I remember the day I asked Sharaun if she wanted to go to the homecoming dance with me.
Facts: it was a hot Florida day; I was a high school sophomore; I had been pursuing her for a while but we were not “dating;” I was probably sixteen; I was truly nervous.
I remember taking the old portable phone out of the house and into the backyard to make the phone call with some privacy. The phone was this large unibody thing, a muted tan-yellow “manila” color (can that word be applied, as a color, to something other than a folder?) and it had a large segmented antenna you had to manually extend and retract. I walked through the screened-in porch and out onto the pool deck. It was late afternoon but the sun in Florida was still bearing down through the piles of humidity. I remember walking around the deck to the deep end of the pool, we had a planter there at the edge of the grass with some shrubs and a few birds of paradise, it was bordered with large coquina rocks, as many landscape installations are in Florida.
It was over there near the deep end, where the pool deck was wide enough and offered enough runway that my brother and I used it as our makeshift diving platform when we were kids and the novelty of a backyard pool was still enough to see us in it daily, that I made the call. Sometimes in the post-rain heat of the afternoon in Florida there was this ambient buzzing noise permeating the air outside. Like the chorus of bugs I imagine in equatorial rain forests it would camp out at the edge of your hearing and become part of the atmosphere without you really realizing it. But that day, during the second or so that elapsed after I dialed the last ‘9’ in her number and before the phone rang on her end, that buzzing jumped to the fore and became a roar reminding me how much on-my-own I was. Me and the background bugs, about to put ourselves out there in the most real way… the fragility of youth plus lust.
I forget who answered but I remember asking.
In the end it was a pitifully (or maybe blissfully) short exchange. And while I don’t recall my exact wording I remember feeling that I hid the awkwardness I felt in asking well and ultimately came off smooth.
She said yes.
She wore a black dress that blazed like a signal fire against her pale skin and shiny-gold, straight hair. She was the walking, breathing embodiment of all my coming-of-age fantasies to that point. A wet-dream supernova. The memories of the emotion of that night make me thankful there is no such thing as foreknowledge. Knowing that we’d end up together as happy as we are now would’ve stolen all the mystery and timidity.