I felt awkward in a suit. She felt awkward in a dress. We both felt awkward at a dance with other kids our age. She said I looked handsome. I didn’t believe her. I said she looked beautiful. She didn’t believe me.
The better half of prom we spent making revolving, pointless inside jokes with friends we had managed to grab a table with while everyone else wandered to and from either the line for food in heated trays or the large tiled dance floor. Friends of mine would come up and squeeze my shoulder and tell me to dance, motion to her, roll their eyes as we both laughed at the idea of either of us dancing.
Her hand felt soft and fragile in mine, her fingers tracing lines across the rough surface of my palm like a wet brush on dry paint. Our seats came closer. Our knees touched. I laced her fingers with mine. We built our cliche, like a well rehearsed, universally shared dream moment of intimacy. The music, the voices, the prodding finger in my ribs from the friend seated next to me, it all became the distant echoing heard inside a seashell.
Eyes close. Lips meet. Hands clench. Skin ablaze in a rapidly spreading and cooling wave of some warm, almost sickening feeling that we make the youthful mistake of thinking is unique.
Again. My hand cups the side of her face, hers sets itself cautiously on my thigh. I feel the slight smearing of lipstick as we hold the kiss for a few moments longer than the last, barely noticeable, only knowable through contact, through feeling one another’s breath wash across our cheeks.
We press our foreheads together, another romantic gesture of ceremony neither of us questions. In the darkness of our far corner, I feel a few strands of her crimson hair fall and brush my nose. We both laugh.
Our breathing is almost shuddering as we continue to laugh an intimate laugh, one of either disbelief or total relief, as if some great ordeal had finally ended, or some difficult task finally overcome.