Oh, Meagan and that lavender dress (2/2018)
The gymnasium had been transformed into a wonderland. The rickety wooden stands were pushed into the wall, and tables with white tablecloths and tall vases of daisies surrounded a dance area in the center of the gym. Black and silver balloons and streamers were everywhere. Everything seemed covered in silver glitter. It was the Spring Dance at my school.
Our teachers made us come. All of us. You could only get out of it if you had a doctor’s note. And they told us that the boys couldn’t invite the girls and the girls couldn’t invite the boys. Everyone had to come alone. It was only because of the rules that I came; hours of boredom (at best) or public humiliation (at worst) aren’t my thing.
The music blared over the speaker system. The punch bowl was full of some sort of pink goo. I expected to have a headache and stomachache before the night was over.
I leaned against the south wall of the gym, along with several other guys. Why do teachers and principals think that this kind of experience is necessary? They seem to think living through two hours of humiliation is some kind of rite of passage. Those of us along the wall weren’t about to ask a girl to dance, and no girl was going to ask us.
Jane, Mary, Ashley, and Crystal were in the center of the dance floor. They were the seniors on the cheerleading squad. Dancing with them were Mark, Tom, Derek, and Bobby, four seniors on the football team. Wasn’t it always this way? Isn’t it always going to be this way, for all time?
Others coupled up and danced. For fast dances, the dance floor was busy. For slow dances, people scattered like cockroaches do when a light switch is flicked on. A few couples, like Amy and Pete and Zoe and Steve stayed out and held each other close while slowly turning in circles. Mrs. Baldwin and the teachers watched like hawks, making sure no boy’s hand dipped too low.
I was standing there, moping, when I saw her. Meagan Rogers. She appeared in the doorway under the scoreboard and just stood there, looking in. After standing there for a full minute, she took a deep breath and entered the gym. It was when I saw her inhale that I fell in love with her.
She was wearing a lavender dress. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that lavender dress, Meagan in that lavender dress. It wasn’t fancy, but it was gorgeous. It revealed her toned legs and her glowing shoulders.
As amazing as the dress was, Meagan was more amazing. Amazingly more amazing. Her auburn hair was tied up in the back, spotlighting her glorious smile and her deep dimples that compelled you to smile.
I walked over to where she was standing. To this day, I don’t know where I got the courage.
“Hey,” we each said, me first. Off to a great start. Not. I started to perspire, which was almost impossible given how cold the gym was. I think one of the more experienced teachers was thoughtful enough to turn the thermostat down to help us flailing losers. Even with the help, I was about to puddle up.
“You look really nice,” a voice from my body said. No idea where it came from. “Really nice.” I swallowed hard.
“Thank you,” she said and smiled. Her teeth were white and straight and perfect. “Have you been here long?”
My mom had insisted I arrive right on time, and I had been bored out of my mind from exactly 8:00PM until the second Meagan walked in wearing that lavender dress. In fact, I had been trying to calculate the earliest possible moment I could leave without the teachers complaining or stopping me. “No, not long,” I said.
We stood there wrapped by an awkward silence. I willed myself to squelch my inner dweeb. “You really look pretty,” I said lamely.
“You said that already,” she said. She smiled and I knew she was teasing.
I stared at my feet. Thank God my shoes weren’t untied. My fly was zipped, too–I checked. I stood there, dry-mouthed.
Finally she said, “Why don’t you ever talk to me?”
“I’m talking to you now. I’ve talked to you so much I’ve already started repeating myself. You said so yourself.”
She smiled again, and again I noticed how perfect her teeth were.
“Is your dad a dentist?”
She looked at me with a puzzled look on her face.
“Never mind,” I said.
“I’m serious,” she said. “How come you never talked to me in school?”
At that moment, I wished I wasn’t so observant. I wished I hadn’t noticed that she’d said ‘talked’–past tense–not ‘talk.’
I could see that she could tell I’d noticed her phrasing. But she didn’t say anything for a long time. Then, she said, “I would have liked it if you had talked to me.”
I swallowed hard again. I thought but didn’t say: Look at you. Now look at me.
“My dad is in the Navy,” Meagan said. “We move to a new town every year or so.” She looked so sad when she said it.
I had always wondered why a girl so pretty and so nice seemed to be such a loner. Now I understood why. Maybe for a different reason, but she was an outsider like me.
“Are you…moving?” I asked lamely.
“We leave tomorrow morning,” she said. She stepped forward, toward me, and kissed me on the cheek. “I would have liked it,” she repeated, and turned and walked away, all the way out of the building.
I wish all I suffered that night was a din-induced headache or a pink goo-induced stomachache. But an angel named Meagan Rogers wearing a lovely lavender dress kissed me on my right cheek that night. All these years later, I can still feel the heat where her lips pressed against my skin. And my heart aches.