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Giving YOU Full Value on My Free Admission to Drum Major Tryouts

This is what you need to understand about Drum Major tryouts:  Large amounts of it consisted Jason The Temporarily Unnamed Drum Major nonchalantly wandering about the field of battle with his baton tucked under crossed arms in this casual, Sword of Gryffindor at-rest way that he has, as though he were running a winter training session and also waiting for the microwave to ding on a Hot Pocket rather than defending the title he'd been relentlessly chasing for a decade.

Other parts of it consisted of JD passing before me in review.  JD is a member of D-Row, and a fine upstanding member of Gahanna society, and also totally lol's when I type "GO TO BED" at him when he's posting on Facebook at four in the morning.

The man chose his moment, which I suppose I should expect from a person who left his heart on the most recently visited golf course and who took up drum majoring because, he told me cheerfully, his high school band director deemed him at musically sucking at everything else and shoved a baton in his hand.  But, all hidden calories in salad dressing-like, JD stealthily blended with the rest of D-Row for much of my time on campus, initiating the occasional side conversation but neither getting my purse nor Facebook snubbing me until... until he struck.  The week of tryouts, I was watching David Who Got My Purse practice his routine at the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility, and all of a sudden my phone shook with a Columbus area code. 

"Who is that?" I asked of the surrounding air molecules, as everyone I could possibly know with a Columbus area code was also in the building, including Jason, who, I should add, I had no expectation of seeing that day.  He simply materialized, mid-practice field, as David and I returned from an outdoors ramp entrance practice, and when I expressed my stunned delight at seeing him, he said, flatly, "Surprise," because apparently Jason, like all good deities, is with us always, until the end of time, and I should know this.

Anyway, so I'm looking at this area code, and as JD walked past he saw my default facial expression (confused, possibly hung over, slightly but obviously angry when pressed into the company of other human beings), he said, "Oh, that was me." 

I stared down at the number.  "Why did you call me?"

"I was locked out of the building, and I knew you were in here."

"...But now you're not."

"No.  I'm inside now."

"How did you get my number?"

"It's on your Facebook profile."

"...My phone number is on my Facebook profile?"


"...And we're friends on Facebook?"


"...I'm sorry, which one are you, again?"

No matter.  As previously stated, I am a valuable national resource in the event of a missing Drum Major emergency, and the more backup we have the safer Western Civilization is, so I carefully saved his number and snapped the phone shut.  You're mine now, beeotch.  And in this moment, I am sure, JD was rapidly questioning the wisdom of trying to get back into a building containing me from which he'd previously made a clean escape. 

But the real bonding happened at tryouts, when I took up my proper post at the outer edge of everything, curling into my nausea and general inability to strut anywhere anytime anyhow.  JD, on his way back from performing his ramp entrance, came puffing up to me. 

"How was that," he said, because it was good, and his backbend had made everyone around me go "Ooooooooh!" and smatter-applaud. 

"You were good," I said, and he jaunted off for the next round, and when I saw him again, one thing was different and one thing was not.

What was different was that unlike the all-important ramp entrance, his twirling routine may be classified as-- and he has expressed this to me himself, complete with four-letter word embellishment, so I'm not flingin' mean here-- Something That Didn't Go All That Well.   I'd seen him do that routine, there in the harsh fluorescent glare of the Athletic Facility, where Jason won his title a year ago and where the batons woosh through the stale, domed air with a swooping end-over-end song not heard in the out of doors. And it, too, was good. 

In that moment, as the band reset for yet another competitor's ground-bounced interpretation of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," he grappled with the mental and emotional information that his shot at becoming the 2011 Drum Major or the Assistant Drum Major was now long, if not gone.

But here's what was the same:  JD.  He was back-straight and jogging back to the practice area as he sought me out.  "I dropped some things that I shouldn't have," he said, again still breathing hard, bending down to slap his arms around me, and I had no choice but to reach up and rest a hand on his cheek and say, "You are wonderful."  Present tense. 

In the meantime, Claudia was holding up her end of the order as the final contestant.  This was her last tryout, and she knew this, and she hated it.  Once she finished her aerial routine, she would shift from Padawan to Outside Sessions Training Assistant-- no uniform, no title, and very much a part of the family, but she was indeed backbending to a side of the TBDBITL permeable membrane she did not want to.

And she was crying.  "I don't want to twirl," she told me, for she in her sorrow was still far more emotionally together than I was, there on the fake and pelleted grass.  "I want us to ask Jason to twirl again instead."  Her hair was in a bun and the tint of blusher and exertion rested on her cheekbones, and I wanted to pull her to me, her and JD, and say, "Get in my car.  We're going to Disney World."

But at the moment it was Claudia's turn to undertake the twirling portion of the competition.  Which she did. Smiling.

JD and I stood together again as he watched The Chick With The Headband and Ponytail Who Is Not Claudia-- her somewhat shorter actual name, as it happens, is Shayna-- and JD slightly bent his knees as she stretched an arm to catch a high ariel toss.  Jason had just exited Field Left with his standing ovation from the band. JD himself was continuing to be Wonderful even after the third section of the competition.  And even though the day was over for him in more ways than one, even though his only possible contact with The Ohio State University Marching Band this fall will be, once again, as a member of D Row, and even though he was extending great good humanitarian cheer by bearing my company, he exhaled "Catch it!" as his competitor's baton gave way to gravity and her open palm.

Shayna beamed.  JD beamed more.  "We've been working on that for ten days.  Excuse me," he said, dashing down the field to embrace his opposition. 

I congratulated coach Greg Eyer on all this during the Mill 'n' Hug afterwards portion of the competition, telling him what I'd just seen.  "This is partially you," I said, as Jason undertook a TV news interview over our shoulders.

"Write this down, Mary Beth," he said, "You write that they're all friends, and they all help one another, and they're a great group.  All of them."

So let it be written.

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