Heartbreak and Toothaches
By Rick Bauccio
Working at McDonald’s took up a big, meaty McSlab of my existence. Those three years of my life felt like three thousand. They were my glory days, and I ran that bitch. Anyway, I worked there while promposal season started to pick up in school. The pressures to find a date at my high school started to push on me hard. But I had an epiphany: I could ask Daniella to prom.
Now, let me tell you more about Daniella. Honestly, I thought she was a goddess. A girl like her is hard to find, kind of like a fork in the State Quad dining hall. Her beauty dumbfounded me, as girls often do to teenage boys. To top it off in the looks department, she was an all Italian girl with deep black hair and shimmering hazel eyes that could draw you in immediately, they were infatuation itself. She had a smile that would instantly make me blush. She was really witty, and she would always flirt with me at work. I had a feeling that she would say yes.
I ran through a plethora of different scenarios. I could’ve taken a serving tray and lined up a bunch of McNuggets up to pop the question: “PROM?” Or I could’ve ordered something through the drive-thru and disguised my voice (I can pull off a mean Asian accent), and when I drove up to get the food, I would hand Daniella a bouquet of roses and ask her to prom. I ended up layering a ton of bright, neon sticky notes across the windshield of her car while she was working. Four letters had morphed to create the word PROM, and each one had a rose by it. I waited a scrutinizing hour with my buddies from work for the big reveal.
She said yes, and I instantly grinned. I scored a date to prom with my dream girl.
Here are the prerequisites that you should know. Pre-prom: just know that it was the usual cliché pre-prom gathering that required each date to take pictures together in the standard issue prom pose, and everyone had a solid time together. My friends and I planned to take the limo to the city for a trip to the top of the Empire State Building for after-prom. It was up to me to pay for the limo, and the Empire State Building tickets for me and Daniella. After all, it was the chivalrous thing to do. Looking back now, it was actually a waste of my greasy, hard-earned McCash.
When we entered the limo to head to the venue for prom, I noticed that Daniella made a valiant effort to distance herself from myself and my friends. They were an odd lot, and I’m honestly not surprised that she felt that way. She was very reserved, and instead of having her eyes on me, they were on her iPhone. I did my best to make her feel relaxed with my friends. I cracked some jokes, I tried small talk with her, and I even tried to hit on her a bit. Not once did she return the favor to me, the usual blush that arose in her cheeks didn’t show at all. I didn’t realize it then, but my efforts were in vain: Everything from the start was in vain.
Arriving at the venue, I couldn’t help but be impressed. It reminded me of that scene in Beauty and the Beast where all the inanimate objects started dancing on the profligate dining room table. Everyone was donned in sharp tuxedos and beautiful dresses and, in a way, it felt like the school had just taken us all to a class wedding. I walked around the lush back gardens with Daniella and introduced her to my friends from my classes. The only thing that I got out of that night was the approval of friends for having such a beautiful date. Fist-bumping a couple of acquaintances was a really senseless perk, considering that it was the only one I had at all that night. In retrospect, I must’ve came off as an insecure kid showing the big kids on the block a shiny new toy, at least, from their perspective. I tried putting my arm around her while standing and sipping Shirley Temples, but she shrugged me off like it was nothing. What had happened to the flirtatious girl from work? I had asked if she was having fun at least every ten minutes to see if she was interested, but she’d spit out a half-assed answer as her reply each time, like a mumbled “yeah” and a forced head nod. After an awkward first hour, we all sat down to order our dinner and shortly after, it was time to dance.
“Would you like to dance with me, Daniella?”
“Ricky, I’m not dancing. I can’t dance.”
“Me neither Daniella, but it won’t hurt to try, right?”
“I’m sorry Ricky, but I’m not dancing.”
I walked onto the dance floor without my date and danced with my buddies for about 15 minutes. I decided to try again to get her on the floor with me, but it was the same result. I wasn’t shocked, her replies seemed like they came from the same recycling bin chock-full of reiterated denials.
My father had told me to enjoy prom no matter what, so I did. I pulled out all the stocks. The Catdaddy, the Nae-Nae, the Bernie, even my spastic version of the infamous Moonwalk. I killed the moshpit that I got shoved into, and that’s when I looked over to our table. No Daniella.
I went back over to the table and looked around for her, but she was nowhere to be found. I was about to call her when I saw a text notification from her. I opened it and this is what it said:
“Hey Ricky I’m sorry but I left early. I have a really bad toothache rn and I cant take it ☹ ill make it up to you at work, have a fun night!”
And this is what I said to myself: “Who the fuck ditches someone at their senior prom?! She could’ve at least told me beforehand, in person, that she was going home. Better yet, she could’ve sucked it up and tried to make the best of it.”
I was initially shocked that she had left without letting me know her whereabouts, since I thought that she was going to be there for me when I had gotten back from dancing. I just sat there at that circular table and stared at the text. What did I do wrong? Was I too nice? The notion of chivalry and all that it had stood for died inside of me. I thought, “God, I’m a moron, why would she ever like me anyway?” That was my reaction the day of prom.
It wasn’t until after I got ditched at my senior prom by the girl that I most adored that I saw myself in a different light, and in that light I saw my father. You could say that he’s a quintessential Italian dad, in that he taught his son to respect not only himself, but others, too. Especially women. Chivalry was an indispensable virtue. With Daniella, I was chivalrous beyond belief. Sure, boys are too easily – and too often – mesmerized by just the physical beauty of girls, but, even back then, her beauty had to do with who she was as an interesting person, someone with whom I’d wanted to genuinely spend my time, not just my McCash.
I was hurting in the same way that Ted had in that one episode of How I Met Your Mother, when Stella left him at the altar. He had poured all of his heart and soul into that girl, and it got ripped away in just moments. Not only did Ted have hope that fate had lied in his favor for once, but he had relied on his instinctual gallantry to escort him to a happier life. The nice guy truly did finish last, though, and he got shit on by a girl who acted heartlessly, and all he got for a reason was a final message. That’s exactly how I felt. My beating heart had been ripped out of my chest with a powerful fist, and then hole-punched through my throat and the back of my neck. The intense feelings of regret, shame, and pure embarrassment coursed through me. I had been stood up by a girl from work at my own prom, and her excuse was that she had a toothache.
I can’t fail to mention that I wanted Daniella for a deeper, more meaningful reason other than just a good sex story for my buddies. I wanted her as a girlfriend, I wanted her to be mine and I wanted to be hers. Chivalry hadn’t helped me that night, and after that night I’ve believed that chivalry is not only dead to me, but to the world too. This world has been taken over by fourty-year-old rappers talking about Gucci and men whose only goal is to get it in. The gentlemen with class like me and my father are slim to none nowadays.
But hey, when over the summer after prom she asked me to cover her, I texted her this:
“Nah, I might have a toothache that day. Find someone else.”