In the midst of the pandemic, proms are being cancelled left, right, and centre. Thinking of all the high school seniors who are missing out on their senior proms had me thinking about my own. I feel bad for these kids, because for many of them prom was something they have been looking forward to for a long time, perhaps years.
Prom is one of those things that, before about 10 or 20 years ago, was virtually unheard of in the UK, another imported American tradition many people (especially over the age of 40) sneer at, like Trick-or-Treat and blonde idiots with bad haircuts in charge of governments.
In America, though, prom is a big deal. While the advent of the “promposal” and attending viral videos is a distinctly Gen Z phenomenon, even for a middle-aged Millennial like me, prom was accompanied by much anticipation and excitement. It’s a rite-of-passage, the last chaste high school event but also the first adult date. Restaurant reservations are made. Limousines are hired. After-parties are planned (though most adults would cringe at this notion, my experience was there was always somewhere to booze after prom). It is hyped, most notably in films like American Pie, as the most magical night of adolescence, the climax (in the case of American Pie, literally) of four years of high school.
As a young gay man in 2004, prom was more a chore than anything. I actually remember not wanting to go to my senior prom because the whole thing seemed tedious, at best. My then-boyfriend, who lived on the other side of the state and was about 5 years older than me at the time, had no desire to go – for the obvious reasons of age, but also because 2004 was still a time when a boy taking another boy to the prom was controversial and often generated national headlines. I had a friend (whom in retrospect was no friend at all) who called me selfish for even entertaining the idea considering the controversy it would generate. Going stag to my own senior prom seemed pointless, especially as I’d done the whole prom thing twice before (sophomore year as the date of a senior; junior year in my own right). I knew what to expect and honestly didn’t want to be arsed about it.
But, I went, because I was convinced by friends, family, and society that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t. Considering how rarely I think of high school, and how in the grand scheme of my life those years feel more like a footnote or a prologue than anything, I doubt I would have. As it turns out, though–and as you’ll see in the entry below–my senior prom turned out to be one of the most memorable nights of my life, though not for the right reasons.
So here we go, an entry from my teenage blog from the day after my senior prom. As always, I have not read this before pasting it into this blog and will react as I read.
25 April 2004
My senior prom was last night, and it proved to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I did the typical prom stuff – pictures, dinner, dance, and party afterwards – and of course, being Skylar Ashton Gates, added a flare of drama to each of them. However, by the time I had left the dance floor and was heading home to change, I couldn’t help but to smile. “It’s the most perfect night,” I told Kalpana as I was leaving. Later on that night, as I was being rolled in for x-rays, I would admit that I may have spoken a bit too soon.
A couple things to begin with. This blog came after I’d deleted my original blog (which the first few essays in this series came from) and started on another website. In doing so, I began writing under a pen name – Skylar Gates, the “Skylar” bit which survives to this day. That’s right, reader – Skylar isn’t my legal name, though for the past 16 years most people have called me Skylar. “Kalpana” is also a psuedonym for a friend of mine, as I began using fake names for everyone in 2003 in order to protect their privacy and to avoid another “scandal” like the one that erupted when my original teenage blog was discovered by students and school administration early in my senior year. Turns out being the early 00s version of Redneck Gossip Girl had consequences. That’s another story though.
The phone rang at about 8:30 yesterday morning, and I reluctantly rolled over to pick it up.
I now think of 8:30 AM as “sleeping in,” so, fuck you 18-year-old Skylar.
“What?” I asked.
“Morning, sunshine!” Safie said brightly.
“What are you doing up so early?”
“Why are you still in bed? It’s prom day!”
“Ugh, I forgot about that,” I laughed.
“Are you still going with me and Kalpana to get our hair and nails done?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “I’m going with you tonight though.”
“Okay,” she said. “Meet us at school at about 5:00 for pictures.”
“Will do,” I yawned, and hung up.
