Writer Patrick Schumacker (@pmschumacker) shares an essay he wrote about his disastrous junior prom.
Please Don’t Let My Prom Date Blow You
by Patrick Schumacker.
By spring of my junior year in high school, I’d been elected to student council for four years running, played Varsity football for a season, and was co-captain of the rugby club. I’d also kissed a girl exactly zero times.
It wasn’t that I was completely shy around the fairer sex, but when it came to initiating anything remotely romantic with girls, I’d conveniently and suddenly come down with the communicative skills of Helen Keller, Actually it was worse. She at least had sign language going for her.
I attended an all-boys catholic school, and our exposure to the fairer sex was limited to old National Geographics in the back corner of the library, and the occasional dance. Now, inviting girls to said dances was a Herculean task for me. This was your classic fear-of-rejection excuse. So I, coward that I was, took the path of least resistance: I’d always ask Rebecca Little, as a favor to her distant cousin, Tim, who was a classmate of mine. Rebecca didn’t go out much. Not only was she a brunette doppelganger of her Neanderthal cousin, who himself was the starting outside linebacker on our varsity football team, but just about everyone accepted that Rebecca was as dull a date as you could get. I’m 100% certain I was no Don Juan. I was a short, stocky kid with hips normally characterized as “good for birthing,” and was only beginning to recover from a several-year-long bout with acne. But Rebecca didn’t really dance (which is sort of an unspoken requisite in any date to an event such as a dance), nor would she say much to anyone all night except a couple close friends from Ursuline Academy, the all-girl Catholic school she attended. This meant the first stop on the way to the after-parties was usually Rebecca’s house to drop her off. Needless to say, my high school dances were less than transcendent.
And then a few weeks before prom, one of my closest friends, Arjun, came to me with a proposition. He often had a sixth sense for detecting what I was in need of—a trait he possibly inherited from his psychiatrist parents, Drs. Ram and Rabhya Patel—and suggested I take someone new to prom. In fact, he would set me up on a blind date, and he already had someone in mind—someone he promised would be fun. Her name was Melanie Marshall, from Villa Duchesne, another all-girl Catholic school in the western suburbs of St. Louis. Arjun had met Melanie in his English SAT-II class, where he’d also found his date to prom, a girl named Claire, to whom Arjun referred as “possibly the one,” on numerous occasions. (Arjun was prone to hyperbole from time to time, which made me skeptical of the blind date.) Upon my agreement, Arjun, ever the romantic, arranged a lunch for the four of us at TGI Friday’s, so I could meet Melanie before the big dance, and make sure she wasn’t a sociopath. Truth be told, I would have probably settled for one of those at the time, as long as she didn’t kill and wear anyone at the prom. And then I met Melanie. She had a short, lithe physique of a gymnast, wore a fake-n-bake tan, and with hair dyed a deep mahogany, which gave her just enough Midwestern mall-bought edge for my tastes. We managed to have a decent conversation—mostly commiseration—about living under the same roof as our divorced mothers. She was polite, wholesome, and laughed at my jokes. Aside from a smoking habit, Melanie seemed like the perfect girl for a sexually naïve catholic schoolboy to take to his first prom.
A few days later, on a cool and cloudless Midwestern spring afternoon, about five of my classmates and I stood in a circle in the gym parking lot, all of us in our St. Louis Priory Rebels track suits, before practice began. The subject of prom arose—including who’d be taking whom. And so, naturally, I name-dropped my “whom.”
“Melanie Marshall? Dude, my friend Ray buttfucked her on a trampoline in his backyard,” said my friend, R.J. The guys all laughed, but not me; I’d known R.J. for a long time, and he most certainly did not spread false rumors about matters of buttfuckery. Tom Obermeyer, our football team’s starting running back—and one of the more sexually advanced kids in my class—punched me in the shoulder.
“Schumacker’s getting’ laid!” he said. The other guys in the circle giggled at the absurdity of the idea. In certain circles of St. Louis, especially its private Catholic schools, there were no secrets. Everyone’s sexual history was available information, and it was public knowledge that I was inexperienced. At first, I raised my hands to stave off the idea that I, respectable, virginal Patrick, would be deflowered by a girl who, in my already exacerbated imagination, had managed to combine sodomy and a Cirque du Soleil performance in a friend of a friend’s backyard. “We’ll see,” was the knee-jerk non-committal response I came up with, but my face, which had turned bright red, gave away what I was thinking. Tom’s optimism was contagious. Oh, what the hell? I thought. Melanie Marshall is a total nympho. My penis is a made man now.
