“Your father and I talked about it and I’m not going to pretend we were too keen on the idea to start with, but I think we’ve both realized that you’ve grown up and what ever might happen away for the weekend could happen here at home,” she said. “Or I guess I should probably say has already happened.”
“Oh, c’mon mom ..”
“I’m sorry, but this is a big step for me.”
“I’m the one who’s going,” I said.
“I know, but I’m the one who has to sit at home and worry about you.”
“When are you going to stop worrying about me?”
She squeezed my hand. “As shoon as I have some grand kids to worry about.”
“I guess I’ll have to put up with it for a while longer then, huh?
“I certainly hope so.”
I sat in yearbook class and waited for the teacher, Mrs. Milchu, to finish bawling out the class. She was always complaining about something: we were either goofing around too much, or missing deadlines, or getting caught wandering around in the hallways. No matter what it was, Mrs. Milchu always made a big deal about it.
“Just before this class has a little more freedom than some of your other classes,” she said, “does not mean you have permission to be out of the room taking care of your own personal business! And I don’t give a …”
I tapped my friend Cari on the shoulder, “This is where she swears,” I whispered.
“… shit what the excuse is. This is a class, and you get a grade just like any other class and the next time any of you leave without Asking, I am going to drop you with an ‘F.””
I hated how she paused for dramatic effect before she swore. If she wanted to be “cool” and “hip” and talk to us on our own level, she should just let it come naturally.
“Now,” she said, “I need someone who’s going to prom to take a few pictures for the paper.” Mrs. Milchu was also the adviser for the school paper. She looked around the class. No one volunteered.
“Why doesn’t someone from the paper just do it?” someone asked.
“I only have two seniors in that class and neither of them are going.”
Still no one volunteered.
“Alex,” she said.
I stopped talking to Carl and looked at her, “Yeah?”
“You used to be on the paper. Why don’t you do it for old time’s sake?”
“Sorry, I can’t?”
“’Cause I’m not going to prom,” I said.
“Isn’t that guy you’re seeing taking you?” Mrs Milchu knew everything about everyone in her class.
“You mean John?”
“Yes, aren’t you going with him?”
“No, he says he’s too old for high school dances.”
“Can’t you talk him into it. It’s not just any dance.”
“Even if I could, which I can’t, it wouldn’t matter because we’re going out to the desert that weekend,” I told her.
She raised her eyebrows and looked at me over the top of her glasses. “Oh,” she said, “Well, that will be convenient. You can do it under the stars instead of in the back seat of a car, huh?” She smiled and the whole class laughed.
Now that was rude. I didn’t care if my friends made little remarks about me going away with John, and I didn’t care if Mrs. Milchu swore so she could be like us. But she was not my friend, she wasn’t like us, and I was pissed.
I smiled sweetly. “You know, Mrs Milchu, I don’t think that’s any of your business.” I stopped smiling, gave her the evil-eye and turned back to Cari.
“What a bitch!” I said under my breath.
“I know.” Cari glanced over my shoulder at Mrs Milchu. “She is staring right at you, I think she’s mad.”
“So anyway,” Cari said, “you’re parents are really letting you go?”
“Yeah, isn’t it great?”
“It sounds fun,” she said. “But is it worth missing the prom?”
“I guess so. I mean, everyone says I’ll be sorry if I don’t go ’cause prom is something you remember forever. But I think I’ll remember prom weekend forever. At least it gets me out of taking those dumb pictures.
Cari smiled. “You should bring back pictures of you and John ‘under the stars’ for her stupid paper, that would shock the shit out of her!”
“It’d make the paper more interesting, too.” We laughed and looked over at Mrs. Milchu. She was still mad.
After much begging and pleading, Paula finally convinced her parents to let her go to the desert. So, while most of the senior class was still up dancing and partying, I was in bed getting ‘a good night’s rest’ for the next day. That was the first time I felt bad about not going to prom, but I tried to concentrate on the weekend how how much better than the prom it would be. I fell asleep still trying to convince myself.
The next morning I was up early to get things ready before John arrived. We got on the road just as the sun was coming up. I tried to get some sleep on the way, but John kept up a running lecture on desert life. So by the time we got there I felt like I was quite the expert.
Tony and Paula had left from home later than us and we were supposed to meet them at the campground. While we were waiting, John and I went into the canyon to do a little rock climbing. John chose a towering cliff that he said would be easy to climb without ropes. It looked extremely vertical to me, but since John was a seasoned climber, I decided to trust him.
The climb was easier than it looked. I started up the face of the rock using nooks and crannies to pull myself up. We were about halfway up when John called down to me to see how I was doing.
“I forgot to tell you,” he said, “try to use the same holds that I am. Sometimes rattlesnakes and scorpions like to hide in the crevices, so you have to be careful of where you put your hands.”
To be continued …