So, this was also the time I put dialogue in my blog. Most of the conversations were as close to verbatim as I could remember them, and “morning, sunshine!” is definitely something ‘Safie’ would say. In fact, ‘Safie’ follows me on Twitter and may well recognise herself in this.
I slept until about 1:00, when I got up and played online for a couple of hours, just talking to people and surfing [REDACTED]. After that I took a nap until 4:00, when I got up and fixed my hair and all that jazz. I wanted to wear my hair up, but I couldn’t get it to stand right, so finally I just put it down in a “fuck it” type deal. It actually didn’t look too bad. Even people who hate my hair down were saying it looked good. =)
“I slept until about 1:00.” Seriously, fuck you teenage Skylar.
Hair. You can see from the picture accompanying this blog that there is very little I could do with hair that short. I have always preferred my hair longer, even though a lot of people have told me through the years that they prefer me with shorter hair, or a pompadour – none more so than my grandfather, who to this day still says at least twice a week that he wants to cut my hair. He disapproves of men having long hair. (He also disapproves of men wearing shorts, or at least he did when I was in high school.) My hair right now is not quite shoulder-length, but I want it to get there.
One thing I distinctly remember about high school, though, is fighting against rigid gender norms – fighting with myself as much as anyone. I wanted my hair long, and I would have loved to have gotten my hair done and my nails done, too. However, gender was strictly enforced in my family and in my town. My father and grandfather both have very different recollections of my childhood than I do. A couple years back my father insisted I would have been allowed to cheerlead as a child if I wanted. I guess I’ll never know because I never asked, but only because my father made it very clear in things he said about the one boy cheerleader there was, about me sleeping with stuffed animals, about my general timidity and lack of interest in “boy things” that it would not be allowed. This isn’t meant to insult my father – like I said, he remembers this differently and surely would have his own explanation – but to simply convey my experiences.
In high school I had started to rebel against this, but only just. I remember wanting to wear makeup as far back as high school, but I dare not ask. I picked my battles. Sometimes I did get my hair coloured, though never as elaborately as I would have liked. It was also never as long as I would have liked. Being gay was rebellious enough, I calculated; best not push things.
There were other things, too. One of the first things I did when I moved to college, though, was buy some concealer. I still remember my friend Laura sitting in my freshman dorm room teaching me how to apply makeup. It was liberating.
I redacted the name of the website I blogged on, just to further ensure my privacy.
So at 5:00 I got to school, passed Mandy but didn’t realize it was her because she had a new car, and went inside. On my way in Cyndi stopped me, helped me fix my tie, and we talked for a few minutes before her mom took a picture of us. Got inside and found Kalpana, Ashley-Rose and Donnie, Britannia, anda bunch of other people. Just sat around before taking my pictures and waiting for Safie and Shawn to get there. It took them forever to get there, and when they did we went ahead and headed to Middlesboro to eat.
Here we’re getting into some of the names I don’t remember. I know who Kalpana, Ashley-Rose, and Britannia are. I believe I know who Cyndi is. I am less sure on Mandy (she might simply be my friend Mandi, but I’d need further context). Safie and Shawn I know. But Donnie? Who the fuck is Donnie?
I tried to find one of those horrid official portriats they do at prom, with the cheesy, cheap backdrop, but I couldn’t. I know we have some, but I can’t be bothered to dig one out when I have a photo album of Kodak moments handy. So you get one of those.
Going to Middlesboro to eat, for me, was a big deal. I lived in one of the most rural areas east of the Mississippi. Stinnett, Kentucky is 7 miles outside Hyden, Kentucky – population 375ish and the only town in Leslie County. It was about 30 miles to Hazard or Harlan, the two cities with the nearest McDonald’s and Wal-Marts. Middlesboro was about an hour away on windy, steep, and narrow mountain roads. The only time I went to Middlesboro was when we were driving through to visit family in Tennessee (where I now live) or for prom. If I recall, we ate at Ryan’s Steakhouse – a chain that I believe no longer exists.
