Department of English

Spring 2011 Edition

A Night To Remember

Kayla Clawson
Expressive 2010 1st Place
Professor: Julia Combs

Junior Prom. For most teenage girls, those two words alone are enough to evoke visions of starry lights, flowing gowns fit for a princess, and dancing the night away with a dashing (if temporary) Prince Charming. Although I always tried to maintain the image that I didn't care about things as shallow and silly as that, I was definitely one of those girls—in fact, I was probably one of the worst. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I went my whole sophomore year of high school and half of my junior year without being asked to a single dance.

The day of my Junior Prom was rapidly approaching. Within a week and a half of the dance, I still had not been asked and accepted that I probably wasn't going to be. Again. With exactly a week until the dance, I was waiting for a Seminary assembly to begin, chatting and laughing with my friends. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my Seminary teacher come in holding a bouquet of roses and a letter, grinning impishly. Great, I thought, another girl is going to be asked to Prom. Imagine my surprise when he said, "I have a delivery for Kayla Clawson."

What? Did he have the right Kayla? I waited for a moment, making sure that they were really for me. He didn't correct himself, though, and held them out to me. I took them with a disbelieving, somewhat embarrassed smile, wishing that I was in a more private place to read whatever was in the envelope.

I slit the envelope open as soon as I sat down and took out a single sheet of paper. I skimmed down to the bottom of the page and read the name of the sender: Josh. Oh no, I thought, here we go again. I knew he liked me a lot and didn't want him to have any false hope that I liked him as any more than a friend. As I read the note, however, my fears eased. He made it clear that he knew we were just friends, and he was fine with that. I finished the letter and felt a grin spread over my face. Not only had I been asked to the dance, but asked by someone I knew I would have a fabulous time with.

Fast forward a week and a day. My sister spent hours making me look just right, and before I knew it, Josh had come to pick me up for dinner. He was welcomed by my parents, and slipped my corsage over my wrist. I struggled pinning on his corsage, feeling sillier by the minute for not knowing how to get it to stay straight. Eventually we decided it was good enough, posed for pictures, and were out the door.

Waiting in his car was another couple from our group. We went to the high school to meet the rest, and headed off for dinner at an Italian restaurant. We were full of energy and excitement, and Josh began speeding a little. Then a little more. And a little more.

We were going well over the speed limit when he noticed a smudge on the inside of his windshield and tried to wipe it away. It was then that I noticed that the van in front of us, the car that held the other members of our group, had come to a stop. I looked over at Josh. Is he going to stop? I thought, or at least slow down? I looked to the van in front of us, and back at him. When I finally saw he hadn't realized he needed to stop, I yelled, "Brakes!"

"Shoot!" he cried, slamming his foot on the brake pedal—but too late. I turned my face away and closed my eyes, braced for the inevitable impact. A deafening crunch echoed as we careened into the back of the van at nearly sixty miles an hour. The airbag thrust me back so suddenly and forcefully I almost didn't feel myself thrown forward. There was a moment of pause, like everyone was holding a disbelieving breath. I sat frozen, unsure if I was hurt, unsure of anything other than that I was alive. Then my date was out of the car and opening my door.

"Are you okay?" His anxiety was evident as he helped me out of the car. "I'm so sorry. Oh my gosh, I am so sorry, Kayla."

My efforts to reassure him went out the window when he got a good look at me. At the sight of his distressed expression, I looked down at myself and groaned inwardly. Much of my dress, once midnight blue, was now dyed a red so dark it was almost black. I tentatively put my hand to my face; it came away crimson, dripping with blood. I tried to walk away from the car and stumbled in pain, clutching my ankle. Was it broken? With the ridiculous heels I was wearing, it wouldn't have been a surprise.

By this time the rest of our group from the van in front of us was out of the car, making sure everyone was okay. The boys assessed the damage on the cars, but the girls immediately surrounded me, gazing in horror at the blood all over my dress. One girl took charge and called for tissues and Tide-to-Go. While she set to work trying to save my dress, my friend Laralynn tried to stop the bleeding in my nose and gave me emotional support.

"I have other dresses you can wear, if you want," she offered cheerfully.

I laughed, thinking it highly unlikely I would actually end up at the dance, but replied, "Thanks. I'd like that."

I continued to assure everyone that I was fine, especially Josh, but I probably wasn't very convincing; when I tried to walk, I buckled in pain. I took off my high-heeled shoes with difficulty and the girls sat me down on the sidewalk. As I tried to get comfortable, I realized that I was unaccountably cold and shivering uncontrollably. Josh immediately shrugged off his jacket, corsage and all, and wrapped me in it.

Before long, the police and paramedics had arrived. Everyone immediately pointed me out as the only one injured. Two or three paramedics surrounded me and began to ask questions. They gave me gauze to hold against my nose, which was still gushing blood. "Tilt your head forward and try not to swallow any blood," they told me, "it'll make you sick." Great, now they tell me.

They turned their attention to my ankle and were immediately concerned at how sensitive it seemed to be. There was no obvious break, but the fact that I cried out in pain when they touched it made them think there might indeed be a fracture. They wanted me to come with them to the hospital in the ambulance to get x-rayed. I almost went with them but stopped at the thought of how much the ride alone would cost Josh's parents.

