The following is a true story. But to protect the identities of the not-so innocent (and to reflect the late 80’s setting) I’m telling it Bon Jovi style, meaning: “It’s all the same. Only the names have changed…”
It was the night of the Senior Prom, and my friend, Ro…err, I mean Ralph, and his girlfriend, umm, Muffy, and myself were on our way to pick up my date, uh, Julia Roberts. It was around 5:30 in the afternoon, and apparently posing for pictures at parents’ houses and renting limos were not yet part of the scene – or maybe they just weren’t part of our scene – because our pre-Prom preparations involved stashing a cooler in the back of my Chevette and smoking a joint on the way to my girlfriend’s house.
“Save some for Julia,” Muffy warned, as I was about to take my third hit. “Unless Brad comes through for us, that’s all we’ve got left.”
“Really?” I coughed, tamping out the joint, before tucking it into an empty Tic Tac container that I stashed in my tuxedo’s inside pocket. “How much did you tell him?”
“Just a dime,” Ralph said. “And you’re gonna have to cover it. I spent the last of my money on the beer. That hotel really wiped me out. I told you we should have just booked the Milford Motor Lodge.”
“It’s the Prom,” Muffy cooed. “We can’t go to no Roach Motel! Besides, their “doubles” are just two beds in a single room…”
She trailed off the let Ralph consider the implication of that. The brief image I got of it was enough to make me glad that the four of us, along with another other couple, had all pitched in and rented an expensive family suite at the Residence Inn, typically a long-term stay establishment that catered to business people who wanted to feel at home while on the road. Ralph and I had already stopped by earlier in the day to get the key and load up the fridge with booze and beer. The plan was to show up at the prom, eat our meals, pose for some pictures, and then leave to party at the hotel.
And party a little before, too, of course!
As I pulled into Julia’s driveway, I felt grateful that Muffy didn’t let me take that third hit, as I was already feeling pretty stoned.
“If Brad’s stuff is anything like this,” I said, patting my pocket, “we won’t need more than a dime. This is some powerful weed!”
I got out of the car and opened the rear hatch to get the corsage I had thoughtfully put in the cooler earlier that afternoon to keep it from wilting. Only to find that Ralph had been equally thoughtful when he loaded the cooler, as it was facing the other way (for easy access from inside the car.)
“Hey, Muffy,” I said. “Can you reach into the cooler and get me that corsage?”
“We’re not coming in?” she asked, handing me the box from the florist.
“Oh, yeah. I guess you should. I mean that would be weird if you didn’t, right?”
Turns out it was even weirder that they did…
On the way in, I noticed an old azalea bloom blowing around in the driveway and thought it would be funny to swap it with the corsage. I handed the fresh flower over to Ralph for safekeeping and stuffed the dead one in the box. Muffy was already giggling at the plan.
“Oh my god! You are too funny!” she said. “Julia’s going to flip out!”
I rang the doorbell and we were immediately greeted by Julia’s step-dad, Howard.
“Hey guys, come on in,” he said, holding the door open. “She’s still getting ready. Her mother’s in with her now. I think they’re on their fourth can of hair spray! My, don’t you all look nice…”
I introduced Ralph and Muffy and we all sat stiffly and silently on the couch, while Howard took the chair directly across from us.
“So,” he said, leaning forward until our knees were almost touching, “what are your plans for the evening?”
“Oh, you know,” I muttered. “Prom stuff.”
“Actually, I wouldn’t know,” he said. “You see, I missed my prom, having dropped out of high school to go fight in Nam…”
Okay, he didn’t really say that – but he said enough to make his point that he didn’t want his little girl doing anything “bad” and that he was trusting me with his most precious treasure, and so on. I did more dancing in that 10-minute conversation than I did the rest of the night as I tried to stick to our cover plan without revealing our real plan.
And to make it worse, throughout the entire interrogation, Muffy kept nudging me with her elbow, like we were pulling one over on him. Subtle, she was not. I did my best to ignore her, but unlike the b in that word, she did not remain silent.
The second Howard stopped grilling me, she leaned in and whispered, “Where’d you put the weed?”
Now, a whisper in a crowded room is one thing. But when one whispers the word weed in a silent living room, with a suspicious parent sitting three feet away, it’s quite another.
My forehead instantly broke out in sweat, as my hand automatically reached for the Tic Tac container. What the hell was the matter with her? Talking about pot right in front of my girlfriend’s step-dad? Was she trying to get me killed?
I looked over at Howard, who thankfully had turned his attention to the TV, and appeared not to have heard.
Relieved, I shot Muffy the dirtiest look I could muster, while silently praying for Julia to hurry the hell up.
“There’s my girl,” Howard said, a few moments later. I looked up, expecting to see Julia, but he was just talking at the television, where horses were being lined up at a starting gate. “I think Sunday Silence has a real shot at the Triple Crown. How about you guys? Anyone have a Derby favorite?”
“Derby sucks,” Muffy stated proudly, ever the cheerleader (Derby being our town’s hated football rival.)
“He means the Kentucky Derby,” Ralph clarified, pointing to the TV. “They’re about to race.”
“Oh,” Muffy said. “Is this the one where they chase after the rabbit?”
We all ignored her and went back to staring at the TV. But two minutes later, she’s bugging me about the weed again.
“What did you do with the weed?” she whispered.
“Shut UP!” I muttered out the side of my mouth. Seriously, what was wrong with this girl?
“What’s that?” Howard asked.
“Uh, nothing,” I said, glaring at Muffy with open hostility. “I was just saying hurry up…”
Five LONG minutes later, Julia finally appeared, looking lovely and almost worth the wait.
“Ready?” I asked, jumping off the couch. “Let’s go!”
“Not so fast,” her mom said. “We need pictures. Howard, get the camera. We’ll take them in front of the garden.”
Howard pointed to the TV, where the race was just about to start. “This will be over in two minutes…”
“Daddy, we’re going to be late,” Julia pleaded, as if she had nothing to do with our lateness.
“Fine,” he said, stomping off to fetch the camera as Julia’s mom made some final adjustments to her hair.
“Give her the weed! Give her the weed!” Muffy chanted in my ear
“STOP!” I snapped. “What the hell is wrong with you? Are you demented?”
For a moment, Muffy looked like she was about to cry, but ever the cheerleader, quickly snapped out of it and told Julia how pretty she looked.
Moments later, we were finally outside, smiling for the camera.
“Okay, first the four of them,” Julia’s mom directed. “Then a few with Michael and Julia. And then maybe a couple of just Julia…”
“Mom!” Julia complained. “We’re gonna be late! Just take the picture.”
“Alright everyone, look over here,” Howard called, aiming the camera.
“Wait!” Julia’s mom shouted. “Where’s her corsage?”
Shit! I had forgotten all about the corsage.
“Oops. I left it on the table,” I said, running back into the house to retrieve it. “Don’t move…”
It wasn’t until I was back outside that I realized what Muffy had been whispering about. The camera flashed as I ceremoniously opened the box, revealing the “weed” she had been clamoring for.
It was just the dead azalea.
I'm not sure if I learned anything from this experience, but I sure as shit remember it! So to any prom goers out there, have fun, be safe, and smile for the camera. Enjoy each and every moment, because as Old Man Jovi says, "Everyday, it seems we're wasting away..."