On the way over there we just talked and blasted the stero with “Holidae Inn” and all of these other rap songs. Kept passing dead snakes in the road, which sucked, and just laughed and had a good time. We talked about people we knew, but nothing really bad, and discussed who we thought would win prom king and queen. Safie, Kalpana, and I were all already on prom court, but we weren’t sure who would win. We all put our money on Brighton and Britannia and talked about how some people thought they got back together just for prom, and Kalpana started talking about how Brighton and I used to flirt in geometry all the time last year. We started talking about that day last year when Britannia balled Brighton out because he was talking to me and not her. Safie and Kalpana were both there, and I mean… wow, fun times in geometry, lol.
Hated snakes then. Hate snakes now. It didn’t suck they were dead; it sucked I had to see them. Using “prom court” loosely here. We didn’t have a prom court, per se. We had people who were on the ballot for king and queen. I suppose that is what I considered “prom court.” OH MY GOD I REMEMBER EVERYTHING THINKING BRIGHTON AND BRITANNIA GOT BACK TOGETHER JUST FOR PROM! Literally everyone thought that it was a publicity stunt. We were so jaded.
That geometry class junior year was lit. There were very few of us in it, the teacher was chill as fuck, so we mostly just talked the entire time. Brighton would probably not call it flirting with me, and even I remember being unsure it rose to the level of flirting – I think he was just being polite? But this was 2004 in southeastern Kentucky. If you were a guy and you talked to the openly gay guy without calling him a fag, you were flirting. Also, Britannia had a reason to be a little upset about Brighton flirting with me (I had a massive crush on him which I thought was a secret but apparently was not). Early in my senior year she and I got into a massive argument over it in the middle of the school. “It’s just because you’re in love with my boyfriend!” she screamed. Y’all… you could have heard a pin drop in that hallway. It was like something out of a tv show. (My response was “fuck you,” and then I stormed off, because, well, she wasn’t wrong. Okay, ‘love’ might have been strong, but I fancied him.)
Got to Ryan’s and thought we’d have to wait forever, because the crowd was fucking huge. We were the only prom people there (everybody else went to London, Hazard, and Harlan), and the crowd proved to be smaller than we thought, because we were seated in no time.
Ryan’s is a steakhouse, not a boy’s house. London is a town in Kentucky, not my beloved London.
So our waiter came up to us and started taking orders for soda. Let me tell you, he was so fucking cute it isn’t even funny! I mean, I wanted this boy so badly you just don’t even know. His name was Josh, he looked about my age, with really pretty brown eyes and short brown hair. He had the cutest little ass, lol. Anyway, so the entire night I was sitting there flirting with the waiter, and Safie and I were trying to figure out if he’s gay or not.
“God, it doesn’t matter,” I sighed. “That boy is too hot to be waiting tables.”
“Well what the fuck do you expect him to do?” Safie asked. “Be on the table?”
“Wouldn’t hurt,” I smiled devilishly.
“You’re such a little whore,” she laughed.
I can’t remember what the waiter looked like, but I do remember that he was ridiculously good looking. This Sex and the City talk is a bit much, though. Feels like it wouldn’t fly in 2020, but I can’t decide if that’s because I’m older or because society has progressed past ojectifying the hot waiter.
I got up to go get some fruit (ended up getting nothing but strawberries), and when I came back there were these women telling Safie and Kalpana how pretty they were.
“Well you’re just so beautiful,” they said.
“Well thank you!” I beamed. The women laughed and Safie hung her head as they walked away.
“They weren’t talking to you, dipshit,” she said.
“Well they could have been,” I laughed.
Good comic timing, teenage Skylar
A few minutes later we were talking about how painfully obvious it is that I’m gay.
“I suppose it is pretty obvious,” I laughed.
“Well, finally!” Safie screamed.
“We’ve been telling you that forever,” Kalpana said.
“I dunno though. Shawn,” I turned to Safie’s boyfriend, “did you know I was gay when you met me?”
“Well,” he laughed, blushing. “Uh… not until you opened your mouth.”
