“Do you remember senior prom, Jake?”
I turned to him.
“You let your date have it because she called you her boyfriend, and then you left her there.”
So that’s what this was about. That’s why he’d relegated me to some fucking one-off with his buddies instead of owning our relationship. I sighed.
“Is that what you remember?”
He looked at me, confused.
“That’s what happened.”
“Come here, Nate.”
I stood up and reached my hand down to help him stand. Then I gently pulled him to my room and sat him on my bed. I walked over to my dresser and picked up a framed picture.
“This is a picture of me with my prom date, Nate.”
It was a picture of the two of us, wearing our tuxedos and smiling, with our arms draped across each other’s shoulders. Nate looked at the picture and smiled, rubbing his thumb over it. Then he seemed confused again as he looked up at me.
“Your prom date? What do you mean?”
“Nate, I asked you to go to prom with me. Tell me you remember.”
No response. Just that same confused look in his eyes. Fuck. I knelt at his feet.
“Okay, I’ll remind you. Prom was coming up and everyone was talking about it. I asked you if you were going to go and you laughed, said you didn’t have a date. I thought, well, you don’t have to be attracted to me to go to prom with me. I mean, it’s just dancing, right? So, I asked you to be my prom date. Do you remember what you said?”
I knew he was remembering, but he was still sitting there, just looking at me. No words were coming out of his mouth. So I kept talking.
“You said you didn’t want to be some sort of gay poster child, going to prom with another guy. I didn’t understand that. But I knew you were uncomfortable, so I told you we’d get a couple of girls to go with us and then we wouldn’t be making a statement. We’d just have fun. Sylvia and Julie didn’t have dates, so I told them they could come with us. I didn’t ask Sylvia to be my date, Nate. And I sure as fuck wasn’t her boyfriend.”
Nate looked down at the picture for a couple of minutes before he finally spoke.
“You were serious? When you asked me to the prom, I mean. You were actually serious?”
I knew he was sensitive and I knew those years growing up in Bryerville were hard on him, that he felt inadequate. But I guess I never fully grasped the depth of the damage, of his insecurity.
“Of course I was serious. You know what, Nate? You never danced with me. I asked you that night but you laughed. I think you still owe me a dance.”
His eyes were misty.
“Yeah. I guess I do.”
So we got up, turned on the radio, and danced slowly in my room. Nate was still wearing his nice jeans and button-down shirt. I was coated with dried muck from the puddles and the rain, wearing nothing but a jock. It didn’t matter. Everything except Nate faded away, just like it always does when we’re in each other’s arms. And we danced.