When prom night finally arrived, Arjun picked me up in his mom’s brand new navy blue C280 Mercedes. After posing by the car for the painful, obligatory photos in our ill-fitting rental tuxes from Castelli’s in the mall, looking like some bad poster for a straight-to-video action movie about valets, we left to pick up our dates with my mom’s voice trailing off as she reminded me for the last time to call if we’re going to be drinking.
I felt empowered rolling up to Melanie’s house in Dr. Patel’s Mercedes, and managed to maintain my cool when Melanie appeared, a darker shade of orange, with an up-do and a charcoal grey halter dress. She was the most attractive date I’d ever had, and as I gave her the corsage, still cold from the fridge, I hoped she’d tug my lapels and say, “Forget tradition. Do me right here, right now,” but instead, she pinned a boutonniere on my jacket with some help from her mom. And within minutes, we were off to the big dance.
Priory’s prom, as was the long-running tradition of a school with British roots, happened at the Cheshire Inn, a kitschy themed throwback to English bed and breakfasts that took its authenticity to unnecessary heights, like requiring guests to drive on the left side of the carport to park in the hotel’s subterranean garage. Also, as is English tradition, the food was horrendous. But my classmates and I danced our Drakkar Noir-drenched bodies off to the big hits from nineties acts that have all but disappeared: Blackstreet, En Vogue, Third Eye Blind. As long as we “left enough room between us for the Holy Spirit” (the approximate measure of which, catholic legend dictated, was the width of a Bible) the chaperones stayed lurking in the corners of the room, out of sight and out of mind.
“Are you having fun?” I asked Melanie, while we slow danced to the Verve Pipe’s seminal ballad “The Freshmen,” the chorus of which everyone found super profound. If there were a slow jam called “Junior Prom (You Only Get One),” we might have been reduced to preemptively wistful tears.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Melanie responded, with a glint in her eyes, which lingered on me for long enough to embarrass me into averting my gaze. And then I caught sight of her reaching down, removing a flask from her garter, and taking a covert sip, before placing it back in its secret hiding place and placing her arms around my shoulders. “Whoo hoo!” she said under her breath. This was the first time I’d seen the flask. But it was suddenly very apparent that this wasn’t Melanie’s first swig from it tonight.
“So… how much have you had to drink?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she responded, swaying her hips and pulling me closer, which was, to say the least, exciting. At the first sign of an unseemly erection, I suppressed it involuntarily with thoughts of an impossible domino effect of humiliation triggered by my ever growing penis, which would force the fasteners of my adjustable tuxedo pants to disengage, the pants themselves dropping to expose my boxer shorts, followed by my fully erect, yet still unimpressive manhood poking through my boxer shorts, giving way to the coup de grace: a loud shotgun blast as my urethra released a tiny flagstaff, dropping a banner reading: “Virgin.” I managed to stave off a blood rush down there by returning to those thoughts for the rest of our time at the Cheshire.
At the end of the dance, I walked out into the hot, sticky evening, which was still about thirty-degrees cooler than the inside of my rental tuxedo (god only knows how I got my deposit back). At this point, Arjun was still sober enough to back his mother’s Mercedes out of the narrow concrete garage and remember to drive on the left side of the jolly old lane of the Inn until we were off the property and back in Missouri.
We went straight to the after-party (this time I didn’t have to drop anyone off), which took place at my friend and classmate Paul’s apartment, where he lived by himself. Paul was Filipino, and his parents lived in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, which is famous for two things: being the birthplace of Rush Limbaugh and racism. So Paul’s parents sent him and his younger sister to schools in the much more cosmopolitan (read: somewhat racially tolerant) oasis of St. Louis. Paul’s parents hardly ever came up from Cape Girardeau, and so his two-bedroom apartment in the St. Louis suburbs had become the hottest destination among my classmates for un-chaperoned parties. I learned a lot of things at Paul’s apartment: how much ice it takes to convert a washing machine basin into a makeshift beer cooler, how many cigars I could smoke before feeling sick, and how many horny teenagers from single-sex catholic schools can fit into a two-bedroom apartment (answer: about seventy).