“Oh,” I laughed. “Well then it’s settled. I’ll be a mute straight guy.”
It’s funny, because some years later, when I first met the guys in the fraternity which I would end up hanging out with (but never pledging) in college, they said they had no idea I was gay. I wonder how much of this was just Eastern Kentucky thinking anyone who didn’t fit a narrow definition of masculinity was gay? I’ve always kind of thought I read gay, and I’ve always been fine with that – I mean, I am gay, so whatever – but it’s interesting how people percieve me. Obviously online it’s a bit different, but in person I wonder. I never think to ask because, why would I?
We finished and I left Josh (who I kept flirting with throughout dinner but never really decided if he was gay or not) a $5 tip before walking out. On the suggestion book I wrote “Give Josh a raise!” and we walked out.
“Wait,” I said. “I’ve gotta pee. I’ll be right back.”
“I’m going to leave you,” Safie warned.
“Oh hush,” I said.
I ran back in and walked up to the greeter. “Do you have a pen?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she smiled. I quickly scribbled down my phone number and wrote my name under it.
“Give this to Josh,” I said.
“Okay,” she laughed, and I ran back out.
Ugh this is so cringey. On the one hand, giving a waiter your number hardly makes you Kevin Spacey. But there’s something about this that just rubs me the wrong way now. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing something like this, not least because of how awkward I think it would make him feel. It actually reminds me of the hot waiter at Reno, when I lived in Chicago. This was about 2013. I was a regular, and he was hot but also very sweet. I was smitten. My friends tried to get me to make a move, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it while he was working. I remember thinking that was wildly inappropriate. I always hoped I’d run into him somewhere else in the city, but I never did – except when he changed jobs and ended up working at another place I went, albeit less frequently.
On the way home we jammed some more hiphop and just gossiped like usual. I don’t really remember what we talked about, but the hour back to Hyden passed in no time, and before you knew it we were walking into the prom. I voted before going in, of course for myself. My prom queen vote went to somebody, but I don’t know who. I just closed my eyes and let my pencil fall on a line, and checked the box next to it. Whoever got my vote can thank me later, lol.
There were a couple friends who read my blog, even after “the scandal,” so I wonder if my prom queen vote really did go to a random person or if I just said that. I honestly can’t remember.
So I got in and just mingled, talking to Kendall, Cordelia, and everybody for a while. I danced for a few minutes with Bethany, did the Cha Cha Slide, and went out to talk to Mandy about her new car (which is gorgeous) and all of that jazz. I walked into the commons and found Kendall, talked to her about the waiter for a few minutes and walked back out to talk to Britannia.
THE CHA CHA SLIDE!
“So, how are you tonight, your highness?” I asked.
“Huh?” she looked at me, puzzled.
“Oh cut the shit,” I laughed. “You know you and Brighton will win. You can be all humble around the others, but with me… let your ego soar.”
“No we won’t,” she said. “We would have if you wouldn’t have broken up, but now I don’t know.”
“Hmm… I still don’t know,” I said. “Good luck.”
“Thanks. You too,” she smiled.
“Thanks,” I smiled back, and walked off.
I am assuming “we sould have if you wouldn’t have broken up…” is a typo, and the “you” should read “we.” Britannia and I ended up parting as friends, despite a couple massive public rows along the way.
Hung out a while longer, talked to Oliver and Emily and decided to stay long enough for the crowning and then bail with them to go to a party or something, and danced some more. Cordelia and I talked about how far we’d come this year and how if you’d have told us in October that we’d be taking a picture at prom together we’d both have laughed, and that’s about it. They had this wierd little contest where the straight guys got up and sucked down the juice from a baby bottle (Tim won) and then it was time for the crowning.
Coredelia was part of “the scandal.” It really is remarkable that she and I made up as quickly as we did, because I legit hated her for a while. That whole thing was way overblown. Whatever.
“And your 2004 Leslie County High School Prom Queen is…” the DJ paused for what seemed forever. “Kendall Williams!”
