Pasco High School, circa 1978
Linda La Fountain is all breasts and butterscotch breath beneath a shrink-wrapped organza gown. If she gets any closer, we’ll be sharing the same skin and that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but this is my first prom, plus we’re in the middle of the dance floor and, well, I’m having issues southward.
Linda’s as shy as me, yet her hands move across the back of my collar like an electromagnetic caterpillar, her fingertips shooting sparks through my nipples.
“You’re wearing a necklace?” she asks.
My hands are cinder blocks, my tongue a dead field mouse. I’ve already searched the rafters a dozen times, taking in hand-painted signs proclaiming “Tonight’s The Night” and “Class of ’78 -- Do Ya Think I’m Sexy!?!.”
“Let me guess—puka shells?”
Usually music saves and shelters me. For the longest time, I was certain Brian Wilson wrote “In My Room” about my own adolescence spent behind a locked door listening to the Brothers Gibb, or Andy, the young one, warbling, “Love is thicker than water.”
I’m only at the dance because my father is the boss of Linda’s dad. I’m at the prom because, a month back, my father finally learned that the word “gay” has another meaning beside “giddy.” Dad’s started to wonder about me, me with the platform shoes, long feathered hair, and balloon sleeve shirts.
We’ve already danced all the fast songs—“Hot Blooded,” “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” and “Brick House.” Now it’s “Three Times a Lady.”
Linda’s wearing a lilac dress. Where her right breast would start to slope if it weren’t hijacked by an egg carton bra cup, there’s a spot of blood. Anyone else would think the stain a ladybug, but it’s actually the aftermath from where I accidentally gouged Linda while trying to pin the corsage.
For something to do, I lie, saying, “I love this song.”
Linda lights up, as if she’d been praying for just such a confession. “Me, too! It’s so romantic. You’re once… twice… three times a lady… and I luh-uh-ove you.”
“Yeah,” I say, “Lionel wrote it for his grandmother.”
Linda’s mouth goes stroke victim-crooked, turning in on itself. She’s done dancing, storming off but—wait—here comes Debby Boone, singing, “You Light Up My Life.”
“Oh, this is my favorite!” Linda chirps, yanking me back under the glittering disco ball.
In no time, Linda coatracks her chin over my shoulder, and mashes me like the last life raft on the Titanic. She’s way too close now, so close that there’s no hiding the mini Apollo 13 strapped to my thigh.
Linda sings along, “You give me hope… to carry on…”
“Do you know,” I say, pulling back a bit, “who Debby wrote this song about?”
“If you say her grandmother, I swear I’ll punch you.”
“Actually it was our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
In my room that night, my jaw is hernia-sore from Linda’s fist, but I don’t care. I’m actually kind of relieved.
published 4 January 2012