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Prom Night 1983

Though this story is not terribly soapy, I am nonetheless officially calling it part of Soap Opera Sunday, that weekly blogventure concocted by Brillig and Kate, guaranteed to make you laugh, gasp, and maybe even mist up a bit.

If you read the post just below this one, you'll remember that I spent most of my spare time Senior year with a certain Paul: swimmer, water polo player, co-AP-class-taker. Despite the fact that we had tons in common, our relationship really was like two worlds colliding. Picture a Venn diagram where the two circles barely touch: that was us.

Paul was a jock from the side of town that had trees (in California's Central Valley, that means you are from a well-established neighborhood). His mother was the golf pro at the local country club. He grew up in our cowtown, and so knew 'everybody.' It didn't hurt that his grandfather had founded a world-famous non-profit corporation that was based in our town and employed a ton of folks.

I, on the other hand, lived on downtrodden Main Street right next door to a mortuary. My mom worked long, hard hours trying to support my siblings and me. We'd moved to town right before my Junior year, so I was an interloper on long-established circles of friends. I had very short, multi-colored hair; Paul's friends preferred hanging out with people who had that chlorine-platinum thing going on.

My few friends liked Paul, but they were way too busy to pay much attention to him. Adele, Traci, Janice, and I were the entire yearbook staff that year; our advisor had quit, and in the vacuum, we four co-editors ran the show. In the days before computer layouts, we spent tons of unsupervised time with those big, blue-lined sheets putting together a yearbook for a high school of 2,000 students. We took almost all of the candid shots (many we staged), developed them ourselves in the darkroom, and wrote every bit of the copy. I don't know how we had keys to that yearbook room, or how the school let us do all this on our own, but we did, and we pulled many an all-nighter making those publication deadlines all by our teenaged selves.

So I was either working on the yearbook or hanging out with Paul all year long. Paul and I talked about books, Carl Sagan, and music. I'd sit next to him while he played Bach's Two-Part Inventions on his mother's little spinet piano. He taught me how to drive, first in a golf cart, and then in his ancient station wagon. We golfed straight through the winter (he could play for free). We watched the entire eight hours of the BBC's production of Nicholas Nickleby with Roger Rees on PBS, completely riveted. Paul was the best.

Prom time came around; though outwardly a rebel, I was enough of a romantic to know that I had to get to Prom at least once in my life. I searched high and low for an atypical dress that I could afford, not wanting any pastel taffeta or satin touching my person. I finally found a Grecian-style white dress with a cool beaded clasp at the shoulder--very different, and very flattering. I put it on layaway. A few housecleanings and babysitting jobs later, it was mine.

Paul had no money to rent evening clothes. He was too busy with sports to have a job, and his parents weren't the type to hand out cash to him, like, ever. So he ended up wearing his only suit: a horrible denim-colored polyester number with Western detailing. But he was handsome and hilarious; I didn't mind.

Limo? Oh, no. But we didn't have to go in Paul's station wagon, with the vinyl seats so weathered they had petrified and cracked, exposing yellowed, crumbling foam. No, for Prom, Paul's mom graciously loaned him her K-Car--a nice, Reliant automobile, with burgundy velour interior. We were stylin,' folks.

Paul did scrounge up money for a gorgeous corsage: gardenias, my favorite flower in all the world. They looked perfect with my long, white dress.

May in the San Joaquin valley is about the worst time and place for someone with allergy-triggered asthma. I woke up Prom morning barely able to breathe. The jasmine was blooming enthusiastically, as if Spring had conspired to murder me. My mother took me to the doctor and to the chiropractor, but neither helped much. I fainted while Mom was curling my hair, but there was no way I was missing out on my big night.

I don't remember whether we went out to dinner. I do know we weren't planning on doing anything with groups; Traci went to Prom with this hot, long-haired guy we barely knew from the stoner crowd; Janice and Adele were boycotting Prom (probably becaused no one had asked them out). The swim crowd barely tolerated me, and truthfully? I was happy to have Paul all to myself.

We got to the dance, stood in line for photos, and danced a few slow dances. At that point, I'd had enough. I was exhausted from trying to breathe; I asked Paul to take me home. On the K-Car's radio on the way, we heard the new single by our favorite band for the very first time: "Every Breath You Take," by The Police. High irony, people.

I must have fainted again; the next thing I knew, I was in the ER. Apparently Paul had run into my house and right into my mom's room, scared her awake, and then sped to the hospital with me unconscious all the way.

The doctor gave me a shot of adrenaline, and almost immediately, I had blessed relief. Anyone who has never had asthma has no idea what it feels like to suffocate slowly no matter how hard you try to get air into your lungs. Gorgeous, perfect air: there's nothing better.

An extremely kind, huge male nurse took the very best care of me. My mom and I still call him 'The Gentle Giant.' He pinned my gardenia corsage to my hospital gown and got me fresh hot blankets straight out of the autoclave: bliss. I spent the rest of the night in a curtained-off area, Mom on one side of the hospital bed, Paul holding my hand on the other.

I haven't had an asthma attack since; I have no idea why. My asthma pretty much disappeared after that night.

Paul and I dated the whole summer after graduation, but then we broke up when he went off to UC Berkeley. It broke my heart, but he was excited to explore college life to the fullest extent allowed by law, and we both knew a long-distance relationship wouldn't work. We stayed in contact for a year or two, but after I moved to Utah to go to BYU, we lost touch entirely.

Patrick and I saw Paul a few years ago at my 20-year high school reunion. The three of us went to breakfast together. The two men were like Ps in a pod (pun very much intended); they got along great.

