Named some characters yesterday. I like naming, finding out what names were popular certain years, choosing names with meanings that are somehow significant to the character. All my characters were born in the ’60s. My main girl is Tracy. From the Greek meaning summer. From the French meaning path or road. Surname Stevens meaning loyalty and truth. Which is all very pertinent to the story . . . I think. I’ve still only a vague outline of what the story is, but it’s only a matter of time before it develops. I tried to write in Word, tried to write long-hand, but nothing happened. So I thought I’d come here, put on some ’80s tunes and see what happens . . . on Grey’s Anatomy they went to prom . . .
The woman who was supposed to make my prom dress had some sort of a nervous breakdown. That was the cool thing to do in 1987 at my school, to have your dress made rather than store bought. I remember pouring over magazine pictures, turning down the corners on pages with dresses I liked. The skirt from this one, the neck from that one, and so on. I came to the first measuring and design consultation with a bunch of mismatched photographs and some ideas in my head that I explained and she drew on paper until it looked like I imagined. The seamtress had a history of nervous breakdowns, but she seemed lucid enough at that meeting. By the end of the evening she had drawn my gown, taken all my measurements and sent me away with a list of materials to purchase so she could get started. I felt good about the encounter, excited about my dress. It was going to be everything I had hoped.
Looking back I think she may have been in the manic state before the depressive crash. Because as time passed nothing much seemed to happen with my dress. I’d go for measuring but have nothing to fit. Or so it seemed. A week before prom and I still didn’t have a dress, didn’t really have anything that I could see or try on. And the woman seemed stressed, sad, difficult to locate by times. I began to panic. Yet she somehow held herself together long enough to finish my dress just in time for prom, then promptly left her husband and checked herself into the hospital.
The dress was everything my heart desired, exactly as I had imagined. I was Scarlett O’Hara come to the ball! The skirt was so full I needed a hoop and two crinolins to fill it out. Sleek dresses were still a few years off. I felt like Cinderella in that get-up. Royal blue silk taffetta trimmed with yards of white lace, white roses edged in blue, big bow at my waist in back, beaded applique at my neck, lace faux gloves to my elbows . . . it was quite the spectacle. My date wore a white tux with bowtie and cumberbund made from the same royal blue material as my dress. Quite the spectacle indeed. Our prom theme was Never Say Goodbye by Bon Jovi. The band was called Cadillac Jack. They learned our theme song in the van ride over from Fredericton, so they only played it once, for the first dance, instead played Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship a kazillion times. I decided not to drink all evening until the party after prom. I wanted to be conscious, aware, I wanted to remember. It was the only dance I ever went to sober. This was uncomfortable at first, but we had a good time.
My prom date wasn’t my boyfriend. He’d been my boyfriend since the 8th grade, but we broke up before graduation. We were supposed to be doing all my grad stuff just as friends because my new boyfriend had been to jail and wasn’t supposed to be around the school, but we’d been together so long it was easy and comfortable to slip back in together, friends with benefits. After the first dance the principal found me and told me my boyfriend was in the parking lot, that he’d refused to leave until he saw me and the principal was going to call the police. I told him that wouldn’t be necessary, just to give me five minutes outside. I went to the parking lot and told him he needed to leave before he got me in trouble. He just wanted to see me in my dress, wasn’t there to cause trouble. Just wanted to take a picture. We had a deal though, he knew he was supposed to stay away for all the graduation stuff, that I had to go to things with my ex. He was actually one of the sweetest boys I ever dated. He had alcohol and drug problems in his teens, got in some trouble with the law, but he had a good heart, he was (still is) a decent person. He was very respectful of me, a real old-fashioned gentleman. That’s why I liked him so much . . . that and the fact that my parents forbid me to be anywhere near him, of course.
Anyway, the deal was that I couldn’t fully be his girlfriend until after graduation. In the meantime, I needed space. Both boys agreed to the terms. I saw nothing wrong with asking them to do this.
After the prom we went to my place to change out of fancy clothes and into something more comfortable for staying out drinking all night. Then we headed to the prom party at someone’s camp or house way back Pineville, someplace where I guess they figured we wouldn’t get in too much trouble. All the grads were drinking fuzzy navels– vodka, oj, peach schapps. I’d never really been a cocktail girl, beer and whiskey were pretty much my staples, still this was a special occasion . . . and the first dozen went down pretty smooth for sure.
It seems like I spent most of the night outside on the deck trying to avoid people–girls I didn’t get along with, boys I disliked, the new boyfriend who showed up with his car full of his friends. I worried that he’d get drunk and beat up my ex, despite the deal. I remember going inside and making my way through a crowded basement to the bathroom, seeing him sitting there with that drunk angry look in his eyes and knowing I had to keep them apart. That if he laid eyes on my ex all deals were off, but he’d stay inside and I could stay out. We left just after the sun came up, four couples I think, four separate cars. We were supposed to go someplace else, someplace up Doaktown, a camp or something for the day. I think we were supposed to take the Dungarvon Road and one guy knew the way through the woods, we were all supposed to follow. But everyone was too drunk and tired, we got separated, split off, some went home, some pulled over and slept in their cars.
We pulled over and talked, napped a little, but with the sun getting higher and hotter, sleeping in the car became unbearable so we went home. I don’t know if that was the morning Mom and Dad came home from the camp and I begged them to take me with them because I thought I’d die if they left me alone. I don’t think it was. I believe the night after prom we all got together again at another camp, more fuzzy navels, and I think this partying continued for many nights (but not grad night, i think we were one of the first grad classes at our school to have a safe grad) until the Saturday morning when I was so hung over and dehydrated and weak that all I could do was lie on the couch with a bucket by my side. Never have I been so sick from drinking, not before, not since. I was so thirsty but I couldn’t stand up, couldn’t get to the fridge. Mom and Dad came home from the camp and I was so happy to see them, begged them to take me with them, begged Dad to carry me to the car.
But they were having none of that. If I was foolish enough to drink that much then I could stay right there until I smartened up. Plus they didn’t want anyone at the camp to see me looking like I’d been on a tare. My hair was greasy and stringy. I stank from booze and cigarettes and puking. My skin was greyish pale and I was visibly trembling, eyes glossy, nose running. Just the kind of mess you’d expect from a week-long drunk with no sustenance other than fuzzy navels.
I was literally crying, begging them to take me with them, I just didn’t know what I’d do if I was left alone on the couch for days. And they wouldn’t be back for days. I hadn’t plans to hook up with anyone later. I wasn’t expecting my ex to come looking for me. If I couldn’t pull myself together, days or even a week might pass before anyone came to the house again. I didn’t think I’d ever be strong enough to get up for food or anything. I couldn’t stop puking. Finally Dad, or maybe it was Mom, one of them went against the other and said they’d take me with them but I had to get to the car on my own, nobody was going to baby me. And somehow I did get to the car, and I managed not to throw up on the drive even though I was having terrible car sickness and Dad wouldn’t stop smoking even though it was making me gag, and I got myself into the trailer and curled up on the couch where I shivered and shook and was really sick for the rest of that day and most of the next. I suspect alcohol poisoning, or the closest I’ve ever come to it.
The mother of all hang-overs. It was a good ten years at least before I could look at anything peach or orange flavoured again. And I still could never drink a fuzzy navel, maybe if my life depended on it, but it’d be damn hard to keep down.
Was reminded of all this as I watched the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy last night. Prom. I’m glad I stayed sober for the actual event. Too bad I made up for it later.
Listening To: Coming Undone, Korn
Hair: rapidly embracing the idea of a blonde summer