My collar was too tight. It was my brother’s old dress shirt, and he was a lot smaller than me. I tried to not make it obvious I was uncomfortable, and I didn’t want her to notice if I had a red mark from the collar or not. Of course Brian’s dad got us a limousine to arrive in. It was Brian and Stacy, Nick and Gina, and me and Hannah.
I didn’t really know Hannah. I wanted to ask somebody I could brag about to my friends, especially since it was my last prom. I had a crush on her my whole life. Hannah was one of those girls that when you tried to talk to her, you would start stuttering or just trail off. She strips you down of your façade. I hadn’t talked to her since sophomore year. We didn’t share any classes so I had to ask her between 2nd and 3rd period when she was with all of her friends. Her friends giggled, she smiled at them, and then said yes.
Before the dance we ate dinner at Brian’s parents’ house. They got us lobster, which I had never eaten. Brian’s dad had to break the shell off for me, which made Hannah laugh. I told her I’m not a sophisticated man, and she laughed again. Pictures lasted for what felt like hours. Towards the end I just stopped smiling. Hannah did too, but she still looked good.
She always looked good.
After the limo dropped us off, everyone stared at us. I told Brian the limousine was overkill. Prom was always in the freshman gym. The main one is too big and would be really awkward. No one wants to actually realize people can see them when they’re dancing. I got Hannah and I some punch and we stood to the side. Hannah’s friends waved to her, and I thought she was going to go with them. She just waved back and stayed next to me. I wasn’t good at a lot of things, and small talk was one of these things. The post-punch silence was deafening. Hannah set down her cup, grabbed my hand, and dragged me to the dance floor.
She looked back at me.
The moment stopped.
Her hair flew around her head, hitting the back of her other shoulder. She managed to smile flawlessly while making it look effortless. The way she looked at me made feel like she actually cared. People float around in life acting like they do, but it’s all just formalities. I looked in her eyes, and remembered why I had been in love with her since the first time I saw her.
Hannah, she tore off my skin and looked at me, and accepted me for who I was.
I didn’t see Brian or anyone else the rest of the night. Hannah and I just danced and talked, and drank almost half of the punch bowl by ourselves. I would not let the night end, because that would mean everything goes back to how it was; Hannah talking to her friends, and me walking by, looking down. I didn’t want to be an outsider again. I didn’t want to blend in with everyone else. I was afraid Hannah would just look through me again.
At 11 the DJ yelled last song. Hannah and I decided to walk home. When we reached the front of her house there weren’t any lights on. I thanked her for coming, and she thanked me for asking. As she walked away she yelled back her number. 878-5669.
I imprinted it in my head. She told me I better call her. I asked if she meant it or was just being friendly. She asked why she would tell me if she didn’t mean it. So again I asked if I should really call her, and she laughed and said yes.
And so I did.
more by TYLER CLIFTON
photograph by Dave Meier