The Prom Date
I went to the prom the first time when I was a junior in high school. A friend from orchestra asked me to go with him and I said sure. It would be the first time I ever wore a formal dress. Though I had only two week’s notice, I found a cute teal green strapless dress with a full skirt that went well with my hair and complexion. More people went with friends than with romantic interests and so it seemed fine. Two days before the prom, I went to the beach and fell asleep in an awkward position. Wearing a short sleeved shirt shielded some of my arms and my positioning meant that about half of my legs were spared. The rest of me was lobster red and beginning to blister. Even my neck and collarbones were bright red. Even the softest t-shirt felt like sandpaper. I only understood the extent of the damage when I tried my dress. My upper half looked like a candy cane that burned and caused red sugar bubbles everywhere and my upper arms were bright white. I got out the aloe, soaked I milk baths, took aspirin, prayed, but the burn’s only response was to peel in large sheets the evening of the prom. I contemplated exfoliating but as soon as the soap toughed my skin, I yelped, doused myself with Bactine and aloe, and then hoped that the room would be dark.
The day of the prom, I was no longer in pain, but the peeling became worse and worse as did the itching. I tried a pair of opera gloves to hide the burn, but they looked strange on a sixteen year old. I hoped that at least my black nylons would cover up my legs which still radiated a red-orange heat. After fixing my hair and applying perfect makeup, my date finally showed up.
I heard a horn and looked out the window. My date Mark sat in his car impatiently and I went out. As I stepped in, I noticed him applying a thick greasy layer of Vaseline to his lips. For some reason, the front of his hair was curled into a combination of feathers or a swoop. Instead of wearing a tuxedo, he chose the orchestra uniform. I coughed as the sharp scent of Drakon Noir filled the car and rolled down a window. My nose burned and my tastebuds didn't adjust for three days later.
“You look nice, “he said.
“Thanks, you too,” I replied.
“Ok, so we’re going to a restaurant, but don’t order anything expensive and don’t ask for anything to drink,” he said loudly.
“Ok,” I said. It should be noted that I have never been the kind of date who orders the expensive items from the menu. In fact, I usually order the cheapest or second cheapest thing there and water. I chalked his behavior up to nerves and watched the road.
We ate at a nice seafood restaurant overlooking Lake Washington and as I ordered the small Cesar salad, I noticed him looking intently across the room. A few feet away, I spotted a girl wearing a bright pink dress and her date, a male friend from class. Mark stared at her the whole time we ate. Every few minutes, he reapplied a coat of vaseline to his lips and they glistened like a cold porkchop. He quickly reached for my hand to try to hold it. I was taken by surprise and didn’t remove it until a few seconds later.
“Right, I shouldn’t hold your hand because I don’t want anyone thinking we’re together,” he snapped and then sulked off to the men’s room.
I considered trying to escape out the bathroom window or just bolting out the door and calling a cab The allure of the potential glamor of a prom, even with a weird date, was just too strong. So, I stayed.
We arrived fairly early and I was glad to see several people I knew from orchestra or classes. One of my cousins was even there with his girlfriend. Mark ran his hands through his hair and then disappeared. I sat at the table alone until a friend asked me to dance.
While we danced, I noticed out of the corner of my eye the arrival of the sexiest girl in the senior class. She looked like a blond Jessica Rabbit in a fitted red dress and measurements that are almost impossible to attain naturally. She was accompanied by her 6’3 boyfriend, a marine whose neck was as big around as my waist. As we danced, I plead my case to my friend.
“Since you guys are going to Denny’s could you drop me off at the bus stop? It’s on your way?”
He agreed but I still had to wait a few hours to get out of there. I talked with some friends and danced as well. The girl with the pink dress sat one out and her date asked me to dance. We had known each other since the second grade and were both there as, “just friends.”
“Didn’t you know that Mark and Patty were together for almost a year?” he asked as we danced.
“Patty, your date?”
“Exactly. That’s why she asked me, she didn’t want to go alone, but didn’t want to miss it either.”
We looked over to Patty’s table. Mark stood very close to her trying to look every bit the sophisticate, his jacket carelessly tossed over his shoulder and green cummerbund riding up to his skinny chest. She looked horrified and it seemed like her eyes were blinking SOS. My friend came to her rescue in seconds.. Mark returned to our table and started talking to me.
“You know, “he said taking out his Chapstick again, “my mom gave me a condom for tonight.” He leaned in and I contorted my neck to miss him, but still I felt those greasy lips brush against my cheek and I think I felt the flick of a wet and slimy tongue on my neck. It gave me shivers and not the good kind. “I’m going to get some punch, be right back,” he said. abruptly. As he stalked away, he tossed his jacket over his right shoulder his cummberbund climbed up the crazy staircase of his thin ribs and settled at a jaunty angle; half up, half down.
I looked around the room, trying to figure out how to escape unseen. Glancing at the punchbowl, I saw Mark chatting up the red dress beauty. She looked at him in disgust and ignored him. He tugged on her dress and across the dance floor, her befriend took a nearly vertical leap at Mark. Before any violence occurred, Mark put up his hands in a, “my bad,” kind of gesture and sneaked away to another corner of the room. My sunburn was itching like crazy and the night wasn’t getting any better. I thanked the friend who offered me a ride and started towards the door. The last thing I saw, Mark was enthusiastically doing the Electric Slide by himself; the other dancers had parted like the Red Sea .Either didn’t notice or he didn’t care.
Even a senior prom was not worth that kind of hassle and humiliation. It was early June and the cool summer air felt wonderful on my skin. The sun was not quite down and I noticed the streetlights start to flicker to life. After a few blocks, I found a bus stop and luckily a bus pulled up a few minutes later. As I stepped on board the crinolines and taffeta rustled and woke sleeping passengers. Looking out the window, I noticed rented limos lining the road with half-drunk girls whooping out of the sun roof. Adjusting my dress, I tried to blend in and rode home.