It was the second week of summer and I was riding high in friends and parties without a care or clue of what was to come. Eighteen is such a brittle age, not easily impressed but so tragically impressionable. Adulthood loomed on the corner of job and college applications I neglected to apply to. There would a time for that later, I thought, right after these beers and excessive experimentation with girls and social so-and-so’s. Don’t-even-get-me-started is the procrastinators mantra, and I carried my would-be’s misguided, but like a titan.
Tiffany was leaving soon, I forget to where. Cruising west Manifest Destiny bound on a four year college scholarship, dinner with the mayor, more books and grades to ace while the world her oyster. Lately we’d become surprisingly tender towards one another. I stopped trying to convince her to stay or love me, and instead only wanted to enjoy what little time I had left of her. She must have felt the same, I thought. Short sighted or naive as we may have been I suppose the both of us knew, instinctively, without a word or approach of the subject, that September 3rd would mark a change in both of us forever.
Milton and Anderson, cousins, were throwing a party that Friday. Surprisingly, she was the one who brought it up over the phone.
“It’s this Friday,” she said.
“Yeah I heard.”
“I might end up going.”
“But then who will close the library?”
“I’m sorry, what? I don’t speak Jerk.”
“Come with me,” I said. “It’ll be our prom.”
We’d never gone to prom, or rather, I didn’t. She asked me to, to share a limo with her, Christine, Tamara and Chloe. Her friends, a herd of herbivore What-Do-You-Even-See-In-Him’s. As much as I thought I loved Tiffany, the decline was telling. I didn’t love her enough to sit five minutes with her condescending friends. Through the tragic of social media it later surfaced she’d gone with another guy, Anthony something was his name. I forget.
“Pick me up at 8.” She said. “And you better fucking shave.”
I arrived at her house at 7:40PM sharp. We’d had many an argument in the past on account of my always being late. My excuse was that rushing was stupid, immaterial and pointless. That a friend, a real friend, or love, is not a job that needs punctuality. It needs patience.
“Yeah,” she said. “But it’s also inconsiderate. If you say three but know you won’t get there until three thirty, then just say three thirty. That’s half an hour you’re wasting on my road to a Nobel prize.”
That was the way of words she had. And its ironic, how that mock arrogance and punctuality are two of my most discerning features.
On the way to her house I remember feeling very good, happy, and a little bittersweet. I was aware that tonight was just another night, no change to the inevitable drift distance makes. But we’d never been out together, not to a party. She preferred movies, parks and picnics, quiet nights at home. She’d never seen me in what I then considered my element- the social isotope, loud and loutish, brazen and a clown to a row of strangers. I’d never shared her with my friends or took her hand in public. I’d never held her in a room full of people in a pretty dress.
This will be a good goodbye, I thought.
I rang the bell and her brother, the druggy one, answered the door with a glaze of red nirvana coloring his eyes and spotty beard. Dazed and a little daft, he nodded me in absently, drifted through the walls back to his marijuana smelling basement.
I sat waiting in her living room by the oak colored cabinet and flower blotted sofa. I remember looking at the familiar door to her room, excited, waiting for her to step out looking amazing in a…in a something. That green streak in her hair and fire in her eyes, coy and dryly staring at me to Stop-That.
The door opened and she stepped into the hall in an oversized white t-shirt. But what grabbed me most was not her wardrobe. It wasn’t the nervous in her face or worry in her step. It was the looming figure in her room staring blankly back at me, laying with a tank top and scruffy hair across her bed. Anthony something was his name, I forget. Suma cum laudie. He ran the robotics team at school and was another high hope senior on his way to a top tier college and brighter things in life.
“Sorry I….(something)….meant to call but then….(something)…not getting my text?” I think was what she said. I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t really hear anything over the sound of a deafening and violent white noise that pulsed inside my head and vibrated against my skin.
I don’t remember much of that part. Just nodding along once or twice, saying goodbye and walking calmly out the door.
My mind was blank and so was the world, the air felt stale and my tongue so dry. I walked in a random direction for however long, directionless, and while some noun or adjective might better describe the circumstance I was in, my memory paints it as that one dull word- blank. Just blank. Too shocked and taken back for any hint of sadness or rage to overcome me.
Tiffany…no, everything, it felt like, let me down. Life was a series of bad jokes I could not see the humor in. I ended up going to the party anyway. I laughed and made jokes and danced with girls I thought were pretty. I even took Jennifer back home that night. We had sex in the shower which I bragged about for years, like the rest of the day and nothing ever happened. I kept right on living that night, and every day since. Even today I don’t feel sad about it. Nostalgic, partially, but not sad.
Still, and it is difficult explaining the how or why, but I know something died within me that day. I still feel that blank darkness cataract my decisions when someone I love shows the slightest hint of unsure or indecisive. I walk away from people easily and flippant, broad and sure as a titan. Atlas too apathetic to shrug. I just don’t care.
I’ve never even been to prom.