I was cruising around the Bates College campus on my motorcycle when the invasion got underway.

One minute is was just a quiet Saturday on campus and the next it was outright madness. Young women were roaming lawns and sidewalks in flowing gowns and extravagant hairdos. Boys were sauntering in tuxedos all debonair, their hair combed just so, their faces clean-shaven.

Everywhere I looked, teenagers were congregating in dashing packs. They assembled into small groups and posed for photos in front of sparkling ponds and handsome trees. Young men fastened themselves to young women, linking arms and smiling obediently as barking adults demanded more of them: Stand like this, smile this way, move closer together so that the handsome tree shows clearly in the backdrop. OK, let’s do it all again, but with feeling this time!

I saw a gleaming limousine roll to a stop next to a sidewalk and when the dapper driver opened the doors, more teens spilled out like the world’s best-dressed pirates rolling down a gangway. They were all bow ties and ruffles, tails and cummerbunds, glittering jewelry and shiny shoes.

The more I circled the block, the more gigantic the smiling, happy horde became. They were everywhere, girls in gowns and boys with boutonnieres. It was terrifying, and I prepared myself the best I could for the coming apocalypse.

“They’re coming!” I shrieked to my wife over the phone. “Grab the bug-out bags! Pack up all the ammo you can carry and flee into the woods! Dear God! They’ve got massive flowers and they’re pinning them on people! The horror! The humanity!”

The poor woman. She held up pretty well, considering the terror I had just described.

“Those flowers are corsages,” she told me. “And those people are out there because it’s prom night.”

She said something else under her breath, but I didn’t quite make it out.

So, as it turns out, all the commotion around Bates College early Saturday night was nothing more than the traditional festivities commonly associated with the promenade dance. My relief was enormous and as I adjusted to the idea that I wouldn’t have to flee into the woods and go all “Red Dawn” to survive the night (again), I came to appreciate the charm of the affair.

Ah, youthful romance. All around me were young men and women embarking on what for many of them would be the biggest night of their lives. Here were teenage boys who had mustered up all of their courage (bolstered by devastating splashes of Drakkar Noir) to ask out the objects of their desires, facing the risk of rejection and humiliation head-on only to triumph in the end.

Here were young ladies who may have been dreaming of this night since they were wee little girls watching older sisters fuss before mirrors in bygone years. All over the place were teenage sweethearts who had expended enormous amounts of time, energy and money in preparation, and who now were dreaming of grand things for the evening.

I found myself wishing great things for all those kids, which is funny considering that just minutes before, I was convinced they had come to kill me. I also felt bitter stabs of envy: How can one not feel an unquiet sense of jealousy for those who are only beginning to author their own journeys? As the great poet Steve Perry once said, “Only the young can say they’re free to fly away.”

As I sat there on my motorcycle, breathing in clouds of Old Spice and White Diamonds, I found myself thinking about my own prom night.

Sort of. Funny thing about my prom: I don’t have any recollection whatsoever of ever going to it. In fact, until recently, I was pretty sure that the only thing I ever knew about prom night was what I had learned from watching “Carrie” a couple of dozen times.

Not long ago, I mentioned this sad fact to an old friend whom I had not seen in years.

“What the hell are you talking about?” this friend said, when I told him my heartbreaking story. “You were totally at the prom. That was the night (name withheld to protect the truly stupid) snuck into the gym and blew up a whole wall of lockers with a cherry bomb. We all went to Scum Field after and partied until dawn. You might have thrown up a couple of times, but you were definitely there.”

This friend was able to tell me who my date was, how we got there, how many times we danced and other highlights about that forgotten evening. Somehow, he had come into possession of memories that were supposed to be mine.

“Wow,” I said, when he revealed these things. “Hey, was I voted prom king?”

My friend snorted. “With throw-up all over you? I don’t think so.”

Whatever. I’m going back into the woods.


Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer and always on the lookout for crime scenes and dapper mobs. Email him at [email protected]

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