I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed before. I mean, I was so fucking pumped. My best friend, the insecure head cheerleader who was convinced everybody hated her for one reason or another, was our prom queen. I swear to you I about cried. When she reads this she’ll probably think I’m full of shit, but I was so fucking excited that you just don’t even know. I knew that would make Aram king, but for some reason I didn’t care. I mean I really didn’t. Aram did win king, and I was actually happy for them both. Even though they bailed right after that.
“Kendall” is absolutely one of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met. Reading this put a big smile on my face. I haven’t talked to her in years, but she was such a lovely person and really was one of my best friends in high school. 16 years later, I’m still chuffed for her.
Do they do Prom King and Queen in the UK? I don’t think they do. Basically it’s a popularity contest. The Prom King is often just the most popular boy, while the Prom Queen is just the most popular girl. They get flimsy little crowns and bragging rights at high school reunions, but beyond that, not much. It is considered an honour, though, and sometimes you’ll hear people mention it as a “fun fact” about themselves years later, though most people over the age of 20 know that what you did in high school doesn’t matter, not even to the people you went to high school with.
They had the court dance, and being one of the only ones on court that didn’t have a date, I danced with Kalpana. On one side of me was Amy and Samuel, on the Mandy and Blake, and on another was Greenlee and Stephan. All around me my best friends were, and I think it sunk in to all of us right then that we were graduating in a month. Mandy and I smiled at each other and mouthed one thing – “2004” – to each other. Amy winked at me, and I swear I thought I saw a tear in her eye. Safie and Shawn danced slowly, and Greenlee looked so beautiful. I thought Britannia was crying in Brighton’s arms, but I’m not sure. I know that, realizing that we were graduating and that I was leaving them all, I almost began crying. I just leaned my head on Kalpana’s shoulder and sighed.
What is this “court dance?” I don’t remember that being a thing. I’m guessing it was the first dance of the prom king and queen? Okay, I know who Mandy was/is now.
“I can’t believe this is our senior prom,” I sighed.
“I know. We’ve come a long way.”
“Yeah, we have,” I said. “We haven’t killed each other. It’s a miracle.”
“I don’t know. You and Britannia came close a few times.”
“But we emerged to be the best of friends,” I smiled. “I’m really going to miss everybody.”
“Me too,” she sighed. “me too.”
Narrator: he did not miss everybody. There are some of them I genuinely do miss, but I haven’t remained close with anyone from high school. There are some whom I talk to on social media from time to time, but the truth is once I graduated I left town and never looked back. It has been probably 12 or 13 years since I even stepped foot in my hometown. Once my grandparents left, I had no reason to go back. Weirdly, I had planned on visiting this summer. I now only live about 2 hours from there, so it seemed like an easy trip to make. The pandemic has probably killed any hope of that, though.
I left right after that, came home and changed, gave Oliver some of my clothes to wear, and headed out. While there I put on a couple of neclaces. One was my brown A&F one I bought in Daytona with Amy. The other was my St. Sebastian neclace.
“What’s that one?” Oliver asked.
“It’s my St. Sebastian neclace,” I said. “He looks out for me and keeps me safe.”
“Riiiiiiiight,” he said. “You wear too many neclaces.”
The story of my Saint Sebastian necklace is actually really neat. There was a website called Saints for Sinners, which produced hand-painted necklaces with various saints on them. Somehow I discovered this website in 2001 or 2002 and sent an e-mail to the owner, telling her or him how much I loved their artistry and how, as soon as I had a debit card of my own, I would order one. They responded by asking for my address and which saint I wanted. From the moment it arrived I wore Saint Sebastian around my neck daily – until the night of my senior prom. You’ll see why.
We left and went up to “Party Boy’s” house first, but there was no party, so we just cruised around for a while before taking Emily home. The entire night I was telling Oliver to slow down, because he drives like he’s flying a plane. Emily freaked out on me at one point, telling me to stop being a “back-seat driver,” but I didn’t care. It had rained during prom, so it was extra slick, and on the curvy roads of southeastern Kentucky, I know that wet curves equal almost certain death. Thoughts of Bridget hydroplaning into that bus were constantly on my mind, and I tried explaining to Emily and Oliver why I was so paranoid, but they didn’t seem to understand.
