This boy with a septum ring and I were walking towards our high school’s entrance. The boy’s name was Cole, but for whatever reason now he wanted to be called Phil so my friends and I dubbed him PhilCole, sorta like Justin Bobby from the Hills. Awkwardly, as all of my self conscious teen romantic encounters were, PhilCole said to me, “Well, now that I have you cornered, I want to ask you something.” Embarrassment shot from my scalp through my fingertips because I knew what he was going to say. It’s not like I didn’t like PhilCole, I just didn’t like like him. My friendship with him was a huge disappointment and I didn’t want to kiss him anymore. I had a crush on him before I met him because he was the only indie boy at my suburban high school. He wore flannels, listened to Bright Eyes and actually hung out in Portland unlike my classmates who never left the suburbs. His Myspace tagline was Shit twice a day, it’s good for you. Unfortunately, once I got to know him I lost all attraction, he was boring and had bad breath. Anyways, he said, “Well, since we both have nobody else to go with, I wanted to ask you to prom”. Even though I wanted to say no, I said yes. I mean, it was nice enough to be asked at all.
Looking back on my high school self I feel a twinge of sadness for my lack of self worth. It’s painful thinking about how little it took for me to go along with a boy, even if I wanted to say no or didn’t like him. I would fake laughter at their unfunny jokes, agree reluctantly when they told me I wasn’t as smart as them and lie to my friends and family when they wanted to hang out all because I couldn’t believe anyone at all would ever be interested in me. I’ve always been romantic, and as a teen I just wanted to latch onto some support and love from wherever I could get it, even if that meant I’d have to really stretch myself to make it seem like I was having a good time. I was inexperienced, insecure and looking for someone to love me for all eternity. I knew in my heart that PhilCole was not the one, but maybe, just maybe I could make him fit.
The theme of my junior prom was the Roaring 20’s and I barrel rolled my hair and wore a fringy black flapper dress. I was incredibly embarrassed in fear of showing too much school spirit and spent the rest of the night wishing I wore just about anything else. Besides PhilCole, I went with my two best friends: Sam and Annie. Sam brought Jay, an older guy who now seven years later still masturbates to her photos, and Annie brought Ian, who was on prom court.
We each paid $50 to ride a party bus with our acquaintances from theater. It was overstuffed with
our thespian peers and their dates. We were old enough to want to experience the debauchery of a party bus, but too innocent to know what to do when we got on it. Like a group of school bus virgins, we sat down politely the whole ride.
The dance itself was mostly forgettable. I don’t even know if I slow danced with PhilCole, I’m guessing I avoided him. I got into an argument with my friend Minna over something I don’t remember anymore. For a majority of the dance we watched the preps grind on each other and made fun of them from afar.
After a couple of hours at the dance we filed back onto the party bus to make our way back to the suburbs. I remember texting Chase, a football player who asked that our relationship remain a secret. He told me his dad had a stroke that night and I cried. Minna thought I was crying because I was mad at her, but I was already over it. I was too busy dealing with the fragility of life on the night when we are supposed to feel immortal. The party bus arrived back in Tualatin and we all went our separate ways. Annie and I slept over at Sam’s.
Me and PhilCole didn’t talk much after prom. Occasionally now almost 10 years later I spot him on the bus or on the street and ignore him. He poked me on Facebook about a year ago and I did not poke him back.