inseparable from the wallpaper.
And then she spoke. She spoke of thunderstorms and of rainbows, of clouds and of sunshine, of tribulations and of triumph. Or maybe it was of something else about two minutes into her speech, I lost track of the words and began focusing on Jeannie herself, her neatish, bespectacled face, her unruly but still somehow flattering hair, her soft and not-even-slightly whiny voice. Were it not for the presence of the podium, I might have checked out some of the other secondary sexual characteristics, at least to the extent Sixties fashion and Southern modesty and rigorous upbringing would permit, but by the time she finished, it wasn't necessary; I wanted her to go on forever, and I wanted to be there for all of it.
Came lunchtime, and I was close to hyperventilating. I'd never had this sort of reaction to anyone before. Oh, there were the occasional c