Thursday, January 21, 2010

The One with the Handprint Sweater

Since I blog about him with some frequency, I have lit upon the idea of referring to my long-suffering partner in nerdiness as "Hopkins", for reasons that anyone from back home will understand.

One of my favorite pieces of clothing in high school was a white sweater that had black paint-like handprints all over it, some of which fell in mildly unfortunate places. I wore that thing a lot, usually with leggings or stirrup pants, or sometimes a shortish black skirt.

My dance lesson fell right before quiz team meet departures on Monday nights. Mom would pick me up with my dance bag, drive me over to the teacher's house, I'd change, put my bookbag in her car, and then walk back to the school afterward to catch the bus. I almost always remembered to put my clothes in the dance bag. Almost.

One afternoon I forgot and put my pants in the bookbag, which then went home with my mother. Back in the days before cellular phones, this meant that if she did not go straight home, I couldn't get hold of her once she left my dance teacher's house. Rather than let my teammates down and because I couldn't locate Mom, I sucked it up, put the handprint sweater on over my black leotard and tights, slipped on my flats, and hiked off to the high school and points distant.

The first thing that happened when I boarded the bus was Hopkins nearly falling out of his seat, followed by our coach exclaiming, "WHERE are your PANTS?" I obliged by lifting the hem of the sweater about an inch to show him that I was wearing the leotard, while explaining about my pants going back to the house with my mother. He shook his head and told me to take my seat so we could leave. As usual, I trotted back and plopped down next to the still-shell-shocked Hopkins, who muttered under his breath: "This is going to be bad. Very bad."

He was right. We walked into the tournament school an hour later and every male in the place nearly snapped his neck trying to figure out why this girl just walked in with handprints all over her top, sans pants or skirt. My coach immediately took off his windbreaker and held it out to me; I refused, pointing out that it would only reinforce the notion that I had nothing on underneath. We went on to the first round match.

This is when it went South, fast. The captain of the opposing team made an off-color remark. Hopkins turned white as a sheet and then went livid. We barely eked out a win because he was too angry to concentrate. Things bumped along the same way until we made it to the refreshment break...and the captain from our first-round adversaries took it upon himself to roll up and try to match his handprint to one situated on my posterior.

Hopkins detonated like the Atom Bomb.

At the time (his height increased later, in college) he and I were the same height, which is to say, about 5'6". The boy whom he was telling off was about 6', but what he had on Hopkins in height, Hopkins had on him in sheer rage. "What made you think you could put your hand on her ***!" The guy made a critical error in responding: "Hey, if she doesn't want hands all over her, she shouldn't wear that sweater!" I had to step between them, backing Hopkins away before it turned into a physical altercation. As the rest of our team surrounded us, our coach appeared, shaking the windbreaker at me very insistently. Sheepishly, I accepted it and tied it around my waist for the remainder of the tournament.

Hopkins and I rode back home in stony silence. As we got off the bus, he caught me by the arm and hissed, "Get rid of that sweater!" Fearing for his future safety, I did as ordered. The handprint sweater retired and passed on to a cousin of my general build several counties away; I was also very careful from that day forward to make sure ALL of my clothes remained in the dance bag so I would never accidentally attend another tournament without my pants.

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