Being a genetic milkshake of Honduran and Scottish descent, I have never quite felt attached to any particular culture or location. But qualifying for the State Competition for Speech and Debate has taken me from the busy, noisy happenings of San Antonio to the busy, noisy world of Houston. This past March, I found myself popping a mix tape into the CD drive of the mini-van that my coach had rented specifically for the trip. I was the only one in the car that was not new to the workings of a Forensics State Competition, as my coach was in her first year of teaching and my two peers were competing for their first time. Expectations were running high from an individual that had swept the seasonal competition with a piece written by the HealthWorks Theatre of Chicago titled “The Wizard of A.I.D.S.” That individual was me.
We jammed out to songs from the Spice Girls on the three-and-a-half hour drive to our rooms at the La Quinta Inn in which we were staying for the weekend.
I was rooming with three other male competitors, and if that was not enough, there were only two beds. The bathroom door refused to close properly. Let me tell you, sleeping on the floor is unbearable when you know that you have to wake up the next day to take a cold shower in plain view of your roomies.
After surviving one night of near-lethal awkwardness, it was time to compete. I got raving reviews and Decibel-shattering levels of roaring laughter with my performances that day, and I knew that I would be a solid shoe-in for quarterfinals. My coach, still young and eager to get out of the tense atmosphere of competition, suggested we go to the Galleria mall the following day to celebrate.
While driving to the Galleria, however, my coach would end up saving my life.
We were right next to the mall and about to pull up to a red light when a car from the right tried to cross two lanes of traffic. My coach veered to the left and we felt the harsh thud of the stranger making contact with the side of the mini-van. Although a little shook up, one of the other coaches took the students to the mall while my coach braved it out with the reckless driver and police officer.
The Galleria Mall was beautiful. I will never forget just how much being in that mall made me feel poor, as everything was exquisite and of a quality I could only dream of. One thing I could afford, however, was a ticket into the ice-skating rink built in the middle of the food court. By this time, my coach had rejoined our group and got to see me bite the ice and slide in a Superman glide for about thirty feet, knocking the air out of my lungs.
Obviously, the third day of competition was quite painful. To this day, I am still not sure if the soreness of that final day was due to whiplash, faceplanting on ice skates, or having had a fitful night of sleep on the floor. Semifinals were rough, and I was simply too wiped out physically and emotionally to scrounge up any enthusiasm. Despite my lackadaisical performance, “The Wizard of A.I.D.S.” would still earn me a finish of 4th Place in the semifinals, officially cementing my position in the Top 18 Humorous Interpers in Texas, but not enough to advance me to Finals.
I would not trade it for the world. Or 1st Place.
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