Hump Day Crush: The Prom (Part III)

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series The Prom

(Telling this story here seems to invite long-ish pauses. That’s a wee bit unfortunate, since it’s really not that long of a story. If you’ve forgotten, part one and part two, go back and read them.)

As the dust from the stupefying trip up and the nerves of really meeting my date for the first time wore off and smoothed out, I really began to enjoy myself. It struck me as yet another example of how I’m happiest away from the town I grew up in. I’ve had the best luck of my life finding people when either I’m out of town or they’re from out of town.

It wouldn’t be until years later that I’d realize the main reason for that was the lack of pressure–the lack of expectations–from people who just plain didn’t know me. Growing up in a small town, that pressure to behave the way people expect was always there. Step out of line, and it would only be a matter of time before word of it made it back to your parents. Everyone knew everyone and the all talked.

Or at least it seemed that way.

There, five or so hours away from all but one person who knew me (and Matt really didn’t know me all that well), I could be myself. No matter how awkward, quirky or outlandish I was.

And so, with dinner behind us and a decent camaraderie forming, it was time to head off to the prom.

The prom was being held in the high school. The gym or cafeteria was all done up in ribbons, crepe paper, glitter and balloons. (Not quite as lavishly decked out as my junior prom had been, but my class was full of very creative over-achievers, so we were always a bad yardstick to measure others by.) It was very nice.

It was also very empty.

Seems in our anxiousness, we arrived a bit early.

Good use was made of that time, though. The girls gave us a tour of the darkened school and introduced us to the people who were there. Time passed and the floor filled with more people. Music started and the prom officially began.

There was plenty of time for talking and laughing. Some little things still make me chuckle today. I had quickly noticed that most of the guys at the prom had close cropped hair. Not uncommon for rural areas that weren’t all that trendy. I still think my school had an abnormally large number of long-haired freaks–be they the stoners or the metal-heads.

Suffice to say, I was quite surprised to see another long-haired dude standing in line behind me one time as I was procuring some punch.

“You’re not from around here, either, are you?” I asked.

“Nope,” he said with a smile.

We both got a good laugh out of that.

Before long the first slow song of the night drifted across the speakers.

Vicki and I danced, awkwardness returning briefly, not sure of what was proper or expected. We chatted and swayed. I was soon so caught up that I didn’t quite notice the song had ended. Before either of us had the chance to do more than consider changing partners (after all, who was I to keep her from dancing with other friends of hers), another slow song kicked in. We danced again, more confident in our awkward sway, comfort with one another reclaiming ground.

Again we all wandered the darkened halls. More slow songs found us switching partners, most I chose to sit out and just watch the crowd. Unlike so many dances before, though, I watched it happily. There was no longing, no pain. Just a certain sense of contentment that I would try for years to reclaim.

The night moved on and I discovered a prom tradition I had never heard of before. It seems, at least in that particular area, prom dresses come with a garter, not unlike the ones you find with wedding dresses. I was told that the common practice was, by the end of the night, for the guy to end up with the garter and for the girl to end up with his bow tie.

Interesting, to say the least.

Interesting and terrifying to be more accurate.

How was the exchange made? In my case, it was done gingerly and with much trepidation. Nothing so elaborate or suggestive as you’d see at a good wedding, that’s for sure. But the exchange was made and another layer of discomfort fell away.

Being a prom, more slow dances ensued. Vicki and I danced many of them together. Each time we danced, the distance between us shrank. Even though I had danced with girls before, it had never lasted long enough–or been part of such a wonderful progression–for the awkwardness to fade and make way for the pure joy of it all.

That closeness is something I spent way too long trying to re-create. It happened, eventually, but not until years later and never again on a dance floor. There was something magical about that night… something that made me believe that all the hype about the importance of The Prom may actually be true.

In the background of my bliss, the king and queen of the prom were crowned. Soon the last song of the night played and Vicki and I left, never getting farther from one another than we needed to.

A quick run back to Dawn’s house let us shrug out of our respective tuxes and elaborate dresses and into more comfortable clothing. The night wasn’t over and we were far from done with it.

A short drive in the care brought the four of us to a spot over-looking the river. I remember lights reflecting off the water (though I cannot tell you what they were. Perhaps they were from the town, perhaps from a nearby highway). The sky I remember was clear and full of stars (though it may have been slightly cloudy).

In a sense, it was exactly like you’d expect the perfect ending to the perfect night to be.

Matt and Dawn quickly moved from talking to doing other things to keep their mouths occupied. I watched as their profiles, in silhouette, became one, blocking the view of the river and lights.

And in the back seat… in the back seat Vicki and I gently and carefully…

…talked until we all had to head home.

After all, we had to get some rest for what we all had planned for the next day.

Series NavigationHump Day Crush: The Prom (Part II)Hump Day Crush: The Prom (Part IV)
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