Saturday, April 26, 2014

Prom Night

This could be the longest one minute of her young life.

Sining sat in one corner, far from the glare of the chandelier light illuminating the entire room where only the faintest flash of light could reach her, slicing through the darkness every now and then before leaving that corner in pitch darkness yet again. For now, everybody’s attention is transfixed on the contilion de honor, where the chosen few – the tallest, fairest, and comeliest members of the class had the opportunity to participate – and the dance was the culmination of weeks of rehearsals which some even took to the extreme with weeks of dieting. It was the ritual reserved only for the most stunning and virile among the lot, the ones who radiate with the glow of youth and closely approach the fairy tale images of prince and princess which sadly she is not. In a moment, the music stops and this is where the things she dreads the most set in. She remembered what her father told her in the car, on their way to the dance. Sining at 16 is a ball of nervous energy threatening to explode.

This is just a phase, a rite of passage so don’t take it too seriously if others get all the attention it’s not because you deserve less. It is not a statement of how much you are worth or where you stand in the order of things. You all have a full life ahead, and no one knows where it will lead you. Years from now, you will just laugh it off especially if it turns out the expectations that you have for one another completely fall off the mark. It’s all superficial for now and physical attraction naturally gets a lot of praise and attention but as you move up in years, character takes over and changes the way you look at the world. In the meantime be what you are. Be your age. Just enjoy the dance. Have fun. If you act naturally and be kind to everyone, and put on a genuine smile, they will remember you as that simple girl who made the evening truly special.

She could almost remember every single word that his father said during the ride except that the element of encouragement in the manner he delivered his message had dissipated now, and Sining began to seriously have some doubt. After all those words came from a confessed wall-paper and high school geek himself – surprisingly, his father was even proud to admit that – so they offer little comfort. She felt worse than Cinderella did with seconds ticking away before midnight turns her from princess to pauper. Sining glanced at the buffet table and noticed that some girls have actually helped themselves to the food – honestly, that was the only reason they came here for. She promised not to be like them even as her stomach protested, making her remember she never had anything for lunch, for fear of not fitting into her gown. If only her father knew.

As soon as the cotillion stopped, there was a flurry of shoving and teasing as the boys go after the girls they like for the next dance, this time, unrehearsed and anything goes. Again as expected, there were beelines for the comeliest ladies while those who get passed up pretend as best they can not to care. The DJ caught everyone by surprise and brought the house down by putting on Psy’s K-Pop smash dance hit, right after the formal cotillion, drawing a collective nervous laughter from the very young crowd. The music had already started, transforming the crowd into a dancing suicidal mob when Sining heard a familiar voice, barely audible amidst the heart-pounding noise. “Shall we dance?” When Sining looked up, she saw Eugene, the gangling senior with a serious nutrition problem some class bullies have likened him to the life-size skeletal system model back in biology class when they were sophomores. For a brief moment in that dark corner of the room, she thought he was a creature from horror movies but immediately Sining smiled a wide smile and took his hand.

She could barely remember anything else after that. Eugene was very shy and unassuming but a true gentlemen and every other boy that took her to the floor after that was a similar model in decorum – grateful and happy enough just to be able to say that he was not be turned down. Sining never said no to anyone even as her foot ached and she even successfully yanked Jeremy off his seat – her gay classmate – for a shot at a slow sweet dance when “Blue Moon” played along.
That night, when the party ended, she found her father already asleep inside the car at the parking lot, the engine and airconditioner turned off because he's saving on gas. She had to tap hard on the windshield to awaken him. Three of her best friends who had no one to fetch them asked to share the ride, and her father said yes without a second thought even complimenting them, saying it was not everyday that she gets to have beautiful princesses for company. But when he found out they were hungry and never had a bite, he pretended to be mad and drove to the nearest restaurant still open at one o’clock in the morning. They were lucky to find one far away all the way up in Timog Avenue. There, all dressed up in their evening gowns and in full make up, she and her classmates gorged on their very late dinner like starving sailors while her father watched wondering what on earth is happening to the young ladies of today.

It was the best dance and dinner date she could ever possibly ask for.

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