Spring, 1997.

Megan, indy as always, gets into some sort of disagreement with another girl in the 12th grade. This is not in itself unusual, but this time, the girl happens to be an organizer of the senior prom, and decides to throw some weight around and ban Megan from attending.

All good, then. Megan will have a prom of her own, the anti-prom! It will be better than the regular prom, because she won't have to share this special time with the people she finds abhorrent, only with her friends. Her friends, however, are forced to make a stand and either side with Megan's prom or to go for the officially-sanctionned Real Thing, the one whose pictures will be in the yearbook.

I feel no particular attachment to either group of people, and recognize advantages in attending both of the events exclusively. Let's weigh the factors here:

* None of the girls I'm close to will be at the prom, so I'll have to dance by myself.
* At the anti-prom, there will be no dancing.

It's decided, then: I'm off to the anti-prom. A supersnazzy location is booked and rented, fees are collected from us and I am charged with the sacred task of providing background music. In preparation for the main event, I dust off the grade 8 and 9 royal conservatory books and flex my ivory-tickling muscles. Mozart. Mendelssohn. Schumann. The proles are gonna lap it up.

I am dropped off at the event by my parents, who ensure I am equipped with bus fare and the requisite quarter-for-phone-call (in retrospect, I am relieved they didn't ask if I had "protection" - I'm not sure whether this makes them better or worse parents,) make a bee-line towards the piano and make good stuff happen while others filter in gradually and are stunned into silence by the realization that we are beautiful people (if, on the girls' part, a little overly made-up, which according to the tastes of our clique was anything more than a fresh clean face.) I am chided once to play more quietly, as people are listening to me and not talking amongst themselves; eventually people sit down at a table and I am torn from the piano only upon invesigation of the silverware and facilities on the table - the contents of a silver container need to be identified, for which they require a tongue: mine.

Some guesses are had (garlic butter?) and eventually it is revealed that the material is tartar sauce. Very tasty and very un-filling food is provided and the cohorts eventually load up into the chariots of their high school cruiser boyfriends to convey us all to Richmond, to the house of one of the chauffeurs.

I get a bad feeling when we have to pass an electronic gate to enter a secure community, but upon arrival the facilities make up for the location.

The night is a bit of an uncomfortable blur: preparation and distribution of girly drinks (margueritae? something with blended strawberries) in which nigh everyone but I partake; the CRACKling leave-of-absence of a large and costly piece of amplification equipment during the climax of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana; watching more-than-slightly-tipsy couples eat each other up, leaving the group periodically and, flushed, returning; in a manly display of something, ice cubes are extracted from drinks and pushed down others' butt cracks; there is disapproval of drunken behavior of SOs, teary runnings-off and reassurance sessions behind closed doors barricaded on basis of gender; there is a yelling match outside the front door between a very nice girl and her very abusive boyfriend which culminates in the police being called.

I don't recall sleeping, though I assume I must have because the above items surely couldn't have filled an entire night. Repeat each item a thousand times, however, and we approach completion.

I took the occasion to write some poems (yes, I was the kind of kid to write poetry at their prom.) They went as follows:

A mug 'o inspiration, sir -
a bottle 'o the best.
And pour it over without care,
its hearty fragrance fills the air
and vivifies the chest.

But understand, it's not for me.
I'll give it to my friends.
Its wormwood fumes intoxicant
inspire strange acts without relent -
the play that never ends.

In bacchanalian fun and fear
they swap and wear their many masks.
Each actor puts on many roles
each crawling up from long-lost holes.
To watch and write, my task.

The inspiration's not direct.
Depressing if it's took by me
but seeing what it does to them
from sky to hell and back again,
I note their tears and glee.

An artist lives outside the world;
lives on the outside looking in.
They document normality
in all its great mundanity.
To know first-hand's a sin.

(Accompanying illustration: atop a cloudy mountain, an equine hoofprint is filled with fluid from a keg marked XXX, from the top of which emerges a Super Mario Brothers-esque man-eating plant with scowly eyebrows.)

The second is considerably blunter and surprisingly Puritanical:

Wet like water, burns like fire;
makes an honest man a liar.

Senses alters, truth distorts;
the lower mental states exhorts.

Mem'ries trigger, feelings rape.
Foolish, foolish great escape.

Feed the illness - make it sicker.
Brimstone-brewing devil liquor!

Like many people, I did not particularly enjoy high school. Unlike many, however, I articulated then and continue to this day in hopes of discerning its formative effects on my scattered psyche.

Please don't offer me a drink 8)

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