Wednesday, April 21, 2010

She's still preoccupied with 1985

Seeing my neighbor in her beautiful prom dress the other day and the ensuing conversation with her mother over crinolines, hoop skirts and the general lameness of our own high school fashion statements, I couldn’t help but to drift back in my mind to my own eleventh grade formal. I’ve been to plenty of dances in my lifetime, but I’ve always kept the details of that event at the front of my brain because, once again, I managed to work a boatload of stupid into what should have been one of the highlights of my high school years.

It was 1985, and the Junior/Senior Prom was just two days away. As was customary at our school, we juniors were charged with decorating the school gym for the occasion. And yes, we actually had our dance in the gym. (This is Small Town, South Carolina, people. We are nothing if not quaint, right?) Normally, I stayed away from activities that might put me in direct contact with a cheerleader, but my best friend, a social butterfly, dragged me kicking and screaming into the decorating committee. (I find it completely ironic that I would have aligned myself with a giggly, smiling social butterfly when I am more closely likened to a gray moth sitting idly for hours on a gray wall, pretending to be invisible.)

After a couple of mind-numbing hours decorating, I would have gladly stuck a fork in my eye rather than spend another excruciating minute in that gym ripe with paint, crepe paper and a bunch of, like, totally gnarly go-getters. A mutual guy friend volunteered to take the two of us home, and I was standing in the parking lot before he even finished his offer. He drove the standard issue I’m-almost-a-redneck-but-my-daddy-makes-too-much-money-to-really-be-a-redneck pick up truck, and the front seat was littered with spiral notebooks, smelly tee shirts and the stale remains of a few too many Big Mac attacks.

I climbed in first and sat in the middle. It felt like I had just taken a seat in a dumpster, although, granted, the smell was only half as bad as a public garbage can. Since I’m not a big fan of having pencils jabbed into my rear end, I reached my right arm out of the car, and grabbed onto the door frame to lift myself up in order to move the trash from underneath me. At the very same moment, my sweet, funny and sometimes not-so-attentive best friend jumped in beside me with my arm behind her and quickly closed the door…WITH MY HAND STILL HOLDING ONTO THE DOOR FRAME.

First of all, I’m sure the scene from outside the car was interesting. A black pick-up truck with four bluish-purplish fingers sticking out from the top of the passenger door frame is not something you see every day. The scene inside the car is a little fuzzy but went something like this:

Me: “Sh-Sh-Sh-Sharon!”

BFF: “What’s wrong with you?”


BFF: Looks at me like I’m a complete idiot…

Me: “HAND!”

BFF: Looks past me to the driver and gives him a look like I must have inhaled too many paint fumes…

Me: “…door…” (My vision is starting to go black at this point.)


She quickly opened the door, and my arm fell limply to my lap. I collapsed against the seat and desperately tried to remember how to breathe. The three of us just sat there for a minute looking at my hand which, by the way, was no longer the color and shape that God had intended it to be. I’m not sure, but I think I was in shock because I started banging my hand against the dash board while proclaiming, “See? It’s not broken! If it was broken, would I be able to do this?” (I bang it some more for effect.)

It was determined by the two people in the truck who weren’t about to faint that we should drive to my brother’s house near the school because his wife was a nurse. When we arrived, I put on another “I’m-banging-my-hand-on-the-car-because-if-it’s-not-broken-it-will-be-soon” show for my sister-in-law. She said what I didn’t want to hear: “You need to have this X-rayed”.

I thought, “a cast is going to look so awesome in my prom pictures!” I was regaining my composure, and the reality that I was two days away from being immortalized in a party dress and finger splints was slowly sinking into my slightly shaky brain.

I ended up at the emergency room with my mom, and as luck would have it, I was taken back for X-rays by a very handsome technician who didn’t seem to be too many years older than me. He left me alone in an exam room for a few minutes after he was finished, and I took to primping the best I could without the benefit of a mirror. I plumped up my hair and ran my good hand over my face to make sure there wasn't a piece of food or stray hanger-on around the nose that might embarrass me. What I didn’t know was that somewhere between my mom’s car and being in the exam room, my working hand came to be covered in what looked like black ink, and I had just smeared it all over my face.

I heard the door open, and I was ready for that delicious X-ray guy to fall in love with me. Instead, he took one look at me and failed to hold back a chuckle when he said, “What in the world happened to your face? What have you gotten into?!” Embarrassed? Oh, yeah. The black whatever-it-was was everywhere. I looked like some Apache Warrior Princess heading off to the fire pit to do a rain dance. He gave me a wet paper towel to clean myself, and I shuffled out of the room secure in the knowledge that my hospital romance was over before it even started.

After I recovered from the “X-Ray Incident”, as it came to be known in my mind, I received the results of the tests. The good news was that my fingers weren’t broken. The bad news was that they were badly bruised and swollen and were to be dressed in fashionable (not) silver splints for a few days. Of course, there was no way I was wearing those hideous splints to the prom. Unfortunately for my date, he kept forgetting which was my crippled hand, so the night was filled with “Ouch!” and “Owwwweee!” and “I’m sorry!” And being that I was a diva from way back, you know I milked it for all it was worth.

I can laugh about it now. It’s funny how, looking back, things that are but a blip on the radar now seemed like the end of the natural world then. Honestly, I’d love to go back for just one night and live in that moment where my biggest concern was whether or not the Aqua Net hair spray I used was going to live up to its reputation as being able to withstand an atomic bomb. (It did.) Yeah, I’d go back, mangled fingers and all.

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