Well, I say 'winners,' but really the only reward is that the three get bragging rights for a week, if one can brag about such things.
Anyway, this week's question reminded me of something. I altered the tale a bit because it's a hazy memory by now, but the final quote is both true and honest at the same time. It's true because it's a vivid memory from a collage. And it's honest because it is the one thing I can pluck from the collage and say it happened.
Unless it didn't. Memory. It's like the proverbial stream, and it's never the same stream twice.
The prompt from Jez: "Your most embarrassing moment at a high school or middle school dance."
So in high school I had a crush on my straight best friend, who had a crush on a young woman from out of town. In order to get her to agree to attend prom with him—driving five hours to where we were—C. had to secure a date for her best friend, as that was the only way C.’s crush's mom would allow her to go. So I took the bullet, even though everyone in high school knew I was, if not gay, at least not really into girls the way other guys were.
Enter Madeline (not her real name). Madeline introduced herself by asking if I liked her lavender hair, which was decidedly not lavender, but a normal shade of brown. I pretended to like it, standing there in my rented tux, and then practically shoved the sacrificial gardenia corsage at her. (I should add she was stunning, and wearing a not-unflattering emerald green prom dress with minimum ruffles for the early 1990s. She was—and this promptly became important—also carrying a large duffel bag.)
C. was taking his crush to the prom in his own car, while I was driving Madeline in my Mazda 626, which, not three weeks later, met an indignant end when a drunk driver plowed into it. The instant Madeline and I got into the car, she tossed the corsage in the back seat. The duffel she put in the floor between her feet.
“I didn’t want to come,” she said. “I bet you were made to do this.”
I laughed nervously and told her it should be a fun evening with about as much conviction as George Zimmerman.
“We don’t have to go to this thing.” Madeline glanced at me and I continued driving, staring at the road with more concentration than I’d ever stared at a road before. Cars shuffled back and forth beside us. “There anything else to do here?”
“Depends. What do you like to do?” A loaded question.
“Anything else than go to a goddamn prom.”
Two emotions simultaneously: Relief, and terror. Relief because I didn’t want to go to a goddamn prom either; terror because I realized, as a Southern gentleman, it was my duty to at least pretend to show the visiting young lady a fun time. And then a third emotion: terror. As I began rattling off various things I did with friends on weekends—hang out in parks, go to movies, crash at various houses—Madeline began unzipping her dress.
In the car. On a major thoroughfare. Inches away from me.
And after the dress was unzipped, the dress was removed, awkwardly but effectively. Prom had not even started yet, and I was probably the only guy attending (or not) who’d already gotten his date to drop her dress. Irony doesn’t even cover it.
So I drove with even more determination, and nearly fainted each time I hit a red light. Madeline reached down... between her legs... and pulled a t-shirt out of her duffel.
I continued listing things to do, but had moved on to things that were only theoretical. I was like Forrest Gump’s army buddy that couldn’t help but list all the types of shrimp. “We could just have dinner, there’s a lot of restaurants. There’s the Quincy’s, and—they serve steak—and there’s Ricatoni’s, which if you like Italian...”
“Do you think I’m fat?” Madeline hadn’t yet put on her t-shirt, and she struck a profile pose. We were at a stop light. I had no reason not to turn and look. So I turned, and looked, and realized the car next to us was full of people also looking.
“Christ. No. You’re hardly fat.” Then eyes front. “There’s McDonalds, of course.” The thought of going to McDonalds in a tux depressed me for some reason. “And Arby’s, if you want roast beef.”
“I like the park idea. Let’s do that.” She slipped the t-shirt over her non-lavender hair and then she reached down... between her legs... and pushed the seat back.
The prom was being held at a place not far from one of the nicer parks in the area, so I made a left and headed to it. Meanwhile, Madeline reclined the seat back enough to shimmy into the shorts she’d produced out of her bag, and slide on sandals. And I wanted to throw up.
Not because of Madeline—not because of her cavalier treatment of the corsage, not because her hair was not lavender in any way, and not because she’d stripped in my car. I wanted to throw up because I knew, right then, just how not attracted I was to what I could only think was a dream moment in any high school guy’s life. Most of the horny teenage boys in my school would’ve killed for just a glimpse of a girl—any girl—in his car’s passenger seat, naked and begging to be shown some fun. I knew, in the moment, it was a scene out of a teenage sex comedy. But not only was I not interested in taking in the moment, I very much wanted the moment to end. I wanted her to be dressed, and I wanted to have known her for more than five minutes. If we were gonna do things I usually did with my friends, I really wanted to have known her longer than a brief meet-and-greet, and a 10 minute car ride.
I also realized she knew I was gay. And it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why I’d agreed to be her blind date in order to get C.’s crush to attend the prom.
While I was working this over—and driving!—Madeline said something that embarrassed me more than anything ever said to me (up til that point of my very embarrassing life). I’m not making this up. While I confess a lot of the dialogue in this is mostly half-remembered and a bit exaggerated for effect, both the actions and this line are absolutely true. She said, “You’re the only guy who ever looked while I did that. Most of them barely glance before saying I’m not fat.”
And all of that is mostly true.