This, up until now in his young life, was probably the scariest thing he had ever done. Not that he hadn’t been scared before. This had been going on since he was twelve when his mother had sent him to dancing school. Every week, dressed like it was Sunday, he would go to the town hall auditorium where the classes were held, reluctantly, I might add. There, he would join a profusion of his peers, boys all shuffling around, trying to act normal, and girls, giggling and chattering away as if oblivious to what was about to happen.
At two o’clock sharp, Whitney Fletcher and his mother, the instructors, would clap their hands to gain everyone’s attention, and have everyone line up, boy’s in one line and girl’s in another, facing each other.
“Today we will practice the Waltz” Mrs Fletcher would say. “Boys, please approach the girl immediately opposite you, bow, and ask her for a dance”. If we have an extra girl or boy, Whitney or I will take them as our partner. Alright now, please begin.”
Slowly, like a line of soldiers approaching the enemy, the boys would tentatively approach the girls who seemed for the most part to be enjoying the whole thing. The bow was the easy part. But then, you had to actually talk to a girl. And that was the scary part.
Now, at sixteen, he was again called upon to accept the challenge. Only this time, it was harder. The Junior Prom was approaching and he had to go to save face with his buddies. They knew how shy he was and loved to needle him about it. He knew there was no backing out.
The thought of talking to a girl still pained him, but worse then that, he also had to spend an evening with one, and ask them to the dance as well. Even thinking about it gave him chills.
Over the last few weeks, he had embarked on his strategy. First, he had narrowed down the list of girls he decided were candidates. Then he mentally cataloged them by popularity and the odds that they would accept his invitation. It wasn’t a very long list as he didn’t really know any of them other then by observation. He ultimately focused on two and proceeding to the next phase, began watching them at school and deciding what he might say when zero hour arrived.
As luck would have it, during this research and development process, one of his buddies let it be known that he was going to the prom with one of the candidates. This certainly thinned the herd, but now he had nothing to hide behind. One girl, one dance, one question. He knew he couldn’t wait any longer. He must act.
After school the next day, he walked around the school halls, looking for his damsel of choice. He found her near her locker, chatting with a group of friends. Now what was he going to do? He couldn’t just walk up and say “excuse me, I would like to talk to you.” He would die first. Suddenly, he felt an overwhelming urge to pee and decided to rush to the boy’s bathroom before he really embarrassed himself. As he entered, one of his buddies was exiting. “Did you ask her yet” he inquired?”
“Almost” he replied.
“Almost” his friend said. “How can you almost ask a girl to the dance? You chickened out didn’t you. What a wimp.”
“I didn’t chicken out. I just had to go to the bathroom, that’s all. I’m gonna ask her in a few minutes.”
“Yeah. Right. I’ll betcha don’t have the stones.”
“You’ll see” he said softly, only half believing it himself.
He walked back to the locker where she had been standing, only to find she had left. He quickly started scouring the halls until he saw her leaving the school, walking with one other girl. He quickened his step and bolted into the schoolyard, several feet behind her. Once she glanced back over her shoulder and smiled. A good sign he thought.
His heart was beating wildly. It was like he was in a time warp where everything around him stood still. He felt like something or someone had taken over his body, willing it forward until, he heard a voice say “Ellen. Got a sec?” It took a moment to realize it was his voice. No turning back now. He was locked on his target. Time to pull the trigger.
She turned around slowly, saying to her friend “I’ll catch ya later.” Standing there with an armload of books, she said “What do you want?”
Three. Two. One. Action. “Uh, well, um, I was just wondering if you had a date for the prom. You know. The dance coming up.”
“I know what the prom is. Everyone knows that.”
Boy, did he feel dumb. Of course everyone knew that. What was he thinking. That was it. He wasn’t thinking. He couldn’t think in front of a girl. So he just stood there.
“To answer your question, no, I do not have a date for the prom, although I am expecting to receive several offers. Why do yo ask?”
Mustering every bit of courage he had left he said “Well, neither do I. So um, I was um, wondering if you would like to go with me? You know, to dance and stuff.” “Oh no” he thought. There I go, sounding stupid again. But the deed was done. Now it was just a matter of waiting.
She stood there for a moment looking right at him. He was having difficulty holding her gaze. Silence prevailed and he felt his cheeks begin to flush. It seemed like forever that his invitation had been laying there, waiting for her to accept it.
Finally, with a little smile, she said “You’ve got to be kidding. In your dreams.” Then she turned and walked away.
Hey, don’t get on my case. Life is like that. Not every story has a happy ending:)
Originally published December 2013