I don’t remember who Party Boy is. I don’t remember who Emily is, either. I do remember Oliver driving like a goddamned maniac though. And I do remember poor Bridget, may she rest in peace.
Drove back towards my house, and he thought he saw his dad sitting in the little parking lot type deal right before you turn up my hollow. The truck pulled out when we passed, and freaking out because his dad fucking hates me and would probably kill me if he caught me with Oliver, we sped down the mountain and turned up the road towards Micki’s house. We got up there and drove for a while before, convinced we’d outrun the truck, turned around. On our way back I was still a bit nervous, but I was ready to get home.
Micki and her sister, Tosha (known as Micki-Tick and Tosha-Tick, though I only ever called Tosha ‘Tick’) threw some kick-ass parties. I went there for a little bit after my sophomore prom and it was one of the best nights of my high school career.
“Oliver, slow down,” I said. Things got fuzzy. I felt us leaving the road. I heard the trees scratching the door. The windsheild busted. Things to hazy, like you were looking at a really bad picture taken on a digital camera. We crashed into a tree. I was jerked forward, the airbags rushing out, my seastbelt keeping me restrained. I saw my dad and stepmom getting married, my first day of kindergarten, a field trip I took in fourth grade, winning the geography bee in seventh grade, [redacted] meeting Sarah and Shaun, breaking up with Benji, [redacted] coming out to my dad, moving to Kentucky, meeting Ryan, meeting my birthmother, Bridget’s funeral, my first class with Chem, fighting with Britannia, hugging Kendall, playing with Angelica, Jacob, Grandmother, and Grandfather in the snow around Christmas, kissing Adam at Planet Hollywood, winning first place at FBLA state conference, and dancing at my senior prom. I seriously thought I was about to die.
Okay, so this requires some explanation. To begin with, we did have a car accident, and it was a pretty bad one. The car was totalled, and if we hadn’t hit that tree we would have careened off the side of a mountain. Beyond that, if we hadn’t hit the tree exactly where we did – almost exactly the middle of the car – one or both of us would likely have been killed. It was terrifying. That being said, I do not remember my life literally flashing before my eyes. I am pretty sure I included that for dramatic effect. The entire time I was reading this I rolled my eyes. I was such a fucking drama queen. [I redacted two memories that require context to be included responsibly, and it would be too distracting and time-consuming to provide that context in this essay.]
Things really did slow down, though. I do remember that the accident appeared to happen in slow motion, that I couldn’t quite process what was happening. It’s weird, because I remember the accident, but only in flashes and bits, not as one continuous memory. That was the case from the beginning. I just remember that it felt like we travelled through brush and trees for minutes when in reality it couldn’t have been more than a couple seconds, at most, from the time we left the road to when we crashed into the tree.
My brown vintage A&F flipflops flew off my feet, and the car stopped, smoking. I felt glass in my face, and went to wipe it off. I looked at my hands and ghasped. They were covered with blood.
“Oh my God,” Oliver said. “Oh my God.”
“Just get out of the car,” I said. He climbed out and I discovered my door was stuck, so I climbed over the driver’s side and got out. I cut my foot on some glass as I did.
“I’m so sorry!” he cried, hugging me. “I’m so sorry, Skylar.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m alive. It’s fine.”
I have long understood as a truth about myself that while I’m quite panicky and high-strung most of the time, I am great in an emergency. I freak out very easily, and anyone who has ever worked with me will tell you that. HOWEVER, in a crisis, I am amazingly calm and level-headed without even trying. When shit gets real I somehow snap out of my neurosis and into Superman mode. I’m not talking like “oh God, we’re not going to meet this deadline” crisis, but “oh shit, the house is on fire and we’re trapped” crisis.
