Sunday, September 30, 2018

The College Captain

In the midst of many stories of youthful drunkenness and its bad consequences of sexual assault, I’d like to share a story from the early 1990s. We were in college, undergraduates at Durham, and I remember a small crowd milling around in a bright stairwell after the bar had closed. Most people were somewhat drunk, and some were very drunk, which was normal.

My memory is incomplete - I remember the exact place, but not the date. I couldn’t tell you how many people were there. But I do remember the two main characters in the story, even though I only remember one of their names. He was a true college sports captain - good looking and very popular. The girl was blonde, and I think I remember she was wearing a charming red cocktail dress, from which I’d guess that this was after a formal dinner or college event somewhere. The sports captain had been flirting with her earlier, I think - at least, we’d been teasing him at times about what his chances were with her this evening.

By this point in the evening she was blind drunk. Really really intoxicated - shaky, slurring words, flopping around while trying to stand up. As they kept talking on the landing at the top of the stairs, she was flopping more and more in his direction. This went on for a while, and soon he was practically holding her up. They could easily have left and spent the night together - that kind of thing was relatively common.

What happened next was different, and surprised us. What I think I remember is the sports captain getting the attention of one of the girl’s friends, who came over. After a brief conversation, a few of the girls left together, taking their staggering friend along with them. The sports captain moseyed down the stairs to join the rest of the crowd.

The teasing started over again. Much of the conversation I’ll just guess at and reconstruct. “What happened there?” “Well, it was time for her to go to bed.” “But you’ve been chatting her up all night, and we thought you were in!”, “Oh mate, you just blew it!”. Typical banter.

His response took us by surprise.

“Come on, boys, you could only see the whites of her eyes. There’s no honour for anyone in that!”

That’s the moment that stuck with me. This was already someone I looked up to, and I remember thinking yes, that’s what setting an example looks like, I’m lucky to be his friend.