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The Poison Ivy League Part 16-Kimel is Left Speechless

May 3, 2011

By the end of the season, Jason and Sulla B also managed to qualify for Nationals. At Mt. Holyoke, Jason debated with a senior from Yale who, relegated from the A and B teams, had never quite managed to climb to their heights. Since Jason was not close friends with him, it’s not obvious how the partnership came about. They triumphed over the boys from Stanford A and won the tournament. Sulla B was partnered with Cynthia when he qualled, losing the final round of Providence College to Sempronia from the Brown team. She was a self-confident junior notorious for her love-and-hate dynamic with her classmate Gracchus, a flamboyant womanizer. This was the jokester who composed the tongue-in-cheek musical at the Brown tournament earlier in the year. Kimel wasn’t present at either of these competitions. His last contest before Nationals was Swarthmore, where he partned with Tertius from Yale. Tertius was a paragon of wholesomeness as he always was. Kimel and he broke to octo-finals and lost a close round to Sulla A, who went on to lose quarter-finals very undeservedly to a bad natured team from Columbia. Oh well, thought Kimel. Interestingly, no teams from Harvard broke at the Yale tournament the following week.

By this time, most of the two-person teams for Nationals had been chosen, and not to Kimel’s advantage. Agrippina would be with Claudia, of course. More surprisingly, Scipio and Pallas planned to debate together, leaving Fabius out. Sulla A would be going with Sulla B, and, eventually, Jason with Fabius. Irritated that he was excluded from these arrangements, Kimel invited Scott to partner with him. He didn’t know Scott well then, but rumor had it that he was one of his only supporters for President, and Kimel was eager to reward his loyalty.

Nationals was held at Brandeis that year, not too far from Harvad. Still, the whole team was booked into a hotel in accordance with tradition at Nationals, since the festivities usually continue for three days, including a banquet at which seniors give farewell speeches. Kimel was glad he’d have another chance to spend time with Agrippina before she graduated; what a pity they’d never managed to partner together after their first charmed encounter, he thought.

For the first day, Kimel’s dynamic with Agrippina was at it usually was. He was wide-eyed and deferential; she was by turns mocking and sarcastic, confidential and sweet. But on the second day, after a bad round, she sat alone in the General Assembly Room, sulking. Kimel came to speak with her. She began to toy with him. Did he really think, she asked, that other people on the team liked him? Kimel said that he hoped so. Then why didn’t he win the Presidency, she laughed. Then she said Kimel should think twice if he thought he was among friends. Finally, to tell the truth, she didn’t like him, and never had, since the Wellesley tournament the previous year.

For a moment, Kimel didn’t know what to say, since everything was so unexpected. Finally, he asked Agrippina what he had specifically done to make her feel this way—cloying as it sounds, he was under the impression she treasured the memory of their time together at the Wellesley tournament, as he did. She couldn’t say what he’d done, just that he was hyper-competitive and most people thought so.

Kimel never learned what he had done to anger Agrippina. They honestly never overtly argued with each other, and he’d even forgiven her for her rude insinuation right in front of him a few months earlier that Sulla A would win the Presidency over him. Kimel subsequently learned from Scott that Agrippina had spoken out against him at elections, as did Trimalchio, whom they’d just met in finals. Agrippina’s reasons for disliking him were vague. Trimalchio complained that Kimel was rude to him by asking to be Leader of the Opposition in his place when they’d gone to the BU tournament together. What this has to do with the kind of President Kimel would have made is unclear.

Kimel took all of this in very bad part. He was so embarrassed and disappointed that he almost began to cry. He skipped the banquet and senior speeches and locked himself away in his hotel room in high dudgeon. The thought of facing anyone on the team again made him cringe. By and by, however, boredom got the better of him, and he wandered around the lobby of the hotel. He began to think mournfully about his priorities, and considered going home.

Then, Arianna found him. At first, she repeated what Kimel already knew. She wasn’t sure, she said, why Agrippina disliked him, but Scott had spoken up for him very earnestly and said that Kimel was nothing but kind and good-humored to him when they’d debated together. Then, she confided that Kimel won the VP Comp Director position by virtual acclamation, which, if he thought about it, proved that the team thought he was a good person. There was no better or more friendly personality to look over the novices than he, nor anyone more deserving of the job. He could count on the fact that he had not just friends on the team, but real admirers.

Until then, Kimel didn’t know much about Arianna other than that she’d done a terrible job in a practice round he’d arranged with her at the beginning of the year. Through hard work, she had improved enough to just miss the break at Wellesley. Now, she was a Member at Large and eager for the success of her peers. Kimel would never forget her kindness to him on this occasion. One of the only women on a team drenched in testosterone, she awkwardly straddled a line between the sophomore class, to which she belonged, and her novice status, which aligned her with the freshmen, and knew all too well what it felt like to be an outsider among friends.

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