It was the spring of my senior year of high school when I received a notice to see my English teacher after class in his office. As it turned out both my soccer coach and my English teacher were waiting for me.
“It has occurred to us that when it comes to the romantic department you seem to be less skilled than you are in other things,” began my English teacher, “Our concern is regarding prom.”
They then went on to explain to me that they wanted to help me (yes, my English teacher and my soccer coach) find a date for prom. I was mortified. True, I had a three-year losing streak at my boarding school and had not once been asked out on a date. However, I was handling it pretty well as I also could see some of my participation in that rate of success. I have been painting, writing, studying, and observing the world since I was a very little girl. I seriously began painting at six, I wrote my first book at age eight, and I completed an enormous collection of poetry that I called My God Poetry at age ten.
When you are spending nearly all of your time painting, writing, researching, and observing the world and you also need to go to class, do homework, and play a sport something is going to have to give, and for me that was definitely beauty and glamor. Yes, my hands, face, neck, and clothes were often covered in paint. Yes, my hair was often past my waist as I only bothered to get it cut before Christmas. And yes, to not brushing my hair daily, and yes to wearing pajamas to class for days on end, but there was so little time for sleep.
Panicked by the thought of my English teacher and soccer coach going around trying to talk someone into to taking me to the prom I blurted out that I had a date already. The men eyed me suspiciously but acquiesced. I told them that a boy from back home was flying out. Having to “fly out” a boy from back home was right up there with taking your cousin or an inappropriately old neighbor boy to prom.
My prom date arrived from California, and early on I sensed that it would not go well. My prom date informed me that he had not hung out and stayed with the friend who I had arranged for him to stay with; rather, he stayed with this other boy whom I did not know. The friend I had arranged my prom date to stay with was weird; however, he was wickedly funny, a gifted poet, and a very sympathetic anti-hero, as he just could not get over the death of his mother and would periodically burst into tears over the matter. My friend was not everyone’s cup of tea, but it was a kind of bad sign that my prom date would rather be with someone with zero connection to me than someone who revealed a great deal about the girl he claimed to love.
Early on at the prom it was clear that my date had become attached to his new gent friend. I did occasionally step outside to smoke a cigarette, and there I would see him with his new bestie and his new bestie’s gang. However, they were not people I knew, and some of them (only a few) were not people I cared for, so I resolved to stay indoors. It is important to note here, and I will try to state it delicately, but the gent my prom date had fallen over was part of the beautiful people crowd. My prom date—even though he flew all the way from California to Massachusetts—had dumped me to hang out with a very rich, very popular, and handsome boy. It’s also important to note that I had nothing against the beautiful crowd. They were beautiful (most of them) and I’m quite sure of the very best character (most of them). However, I never pined to be a part of any crowd. William Blake, a personal hero, who was both a painter and a writer, lived outside of London for a three year spell, and when he did return he remained in London but not of London. William Blake (like me with the technological era) was deeply concerned with the environmental, spiritual, and social impact of the rising industrial era. Sometimes to get a good look at Rome you need to leave Rome. So, for me, cliques were simply fascinating social structures—but detrimental to the vantage point I needed.
And then there was my donut shop boy. For some time, I had been regularly enjoying a cup of coffee and a donut with this very charming boy. He was very kind, very smart, and hysterically funny. He was a little chubby. His hair was already greying and balding—so he kind of looked a little middle aged. But it worked; he was cute. He was the one boy I really wished had asked me to prom. So, while my prom date was busy swooning over a very wealthy, popular, and handsome man I was sitting at the bar drinking diet cokes with my donut shop boy talking and laughing non-stop. We also danced. He was so cute and so sweet. I had a very fun time. Near the end of the prom my date resurfaced. It was dark out, and the soft wealth I possessed was now the treasure that he wanted.
Sometimes in life things or people will be stolen or seduced away from you. If that happens, before you get upset or freak out, take a pause. Look around. There might be something very special—something you really wanted waiting for you instead. The Universe is an odd and wild place and sometimes very popular, very wealthy, and very handsome boys can be the best fairy godmothers ever.
Jennifer Barnick is a painter and writer. She studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She founded Twenty-two Twenty-eight. “One of the most exciting aspects of Twenty-two Twenty-eight is building a channel for artists and writers to share their work with the world.”
Check out Jennifer’s book. You can read the first short story for free on Amazon here.