You did not ask for this dance;
you demanded it. I owed it to you.
I offered to place my left hand on your shoulder
and my right hand in your left, formally—
but you quickly pressed me to yourself, all the way down
so everyone would finally know we’re a couple
not just a prom date.
I flinched, instinctively pulling back
but your arms held me tight
like an insect trapped in a spider’s web.
My left arm is awkwardly crushed
against your lapel. My right hand is squeezed
near your armpit. At least I cannot see your face
though I hear you singing along with the music. I vow
to despise this Celine Dion song for the rest of my life.
You do not even bother to change the words to suit us:
so you are my lady, and I am your man?
There is no “us” anyway, not after this one song.
I know, four months together is forever in high school.
I know, you’re a great catch, a super nice guy.
I know, you’ve been patient with me.
Tonight since we’re in front of our peers
I’m your trophy.
This night started out badly—after you picked me up
we went to your buddy’s house for photos
and you suddenly laid your hands all over me.
I know my smile looked fake—I saw his parents hesitate
before snapping the picture, sensing my shock.
But I can’t run screaming from you
not on this important night.
So I hid out in the bathroom
once we arrived, and when you asked with irritation
“Is everything okay?” I knew I’d taken too long.
On the phone you spoke gently
when you said you’d wait
until I was ready for your touch.
Tonight I have no say.
I can’t hide anything from you now.
You can feel it all—my racing heart,
my chest, my fat stomach, my hip bones
everything I’ve carefully covered before.
At least I can tilt my hips back a bit so I can’t feel—
Are you kidding me? Two slow songs back-to-back?
An old one by Elvis—another song to hate forevermore.
Five more endless minutes of this crippling dance.
Hot tears spring up, but I hold them back
because I refuse to be a fool
in front of everyone.
I watch other couples dancing, enjoying each other
but when a few girls look back at me with concern
I realize my tears glisten in the darkness.
I drop my eyes to focus to your boutonniere
which I bought in resignation
for the night of our first kiss
but nothing more.
I swear to myself:
If this is how men really are
pretending they’re nice
but putting on a show at my expense
I’m done for good.