The Woman at the Top of the Stairs (a Senior Prom memory)

by Elison Alcovendaz

I've you've eaten at a restaurant over the last month or so, you know it's prom time. Kids in tuxedos and dresses that don't fit, girls in mom's overly gaudy jewelry, cheap limousines without the bubbly, and the hormones. Prom seems so important when you're in high school, the pinnacle of your social life, a chance for magic to happen… or in my case, whatever the exact opposite of magic is. 

Memories of my high school dances play like a blooper reel. There was the Helmet/Coconut Shell Haircut Incident of Homecoming Freshman Year. Then there was the Trying to Kiss Your Date Goodnight but Since You Have a Toothpick in Your Mouth Because You're Trying to Be Cool You Poke Her in the Face Instead Event of Homecoming Junior Year. And then, of course, the infamous The Woman at the Top of the Stairs Fiasco of Senior Prom.

I was a shy kid in high school. People closest to me might not tell you that, but deep down inside, I was. For most of my high school years, I had a crush on a girl named Jordanna. I'd met her on some pre-Freshman year field trip those of us trying to get into a special academic program took to a ropes course. I hate ropes courses. I embarrassed myself trying to climb this gigantic ladder where the rungs were ten feet apart (I was stuck on the first rung for twenty minutes while my partner, a five foot two girl with no seeming athletic ability was already at the top) so instead of making myself seem more uncool, I claimed motion sickness (because, yeah, that made sense) and sat on my ass the rest of the trip. Jordanna was the only one who came up to me to ask if I was okay. She didn't say anything else, but I was fourteen and any girl talking to me was like WHOA.

Anyhow, over most of the four years of high school, people tried to get Jordanna and me to go to dances together. For some reason, I was always too scared to ask her. Mutual friends told me to ask her, promising she'd say yes, but I was pretty sure they were playing tricks and so I never did. Until Senior Prom, that is. It was after school on a typical day, the parking lot crowded with juniors and seniors in their hand me down or brand new cars (nothing really in between), and I was driving home with one of my best friends, Marco, in the passenger seat. As we're leaving the parking lot, Marco sees Jordanna throwing some stuff in her trunk. "El!" he says. "Go ask her!" I'd already convinced myself I would, and so I turned the steering wheel (with Marco's help, who probably saw my hesitation and thus yanked the wheel to the right) and immediately drove straight into a Mercedes Benz.

The crunch of metal to metal reverberated all around me, which is interesting since it was a minor accident with no scratches to the other car. But I didn't know that at first. All I noticed were about fifty of my classmates running over, surrounding both of the vehicles. Apparently, I'd driven the wrong way on a one-way section of the parking lot. "Dude," Marco says. "Get out of the car." But I can't. Jordanna is at the far end of the parking lot, looking in this direction, and I'm pretty sure she can't see it's me. But there's the lady getting out of her car. My first thought is she looks like a lawyer in her black business suit and diamonds in her ears and she's going to sue me when the next thing I know, she's walking towards the car, yelling at me to get out, and Marco keeps telling me to get out, but he's laughing now, and the woman is getting closer, and the classmates all around me are laughing now, too, and the woman is finally at my window, so I roll it down about a quarter of the way and see her red, angry face staring at me, when finally, she says:

"Elison?"

I've never seen the woman before, but turns out she's one of my basketball teammates' moms. She must see my face because she laughs, then, tells me not to worry about it, she won't tell my mother (who she apparently talks to in the stands at the games), there's really no damage to her car, though there might be a little to mine. I say thank you and roll the window back up. The crowd disperses and there's Jordanna, still near her car but staring in this direction, laughing and shaking her head. When I call her later that night to ask her to Prom, she says someone already asked her about half an hour before I called. I want to say, "But did he get into an accident for you?" but instead I say okay, make some chit chat about homework, and hang up the phone.

It's a few weeks before prom and I don't have a date. A good friend said she has a good friend who really wants to come to our prom and could I take her as a blind date? The idea of taking a blind date to prom seemed like a bad idea, especially since the first blind date I had (from an AOL chat room, yikes) ended up being some girl who really just wanted someone to take her to IHOP and pay for a short stack of pancakes. So I asked my friend if I could meet her friend first and she said sure, so we set up a "meet" at Downtown Plaza.

Everything went well at first. She was cute (whew), we tried on stupid hats at the stupid hat store, ate some food, joked, and so yeah, things were going pretty well… until I saw my classmates on the second floor. Now these two classmates were two people I NEVER spoke with. Not even a word. Not even a head nod. But they were cool and popular and, wanting to appear cool and popular myself, I waved, yelled "Hey!", and proceeded to run up the down escalator because you know, if I could do that, I'd be really cool. Or something. 

I was still waving as I ran and I was almost to the top, maybe three steps away, when I slipped and fell flat on my face. There were many things I could've done in this situation, but I chose to play it off by lying down on the escalator the whole way down, where it deposited me back to where I started, at the foot of my friend, my cousin, and my would-be date, who, to her credit, rushed to me to help instead of running away. 

I had a big cut on my leg (it bled for almost an hour straight), but somehow I still convinced her that a date with me would at least be silly and adventurous, if nothing else. So we went to prom together. The prom itself was as good as I could've planned it - we took a horse carriage in, were the first ones on the dance floor, took funny pictures, and generally had a good time (at least I thought - we never spoke again) - but after getting lost for hours trying to find a house party, we ended up back at my house. I'd already spoken to my parents and my mother agreed that it would be safer for us to be there than to be anywhere else. So the girls slept downstairs in the guest room and the guys slept upstairs in my room.

We thought we were slick. We didn't expect anything to happen, but we knew we had to at least try. So we waited until the house was quiet and slowly opened the door. My room sat at the far end of the hallway, so we had to pass my brother's room, the den, and my parents' room to get downstairs. We tiptoed down the hallway, safely passing all rooms, until I heard a sound. We stopped. There was the sound again. I looked down and there, right at the top of the stairs, blocking the path, was my mother, sleeping (although I'm pretty sure she wasn't sleeping) with a blanket and a couple pillows. 

"Are you kidding me?" my friend asked.

If you know my mom, you know the answer to that question. 

We briefly assessed whether we could step over her, jump down, make a rope real quick, but nothing we could think of would've worked. So we went back to our room, dejected. After a few days, Senior Prom became a memory, but now that I think about it, even if it wasn't very magical, I should probably thank my mother. 

While I'm at it, any good prom stories out there?