The Freshman concentrated. The raucous crowd's urging reduced to mere background noise as he bent to his task. Winning was all that mattered. For many years afterward, total strangers would tell The Freshman it was the best performance they'd ever seen. The Freshman would smile thinly and nod, knowing it was true.
The Freshman had never told anyone why he stepped forward that day. Her name was Denise Parley, who was the first girl he'd ever loved. "Loved," is perhaps too strong a word, but Denise Parley was the first girl who stirred him deep inside, who invaded his thoughts.
At that particular time in their lives, however, she was hopelessly out of his realm. A Senior Cheerleader, a woman really, amply developed well beyond his means. There had been a period when they were close many years ago. Now, The Freshman wasn't even sure she remembered his name.
Yet, there she was, scanning the crowd. When she raised her arms, the white cheerleader's sweater would rise, showing off a tanned belly, setting off fires inside The Freshman. Before he knew it, before he could stop his limbs from reacting, he was standing by her side, then holding her hand as she led him across the gym floor.
It was a simple contest, she explained. He smiled eagerly and noted her directions. The Freshman knew the names of the other three guys, each representing a different class. He played soccer with The Sophomore, knew the older two by reputation. He could beat 'em.
It didn't take long to realize he was putting on women's lingerie. Though blindfolded, he could feel the silk, figure out how to don the bra. He didn't care. He wanted to finish first and to do that, he had to put on every article of clothing in the bag. The Freshman focused.
At one point, the blindfold slipped from his eyes. He resisted the urge to peek at his competitors, knowing it would slow him down and offer little in the way of information. He did, however, pause to put it back in place.
The Freshman began to get weary. The crowd rose in a crescendo. There was laughter there, The Freshman was sure. Of course there was, he was wearing at least one bra, perhaps as many as three. This was supposed to be fun and yet, he wasn't enjoying it. He was trying to win. For Denise? He guessed it was so.
Finally, he could feel no more clothes in the bag. He reached up to whip off the blindfold and felt hands on his shoulders. Feminine hands, sending an electric current to his heart. Denise! She reached up and pulled the veil away.
The Freshman instantly turned to her. That smile! He could get lost in that. But he re-gained his bearings and immediately looked for his competitors. Was he first?
What had occurred dawned on him quickly. There was nobody else there. He stood alone in the center of the gym draped in lingerie. A prank. A yearly joke played on an unsuspecting newcomer. Despair filled him, shame rose in his cheeks. The Freshman turned back to Denise, her face still smiling wide, but no longer welcoming.
The Freshman often wondered if--in that split-second before he fled--she saw his tears that were to come. Wondered if she remembered the hurt on his face, as he always recalled the ridicule on hers.