Thursday, April 26, 2012

Elegy for a Prom

Elegy for a Prom

In hindsight, it was the peach
schnapps that was the final
spike in the coffin
where my prom
lay rotting. I didn’t see
it, but I felt it, dread
spreading like pitch
in my belly, as KC cracked
the fifth open, swigging
the sweet syrup, sucking
& sucking & sucking
it down until reminded
that the schnapps
was for the whole party.

I smothered my stomach’s
complaints with hope
because that’s all I had left.

You see, KC was a dream—
just this hardcore Shirley
Temple, all whirls of gold
curls & dimply smiles wrapped
in a black Metallica tee.

I was just some geek,
a short one at that.
I lie. I was the King
of Geeks, sovereign
of my very own nerd herd,
capable of fitting in
where my subjects
never dared:

We were lunch friends,
me & KC, bonding over
math & metal,
but when I dared myself
to ask her, I knew
she would say no.

Yes was worse.
The pressure
for the perfect
prom, for a night
full of stars & hands
& tongues &...
well, let’s just say
I was a Vesuvius pimple,
ready to pop pus
all over poor Pompeii.

Perfect’s impossible,
but as I watched her glide
down the stairs drowning
in scarlet, as I nervously tied
the corsage about
her wrist while her parents
snapped pictures,
I allowed myself to believe.

& that’s where perfect died.

Already running late,
my broken stepfather,
with his broken English
got lost, had to stop
for directions
at a station full
of broken white trash
fools for whom
it was more important
to harass & laugh
at the foreign
guy than help.

We finally arrived, are rushed
to have the photographer snap
our pic. Starving, KC & I
explore the buffet, full
of what began life as cold
salads, now picked
over & discolored
with shrimp that were starting
to smell. We ate rice.

Band sadly won out
over DJ, & we were tortured
with songs that my mother
would have danced to
at her prom. We did dance
to one: Celebrate
good times, come on.
But you know how hard
it is to celebrate misery.

Frodo saved us.
Just as KC & I
were commiserating
with our eyes, trying
to find a way out,
Frodo approached
to let us know he & Sammi
were leaving for the Senior
Party, inviting us along.

Here was my last chance.
I ran to the payphone,
called my mother
& lied. A group
of us were heading
to the harbor to find
real food & hang out.
Mother would meet us
at midnight at the Chi-Chi’s
that was once on the corner
of Lombard & Market.

As KC & I slid
into the backseat
of Frodo’s Mustang
I imagined sliding
my hands under
yards of scarlet satin
in some secret, silent
corner somewhere...
& then I watched KC
guzzle a third
of a fifth of peach

We split
at the party. That
was fine, I didn’t
want to blow yet
another shot
due to overbearing
clinginess, a common

I was sipping
beer in the basement,
sharing too many
good times
& goodbyes
when I realized
I’d lost
track of time.

Midnight was coming—
Pumpkin Time—
I scurried, hurrying
to call a cab & find...
Where the fuck is KC?
Someone thinks they saw
her upstairs, maybe
one of the bedrooms?
I raced up, skipping
steps, knocking
on the first door
I find, opening
just in time to see
KC being zipped up
by the star
of the baseball team.
I apologized & closed
the door.

It dawned on me,
sulking back
KC had hit her homer,
I was the one
who’d struck out.

The cab ride
should have been full
of nothing but silence,
space for me to seeth.
I couldn’t even have that!
She was nauseous.
Was it the liquor or the guilt?
I didn’t care. I just begged
her to hold it in
until we got down
town. I didn’t want
to take the chance
that my mother
would beat us
there and beat me
in front of KC.

KC rolled out
of the cab
on the corner
of Lombard &
Market, sprinting
to the hedges
wrapped around Chi-Chi’s.
I paid the driver
& got to KC
in time to rub
her back as she spewed
forth a toxic blend
of rice & peach schnapps.
KC was wiping her mouth
as my mother pulled
around the corner,

“What’s wrong with her?”
mother asked
about the girl moaning
in her backseat.

“Remember the shrimp
I told you smelled bad?
Apparently, it was.”

I led the moaning, groaning
KC to her door. Before
I could finish knocking,
KC’s pulling away,
rushing for the gutter,
spilling her guts, again.

I’d had enough.

I jumped into the car,
yelling at my mom
to go.

“Is KC going to be

“She’ll be fine,”
I said, “Go, just go!”
There was nothing
left to do but go
home, go fetal, go mourn
the death of prom
& hope.

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