Paul has never been married; he's never even dated someone for as long as we went out (almost exactly a year). I asked him why over breakfast; he's handsome, in great shape, smart, employed, etc. It seemed to me he'd have women crawling all over him. He laughed and said he always ends up correcting his dates' grammar, something that's always a romance killer. Patrick said wryly, "Clearly that was never a problem with Luisa." Poor Paul: I hope he finds his own Grammar Fascista someday.

Reader Comments (27)

What an awesome story. I hope Paul does find someone whose grammar tops his. It is strange how it works out that way sometimes. I have met some awesome people who have not dated seriously or been married before and I always wonder why they haven't found someone. I have an aunt who is a professor at a University in Canada. She married for the first time in her early 50's. I don't know her whole history, but she never brought anyone home until her current husband. Like I said, it is always a mystery to me.

October 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdawn

What a lovely, sweet romance. I used to lose guys because I corrected grammar all the time. I don't know why I never corrected Beaker's when we were dating, but I'm thankful I didn't. He's perfect, even with his horrifying grammar.

October 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterThalia's Child

Oh my gosh, I'm so glad you had someone with you when you had your attack. And what a sweetie to stay there with you holding your hand. This was great SOS entry. A prom night to remember always.

October 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

So nice to have someone "out there" in blog land that remembers the Police on the radio and gluing trimmed photos onto those blue-lined sheets.

And your candids were staged? Oh my! That NEVER happened in my school.

Glad to know he was there for you. He sounds like he was, and still is, a wonderful man.

October 21, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersoccer mom in denial

Luisa, that was great! I laughed out loud, at times. I loved it. :D The part that was my favorite was "K car, a nice reliant automobile!"

October 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSecret Agent Mama

Great story - and I LOVE the Barenaked Ladies, so that was an added bonus for me.

October 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJerseygirl89

Beautiful story! And I'm so glad Paul had a clear head on his shoulders or you might not be here today to write this. And of course, I just loved the BNL reference! Too bad you didn't have mac and cheese with dijon ketchups for the Prom dinner.

October 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJen of A2eatwrite

Wow!! What an incredible (and delightful) story. You are so stinking witty and clever and fun and awesome and cool and stuff. I hope that Paul finds utter happiness with a grammar fascista someday. He sounds like a great guy. And I love that he and Patrick got along so well. Hahaha. I don't think my husband would get along with any of my former boys...

October 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBrillig

I love how your story-telling picks me up and carries me along with. Lovely. I feel such a sense of sadness over Paul not finding his match though.

October 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

hi novembrance:
what an awesome prom night (people who loved you on both sides on your hospital bed). you were very blessed. thanks for sharing this glimpse. happy Sabbath, kathleen

October 21, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterso grateful to be Mormon!

What a great story. It sounds like you did pretty well. Too bad Paul didn't find another like you. I wonder if he was waiting to see what you were going to do later in life.

That was quite the prom night. I guess we are lucky to even have you here. Who knows what would have happened if Paul didn't do what he did.

October 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSirdar

HAHAH. That's awesome. What a fantastic story!

October 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKateastrophe

That is such a great story. For a person who never went to American high school but grew up her whole life watching movies and tv shows and music videos about/in/around/based on American high schools, this was like a nice breath of good, fresh air.

Sweet, and since it's a real story, experienced and told by you, it wasn't cheesy in the least.

I hope Paul finds his grammatically correct love too.

October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSyar

i lived in the san jaquin valley for a while - it was almond shaking season that would do me in!

October 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterpainted maypole

Yes a very appropriate soapy tale -- prom night with a twist!! And it was great to know what happened to Paul. I too wish him future happiness as he seems to definitely deserve it!

October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFourier Analyst

Poor Paul--hanging out with his proper usage and grammar all by himself. :)

Scary end to a prom night.

I'm horribly impressed by the whole yearbook thing, too.

I may have to write up my own prom night sometime. It sort of led in an indirect way to meeting my husband.

October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette Lyon

Paul was HOT--he was my favourite of your high school guys. He was always nice to the 'little sister' too, which was a plus in my book.
ps--I too have had a few of those horrifying asthma attacks, induced by allergies, but thatnkfully, have not had any since I gave birth to my baby Faith. weird, huh!

October 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteranjmae

What a funny story!

October 22, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterrjlight

I especially liked the part about The Police song. Of course now I'm thinking about if you called the station to request it, how they'd think you were faking the asthma and put you on-air (ha-ha!) just to make fun of you. And then they'd get a call from the hospital, and they'd be all like, Hey man, don't blame me.

Or something.

I think I should maybe sleep now.

October 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRadioactive Jam

How can he not be married?

This was a great story. Patrick is such a man. Paul must be too. Anyone who gets to lock arms with you, even for a little while.

So....where's the picture????

October 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

What a soapy prom ending up in the ER. Gosh oh gosh what a drama!

Yeah...where's the picture, I wonder too. I am very curious for your dress!

cool that you've met Paul again as a matter of fact!

October 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGoofball

i'd suggest paul drop in on a copyeditor's convention; i have it on good authority that some of the women there are stunning AND know when to use "who" and "whom."

but i'm very glad to hear that your asthma hasn't flared up since.

October 23, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercadiz12

Beautiful story :)


October 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBe Inspired Always

That was a great story, Mom. It was really interesting to hear the full rundown of that story.

October 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChristian

Sniff! Poor paul! But what a fun story. I love your writing lady.

October 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Wright

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