Hold my Hand

By Anonymous


5 years ago, I sat on the cold, dirty floor of my schools’ media center, waiting to give a speech to my 7th class about why I would make a great student government secretary. I read off a sheet of paper, spoke rather averagely, and laughed nervously when my time was up.


There was a new boy who was running against me, wearing a suit and tie. He was tall and had a handsome, domineering presence such that the seats surrounding him were solely taken by swooning middle school girls. He seemed to like the attention.


He walked up to the podium, and gave a confident, memorized, fast speech. His speech did not end with nervous laughter, but rather a rousing applause from my classmates. After seeing the reaction of my peers, I knew I had lost the election. I was not upset. He was much more qualified than me. He was smarter, a better leader, someone who fit the part. Right?


After the voting period, he walked up to me with a broad smile, and congratulated me profusely for “putting myself out there.” Then, I blurted out the question.


How did you speak like that?


I learned it from debate. This is how you speak in rounds.


Well, it was really good. You definitely beat me.


Hey, don’t say that! Your speech was great!


He winked and put his hand out to shake mine. It was a strange gesture, but I obliged. We shook. He held my hand for a little too long.

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4 months later, I find myself outside of my English teacher’s classroom, ready to walk into debate practice. I wasn’t really sure why I was joining. My girlfriends, of course, had all joined because of him. He was “cute,” “smart,” and “confident.” He was charismatic. Debate, a nearly obsolete activity at my school, had suddenly become extremely popular.


My coach loved him too. He was “talented,” “experienced,” “hardworking.” He “had what it took” to be successful. My first day of practice, my coach split us up into teams. Team one was the entire debate team, minus him. Team two was just him. He was already on a pedestal, from the very beginning. He seemed to like the attention.


Weeks later, my best friend tells me she has a crush on him.


Why?


He’s just so cute and smart and good at debate and he always talks to me and cares about me…….


Really?


Yeah.


Turns out, he liked her back. They flirted for a while, but it was not exclusive for him.


I got to know him much better because he thought my best friend was cute. He talked to me for hours, asking for my deepest secrets, telling me to reveal what I was upset about, and open up to him. In turn, he told me his secrets.


He told me was a master manipulator. He told me he could get any girl to like him if he tried hard enough. He told me that his record was 10 girls at once. He told me that he joined debate to speak better, to look girls in the eye, to “figure them out quickly.”


Yikes.


He destroyed my best friend. He told her he would ask her out and then asked a different girl out at a debate tournament. He kissed her in front of my best friend’s face.


Somehow, he always got his way. All he would have to do was use his words, and speak smooth, beautiful, and fast. All he would have to do, I noticed, was use his debate voice.


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Months later, at nationals, my coach assigns him and I to pick up our lunch vouchers from the cafeteria. We walk together, side by side.


He asks, do you know what I like about you?


No, I don’t.


You haven’t fallen for me yet. You’re a tough one to figure out huh?


He winks. I laugh nervously.


The truth is, I had already fallen for him. I was fascinated by him. He was a god. A perfect, smart, charismatic guy. Great at debate.


I pretended not to like him because I didn’t want to make him win. In reality, I looked forward to our every accidental interaction. He had already won. He had already successfully manipulated me.


He called me beautiful, intelligent, “the smartest person he knew.” He told me I was great at debate, even when I lost most of my rounds. It seemed like he really cared.


We walked back to our table, shoulders brushing.


He held my hand.


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In freshman year, we parted ways. I went to an upscale, high resourced prep school, and he went to the local public school.


I would get scared to go to tournaments because I was afraid I would hit him, lose to him, not live up to the “smartest person he knew” assessment. I would get anxious for weeks leading up to the tournament, not because I wanted to win with my partner, impress my coach, or win for myself.


No. I wanted to win for him.


He got first place at the first tournament we both attended in high school. I walked up to congratulate him, but he brushed me aside to hug and kiss another girl. After the tournament, he texted me.


You looked beautiful today. Why didn’t you say hi?


I….I tried to.


Well, congratulations on attending your first high school tournament!


Yeah, congrats on first place!


We would see each other often, and text each other almost daily. He called me his best friend, his everything, the most amazing person in his life.


He told me he loved me.


We would go on walks at the local mall, and he would often hold my hand and rock it back and forth.


I love you.

Yeah….I love you too.


He kissed me, even though he was talking to someone else at the time. He kissed me, a girl who had never said that she liked him, even though he had a long list of girls who did.


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In junior year, I attended a debate camp for several weeks over the summer. He would still text me daily. He still called me beautiful. He still called me the smartest person he knew.


But he would say these things to every girl.

He would say these things in his mature, deep, debate voice.


I would see him flirting with other girls at tournaments, hugging them too tightly, shaking their hands too hard, and winking at them.


Every month, he had a new girlfriend. It was never me.


During camp, I stopped texting him. I wanted to see what he would say.


Why aren’t you texting me?


I’m busy


It just feels like you don’t care about me anymore.


What? I do.


Text me then.


Just because I don’t text you for one day doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.


I text you everyday. You should text me everyday. That’s how this works.


I gradually started texting him less and less, one part because of the stresses of junior year, and another part because I was growing.


I was realizing his manipulation, his deception, his constant desire for validity from girls. He used his charisma, his charm that he learned from debate rounds and used it to ruin girls.


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It took me several months to get over him.


January of junior year, I hit him in the bid round of a national tournament.

I beat him.


When I walked down to shake his hand, he winked at me and gave me the same broad smile from all those years ago.


I turned my back on him and walked out of the room.



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