It’s that time of the year again. Flowers are blooming, the air is warming up, and teenagers are getting ready for what could be one of the most important nights of their young lives. That’s right, I’m talking about prom night. It’s the premiere social event for teenagers – usually the precursor to their final hurrahs as high school students. A night where said students come together, dance, laugh, and even get into a little debauchery along the way. Some have the full prom experience, some don’t. I guess I wasn’t supposed to, but the prom experience came after me.
I skipped my junior prom simply because I didn’t want to go, even though some of my friends really wanted me to. But looking back, I’m actually glad I saved it all for my senior prom.
One of the biggest differences between my eleventh and twelfth grade years was the simple fact I had a guaranteed date for my senior prom. My old friend, Serena, was coming up from Raleigh, North Carolina to be my prom date. Serena and I go way back. I met this bold girl during summer camp in 1994. For some reason, we just had an instant rapport. Being kids, we didn’t need to have a lot in common to get along. But we did have a similar passion for professional wrestling.
Though we were young, we had a unique perception for the wrestling business; enjoying it differently than most people our age. Serena was the first person who exposed me to Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). In a lot of ways, Serena helped open my eyes to other wrestling outside of WWF (WWE) and WCW … and love.
The fact is I really liked Serena and she liked me. Those feelings were evident, and our friendship turned into puppy, schoolyard love. Serena came back for the next two summers. The ‘96 summer camp experience ended abruptly for me because of situations beyond my control, and thus my time with Serena.
Three years passed, with the only communication between us occurring over e-mail. I’d gone through three schools during that time, and was finally in high school. Like most people, high school was a huge culture shock for me. It took me a while to somewhat get adjusted.
Ninth grade came and went. Outside of the typical trauma, stress, and new friends that comes with being a high school freshman, there was nothing particularly special about my first year. I expected much of the same in the tenth grade. On the first day, during my walk to geometry class, I felt someone bump into really hard. I naturally apologized, only to see the person responsible smiling at me. To my surprise, there stood Serena.
I’m not going to lie – I was mighty impressed by what I saw. Serena had really grown up and filled out in those four years since we had last seen each other. She gave me a tight hug and told me that she was living with her grandparents as her father took some kind of ever-moving job for a few months. She really didn’t know how long she’d be around, apologizing for not telling me.
In typical Serena fashion, she laughed before telling me, “Always gotta keep you on your toes.”
In reality, Serena and I weren’t good for each other at the time. I had study hall between my first and third classes on every other day. So instead of studying geometry after class, I’d skip study hall and sneak around campus with Serena. We’d just walk and talk about the most random stuff, doing everything in our power to make the other laugh and forget about the inevitable – us separating again.
Sadly, I got sick a lot during the fall of 2000, so our time together wasn’t as consistent as we’d hoped. After Christmas break, Serena dropped the bomb and informed me that she was moving back to Raleigh after midterms. Her final midterm was on Wednesday, mine on Thursday. Both of us had no reason to go Friday. Explaining to her parents that she wanted to say goodbye to everyone on Thursday, I got a chance to spend an hour with Serena after my last midterm.
We just walked around, not really saying much. Then something crazy happened. During that time, wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had popularized the one-word phrase, “What?” On that cold, January day, Serena said something that I didn’t really understand.
So I loudly asked, “What?”
Serena repeated herself, and I said, “What?” again.
People heard me and followed my “What?” lead. Serena was almost dying with laughter as half of the school was unknowingly saying, “What?” at her.
Ironically, “What?” was the first thing I wrote when Serena dropped the news that she couldn’t be my prom date a week before the event.