A car passed us up going towards the main road. Another one came and stopped. Blaine rolled down his window, and I looked over at him and Alicia.
“Oh my God,” she screamed. “What the fuck happened?!”
“I wrecked,” Oliver said.
“Well I can see that,” she said. “Is everybody okay?”
“We’re alive,” he said.
“Can you get service on your phone?” I asked.
She tried but couldn’t. It wasn’t a minute later that Whitney, Ryan’s cousin and an aquaintance of mine, pulled up. I knew I was right near Stephan’s house, so I was going to walk down there, but instead Whitney took me down to the hospital.
“You can take me home,” I said.
“No, I think you better go to the hospital,” she said.
“I’m alright,” I said, shaking.
“Right. Where do you hurt?” she asked.
“My neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee,” I said. “All on the right side.”
“You look awful,” she said. “It’s goign to freak you out when you see yourself. But I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks.”
“Thank you so much for this,” I said. “I’m sorry if you had any plans.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it,” she smiled. “I’d have done it anyway. So what happened?”
“I don’t know. He lost control, I guess.”
“Were you all drinking?”
“No,” I said. “We’re both sober. That’s what’s sad.”
“Were you drinking” is a fair question, but I got asked it so many times that night that it really began to annoy the fuck out of me. I was always very honest: no, we had not been drinking, but the point was to find somewhere to drink. I wouldn’t have gotten in the car with Oliver had he been drinking (those poor decisions would be made in college), but I, at least, planned on getting drunk off my tits.
Got to the hospital, checked in, and Whitney stayed with me for a long time. They took me back, laid me down in a room, put a neck brace on me, and had me give verbal consent for a few things before Grandmother got there. (I called her right away, but had told her it wasn’t that bad.) The doctor came in and looked at me, and he asked me how I was doing.
“Well, I’m alive,” I said. “I’d like to stay that way, too.”
“I can imagine,” he giggled.
“I’m not going to die, am I?”
“No,” he said. “I think you’ll be alright. But, we’ll be overly cautious here. Just to make sure, we’ll keep you for a few hours. Something might be wrong, but we’re not sure.”
Again, here is an example of me being dramatic. I was scared, that is no lie, but I was 99% sure as soon as I climbed off that mountain and back onto the road that I was going to survive. Even when I saw my face – and it was incredibly bloody – I knew the worst I would endure is some minor scarring. The cuts were mostly superficial (like nicking yourself shaving, but on your entire face) and while I was sore, I could move fairly easily. I did have some shoulder injuries, but they were minor in the grand scheme of things. I knew I wasn’t going to die.
Grandmother got there and ran into the room, not five minutes after Whitney had left. She started freaking right away.
“You told me it wasn’t that bad!” she screamed.
“It’s not,” I smiled. “I’m alright. I’m alive, aren’t I?”
“Looks like barely,” she sighed. “I’m going to go call your grandfather.”
“Alright,” I said. “Just hurry, because I don’t want to be alone.”
It’s impossible to say why I didn’t want to be alone – was I scared? was I bored? was it both? – but I’ll never forget the look on my grandmother’s face when she saw me. She was terrified. By that point I knew I was fine, just sore and cut to pieces.
They took me back for x-rays, a CAT scan, and all that jazz, and I just laid there for a while. This girl, Rachel, who was Bridget’s cousin, was in the bed next to me. She’d gotten into a fight or something and had to go in. We talked for a while about high school, teachers we both knew and all that stuff, and she helped me put my bed up so I could see people coming in and out of the room. Oliver’s mom came in after a couple of hours and checked on me, which I thought was nice, considering she hates me, and she stayed with me for a little bit while Oliver was being examined.
Oliver’s mom was, at the time, a cruel and homophobic woman. I should point out at this juncture that Oliver was someone who had harassed me for much of high school but come out of the closet my senior year. We became friends, but only friends. People suspected we were dating, but we never did. I just wasn’t interested in him like that.
