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The Poison Ivy League Part 48-Mr. Popular

May 3, 2011

The end of January saw the North American Championship at Cornell. Before we come to that memorable competition, however, something should be added to this account of Kimel’s social life on APDA, his position on the circuit by his senior year, and his inept attempts at romance.

Kimel seemed to be blankly friendly to everyone, treating his TOTY competitors and anonymous novices alike with equal respect. He had no enemies who were known to him and deliberately made friends with everyone he could meet, partly a reflection of his gregarious nature, and partly the result of his strategic hopes for success at future tournaments, when the votes of practical strangers to APDA could become important. Beloved in the North as a long-standing “character”—witty, energetic, and always smiling—he even became popular in the South over time, winning some positive press for his off-beat casebook and lively conversations with Antony, Piso, and Sappho. Everybody’s friendly acquaintance and nobody’s friend, he did his best not to step on any toes and soon found himself a figure of some regard.

Kimel was popular, yet he was no Casanova. Handsome but psoriatic, he was equally insecure about his complexion as his odd gait, marred by a slight, permanent limp from a childhood injury. Conveying a sort of asexual aura, he never showed interest in the drunken overtures of his junior admirers, and while he was voted the best looking man on APDA in an online poll before Josephus hacked into the database and ruined the results, he was never in a serious relationship while he was on the circuit.

Before his senior year, Kimel’s only romantic memory on APDA was when a girl at Middlebury, Camilla, saw that he was up all night writing a paper and spontaneously prepared a cup of hot tea for him. Slight gestures like this moved Kimel deeply, and he was equally charmed by the girl’s kindness as her ability to make conversation. Most people, Kimel found, were terrible conversationalists, but Camilla knew all the right tricks, asking questions about Kimel’s past, feigning interest or sincerely feeling it when he answered, and responding to questions about her own life with short, interesting anecdotes that never became taxing. Raven haired and pale, she was the most charming person Kimel ever met on APDA. But just as he had never seen her at a tournament before, would never see her again. He didn’t even have an opportunity to exchange emails before a more aggressive, senior teammate stole her away from him.

As a senior, Kimel fumbled toward romance three times. The second two incidents will be described in due course, but the first was when he invited Lucretia from Amherst to a formal dance at Harvard, just before the North American Championship. Lucretia was a picture of elegance, but though Kimel had a crush on her, they spent the night chastely together; she wore a green Egyptian house-gown her host had picked up over the summer. Ultimately, the thought of casual romance was as terrifying to Kimel as the thought of a relationship.

This sort of innocence stood in marked contrast to the social tone of APDA at that time. Members of a circuit dominated by weekly drunken parties, everyone was on edge when an accusation flew out that a young female participant was assaulted at a party. That the event was evidently witnessed by a roomful of spectators made the story all the more horrifying. When the girl’s boyfriend (who admittedly had only just begun to date her and thus didn’t know what he was about to face) complained that he found himself playing the part of the concerned lover, he gained some notoriety. These sorts of events seemed to happen once or twice every year, though they were always hushed up.

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