I changed into a comfy sweater and loose-fit Gap jeans (perfectly fitted to my birthing hips), and wadded up my tuxedo and shoved it in the trunk of the car. Melanie changed into a skimpy tee, short shorts and sandals, which managed to reveal the parts of her that the dress had been covering. Now in our party clothes, Melanie and I stood out on the balcony with about ten other teenagers, most of whom were smokers. I held Melanie’s Bud Light as she fired up a Marlboro Menthol. In the glow of the lighter, her eyes looked droopy. She ran her hand over my chest and grabbed the bottom of the “V” on the neck of my sweater. “You’re cute,” she giggled. “Hey, have you ever smoked pot laced with cocaine? It’s pretty rad.” I had not seen pot or cocaine at this point in my life, let alone combine the two. Why wasn’t pot enough by itself, or cocaine for that matter? Why was Melanie constantly combining things? Why couldn’t she have just jumped on the trampoline with this Ray fellow? Why did she also have to get buttfucked? At this point, I knew, without a doubt, that I was out of my league. More importantly, I knew Melanie was shit house drunk, and my goal to get laid that night completely shifted. I was a child of divorce, whose parents were always out of town on business, and my grandmother had raised me. The latent maternal qualities I picked up from her were now coming out in full force, when presented with a drunk, vulnerable girl—albeit a known sexual deviant like Melanie. In no way would I lay a finger on this girl. Because, no matter how much it seemed like she wanted to get frisky, it was undoubtedly the alcohol talking. In no way was she actually interested in me. That was preposterous. Also, I would spend the rest of my life knowing that I allowed a girl to do, y’know, things while under the influence. And my young, naïve self was still catholic enough to envision the remote possibility that, if Melanie and I were to go off into a room and do those, y’know, things, that afterwards, I’d open the door to find Jesus wagging his finger in condemnation. And so I took a time out. “I’m going to run to the bathroom,” I muttered, removing Melanie’s hand from the ass cheek of my jeans. “Stay here. Don’t move.”
“Oh I won’t,” Melanie said, leaning on the railing to maintain her balance.
I came back from the bathroom to find Melanie locked in an embrace with my classmate, Chris McKnight, who was using his tongue to bat around the uvula in the back of Melanie’s throat. Chris spotted me fuming, and pulled away. “I’m so sorry, Pat.” Chris thought that I had somehow laid claim to her, and I was pissed at how convincing a performance it was, but knew there was no remorse. Nonetheless, Chris stayed away from her for the rest of the night. And a little part of me died, and took with it my feeling of devout responsibility for the girl.
That lasted all of five minutes, ending with the sight of Melanie passed out in my best friend Samir’s lap, on the carpeted, alcohol-stained staircase. Samir was leering at her through thick beer goggles, while caressing her head. I stormed over to him. “If you so much as touch a hair on her head, our friendship is over,” I said. Samir raised his head up like it weighed fifty pounds. “What?” he asked. His eyes were rolling back into his head.
“Over,” I responded. “Friendship done.”
“Okay. But I think she wants to make out.”
“I think she doesn’t know what she wants because she’s not awake.”
“Fine. But just know I’m only doing this because I value our friendship. Don’t say I never did anything for you,” Samir slurred, right before nearly passing out and smacking his head against the wall.
I helped Melanie to the couch, where she stayed passed out for a good hour. With dozens of kids stumbling around her, spilling beer and tortilla chips, I pulled Arjun aside and told him I thought it was time to go. Knowing that nothing would happen between him and Claire (who, it was plain to see, was not “the one”), Arjun agreed to head out. So the four of us left, but only three on foot: I carried Melanie’s limp body over the threshold of the door like a newlywed groom carrying his bride, and put her in the back seat of the Mercedes, and got behind the wheel for the first time.