My x-rays and everything came back normal, so they let me go home after giving me four stitches in my lower lip and bandaging my head, which has a huge gash in it. They said I’d be sore for a while, but that’s about it. The doctor asked if I wanted off of school on Monday, and I told him no.
I still have a scar below my lower lip from this accident.
“I have to go,” I said. “I’ve got portfolios to work on and stuff.”
“You really should take a couple days off,” he said.
“Neh, I’ll be alright,” I smiled.
Now? “Hell yeah, give me all the time off work, please and thank you.”
I came home, washed my face, took a bath (I can’t wash my hair until my gashed forehead scabs, which should be tonight according to the nurse, and I can’t get my stitches wet), and went to bed, ending prom 2004.
I forgot about this. The forehead gash was bad, and big, but didn’t leave a scar as far as I’m aware. Oh, yes it did. I just looked in the mirror. At least, I think that’s a scar from this accident. Anyway, if it did it’s barely noticable, unlike my lip scar which is much more prominent (though I doubt most people notice it).
Go fucking figure, eh? The one prom I actually remember and I remember being in the hospital. The one prom I don’t drink at and I get in an accident. The night that had been perfect ends in hell. Yeah, I could sit here and tell you that prom 2004 sucked, but it didn’t. I met a cute waiter, had fun with my friends, danced my ass off, saw my best friend being crowned queen, and lived through an accident that I’m very lucky didn’t kill me. I truly believe St. Sebastian was watching over me tonight, and that because of him and God I survived. I’m just so thankful that I’m alive and no paralyzed, and that Oliver is okay too. Sure, it sucks being all banged up and nasty looking, but I suppose it really is better than the alternative, eh? Besides, at least being alive my wounds can heal. Could you imagine if I’d had died and they had an open casket, and this was how people remembered me? Oh, I’d be looking up and crying, screaming “SHUT THE DAMN CASKET!” Yes, at least now they’ll heal. And I can say that I ended my senior prom with a bang. =D
“I’d be looking up and crying, screaming…” LOL I see what you did there, baby Skylar. Clever. (Get it, I’m in Hell?)
That accident was bad, but it could have been so, so much worse. When I think of the friends I’ve lost in auto accidents, including Jasmine who died two months after this entry, I consider myself very lucky.
It’s interesting to see how “magical” I thought my prom night was in this blog, because all these years later I don’t remember it as being anything special. I wonder whether this was for dramatic effect – to juxtapose a happy night with the tragic ending – or if I really thought prom was great when I wrote this? I actually think it’s more the former. Towards the end of my senior year, I remember feeling that I wasn’t feeling enough. I thought I should be nostalgic and upset and maudlin and emotional about leaving, and so I put on a affectation of such. In reality, I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of there. I’ve always tended towards sentimentalism, so it is possible – probable, even – that this is an early example of that in my writing. I simply can’t be sure.
To any current high school seniors reading this, though, let me be clear that in hindsight my senior prom sucked and I really don’t remember anything from the night other than the accident. I rarely think about it. My guess is that unless you’re prom queen or king, or you get engaged (like one couple did at mine – hey, it’s the south), you probably won’t think much of yours either. It’s fun at the time, but frankly it’s quite forgetable. College – college is where the real fun lies. College is where the memories you truly cherish will be made.
Finally, it doesn’t get a mention in this blog, perhaps because I didn’t realize it at the time of writing, but I lost my Saint Sebastian necklace that night. I never saw it again. I assume it got lost in the accident. I still think, though, that Saint Sebastian was there to protect me that night, and that he went to someone else who needed him afterward.
How was your own prom? How did you get there? What did you wear? Who did you take? Where did you eat? What was your prom theme and your prom song? (Ours, if I recall, was “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse. The theme I think was “If I had one wish,” hence the title of this blog, though what the hell that means is anyone’s guess.) Let me know your prom memories in the comments below!
Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Tennessee. His work has appeared at the Independent, Huff Post UK, Salon, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @skylarjordan and become a sustainer at www.patreon.com/skylarjordan