Parents! I hadn't called my parents. Laralynn located a phone and I struggled to dial my home number with trembling fingers while the paramedics wrapped up my ankle. By then I was too far in shock to be coherent; Laralynn ended up taking the phone from me to tell my parents what had happened and where we were. They arrived a few minutes later, right after the paramedics left, not obviously panicked but concerned.

My dad picked me up deftly but gently and laid me across the seats in our van and put me under some blankets they had brought. Laralynn sat in the van with me as my parents talked to people at the scene. Within a few minutes, they knew all they needed to, and took me home. Laralynn came along to make sure I was okay. She sat with me as I shivered under a pile of blankets on my living room couch as my dad went back to get our dates. It was understandably awkward when they arrived to discuss what we should do.

Josh wanted to go with me to the Insta-Care to make sure I was alright. I firmly told him no; I was fine, and I had my parents with me. Laralynn wanted to forget the dance and stay with me to watch movies and have pizza. I liked this idea, but I still needed to be x-rayed; my parents made that clear.

In the end, I forced Josh to go to the dance. "I want you to go and have fun for me," I said. In retrospect, this probably wasn't the kindest thing to do, making him go to a dance alone and having to tell everyone what had happened (especially since it was his fault), but it was meant to make him feel better. He only consented after I promised to let him know what we found out.

The Insta-Care wasn't busy, so there was lots of attention on the girl with the blood-covered prom dress. Everyone at the desk listened sympathetically as I told my story and got me a wheelchair to wait in.

While they extracted information from my parents, I realized I needed to go to the bathroom. Great. How was I supposed to even open the door the bathroom, let alone get up and out of the wheelchair? It was then that I made a discovery about my mom: she used to work in a nursing home. She had lots of experience helping old people use the bathroom; I couldn't be too much different, right? She wheeled me in the little unisex bathroom across the waiting room and lifted me out of the wheelchair as if I were no heavier than a child. Problem solved.

I was soon wheeled to a little examination room to await being x-rayed. I sat there talking with my parents and a nurse until another nurse came in to say they were ready for me. I was taken to a dimly-lit room with a long metal table and several machines and screens.

"I hate to ask you to do this," the nurse said apologetically, "your hair looks so pretty, but we're going to have to take all the pins out for the x-rays." Well, my dress was done-for, why not my hair? I took out pin after pin, and when I thought I'd removed them all, my neck was x-rayed from several angles. They then x-rayed my ankle and nose and said we should be done, and they would let me know the results in a bit. However, when they looked at the x-rays of my neck, there were several parts blocked by mysterious rectangles. I'd missed some pins. So we had to do the neck x-rays all over again.

After the second set of neck x-rays, I was wheeled back to the examination room where my parents were waiting. We were joined by a doctor who, like everyone else, said what a shame it was to have something like this happen on the way to a dance. "And you look so nice, too." At this point I probably looked like a disaster, but I smiled and answered all his questions.

To my surprise, the doctor wasn't as concerned about my ankle as he was my nose. "I don't know," he said, "it just looks a little crooked." He looked at it from several angles. "But then," he remarked to my parents, "that might just be your daughter's nose."

Well, it turned out that nothing was broken. They gave me a lace-up brace for my ankle and some pain meds and sent me home. Despite being exhausted by the whole ordeal, I forced myself to stay awake long enough to text Josh and tell him what we'd found out. Then I succumbed to the urge to close my eyes and slept.

One of the immediate complications with my being on crutches and needing rest was I was in a production of Cyrano de Bergerac that opened the following week. In fact, I was the female lead, Roxanne. And I was supposed to attend a day-long rehearsal the day following the dance. My mom firmly refused permission for me to go, saying I needed rest. Luckily, my director agreed with her. So I spent most of the next two days in bed, completely pampered by my angelic mom and treated more gently by the rest of my family.

Word about what had happened spread very quickly. When I arrived at school on crutches the following week, I was flooded with kind wishes and offers of help. Everyone was friendly and sweet. People I hardly knew would come up to me and say, "I heard about what happened! Are you okay?"

I never had to carry my books or my lunch, people didn't mind when I took forever to get up the stairs, and I'd never felt so popular or foolish. It took a while to get used to the crutches, but I also had to learn to walk without them for Cyrano. That was where, besides home, I found the greatest support.

Every step I took was painful, even with my brace on, and it was difficult to walk without limping, let alone walk gracefully like my character was supposed to. But the moment I was offstage, someone would be there for me to lean on, and I would be led to a chair. Josh was often there to help, even though he was supposed to be dealing with technical effects. I felt very silly but very grateful.

It was nothing like the prom I'd pictured. I spent hours being prodded and x-rayed and questioned when I should've been laughing with my friends. My dress was ruined, and my nerves would never be the same (just ask anyone I've been in a car with—I'm a dreadful passenger). Instead of fancy food and dancing, I got a foot brace and crutches. However, I also gained the knowledge that people care about me.

I never thought of myself as someone special or even noticeable; in fact, I'd often felt unlovable and alone. But from the moment the accident occurred, my eyes were opened to the fact that I am surrounded by people that love me and are willing to help me in a tough spot. It seems silly to be grateful for a lesson learned in such a dramatic way, with negative repercussions that still affect me. But it was one I needed, and one I will never forget.