We dropped off Claire at her place. Melanie’s house was next, but she was still out cold. And as much as the thought crossed my mind thanks to countless viewings of Animal House that wore out my VHS copy, I didn’t have the balls to throw her in a shopping cart on the porch and ding dong ditch her mom’s front door like Dean Wormer’s daughter. And the thought of bringing her to my house never even crossed my mind, it was so remote. So when Arjun suggested we take her to his place, that seemed like the safest, most responsible thing to do.
As I drove along Ballas Road, a dimly lit, tree-lined parkway, Melanie began to wake up, but not in a good way. She started whimpering. “Ssss-s-s-so c-c-cold,” she whispered, like some World War II hero martyred by an excruciating shot to the gut. I panicked, driving faster and tearing off my sweater, while throwing it in the back at her. Arjun was nearly passed out himself. And then Melanie started to cry. “I’m gonna throw up,” she wailed, and I slammed on the Mercedes’s brakes – much more effective than my ’92 Camry’s. Arjun jumped out and grabbed Melanie, bringing her over to a patch of trees, where she started to wretch. I thought she had alcohol poisoning, and freaked. “What should we do?” I yelled to Arjun.
“Go get help!”
“Get Obermeyer! He’ll know what to do.” Melanie threw up again on the ground near Arjun’s shoes. I panicked, and flew down Ballas Road, back to Paul’s apartment, where I was sure Tom would still be partying. I ran up the wooden steps of the apartment complex to find my classmate, Matt Gould, looking like a limp Crash Test Dummy, sitting, legs spread, against the door of Paul’s place. He had an economy-sized Hefty garbage bag over his head, and the bottom of the bag sat on the ground, as it was weighed down by about a half gallon of Matt’s regurgitated Steak N’ Shake. I pounded on the door, and Matt groaned. Tom Obermeyer was nowhere to be found. No one was left at the party, and Paul had gone to bed.
I raced back into Dr. Patel’s Mercedes and then back onto Ballas Road, then realized very soon that the three mile stretch of it back to the general vicinity of Arjun and Melanie all looked the same. Surely, I had lost them, and this was 1997 – I didn’t have a cell phone yet. It took me a good twenty minutes – which seemed like hours – to find them and get them back in the car. Melanie looked worse for the wear, her makeup smudged, up-do falling, and the rest of her swimming in my oversized V-neck sweater she’d been tugging at seductively hours ago.
I drove in silence back to Arjun’s house. The clock in his hallway read 4am when we snuck into the hallway leading to his room and a guest room. I called my mother to tell her we would be sleeping at Arjun’s. “As long as you’re safe,” she responded. Afterwards, Arjun told me I could sleep in the guest bedroom, and Melanie could sleep on his floor. And so we did.
The next morning, I drove an expressionless, silent Melanie back to her mother’s house, where she left my car without so much as a “thank you” for the evening. I spent the rest of the weekend satisfied that I’d at least protected her honor.
The following Monday, in my Statistics class, our teacher, Mr. Magee, sauntered out of the room to find more chalk, and Arjun leaned over to me. “So… I have to tell you something.”
“About Saturday night. And Melanie,” Arjun said.
“Oh Jesus, what did you do?”
“Well, we sorta fooled around.”
“What sort of fooling around?” I asked.
“She sort of blew me.”
I turned completely red. How could I have been so stupid, to agree to let her stay in his room? “You fucking asshole.”
“I know. I’m sorry. But aren’t you glad I’m telling you?”
“Sorry,” Arjun said as he rifled through his Abercrombie & Fitch backpack.
“Was she awake when this happened?”
“Of course,” said Arjun. “We started making out when you let us out of the car…”
“She was puking her guts out.”
“Yeah, it was pretty gross. But I brushed her teeth when we got back to my place.” Of all the thoughts running through my head, the one I kept stopping on was Melanie being too incapacitated to brush her teeth, but Arjun being lucid enough to know that he’d prefer minty fresh oral sex. “With your toothbrush?” was all I could ask.
“No, of course not. I used my finger,” Arjun said, as he removed a green plastic Motorola pager and placed it on my desk. By the way, she left this in my bedroom. I thought you could drop it off at her place since you live closer. It’ll be less awkward, cause I haven’t talked to her or anything and, well, she did blow me.”
The following year, for my senior prom, I took Rebecca Little and dropped her off at home before going to the after party.