I was sixteen: Full of vigor and zeal and enthusiasm for all the kinds of things I could do with my 24 hours each and every day. If you’ve ever been sixteen, chances are that you probably have experienced this violent enthusiasm for opportunity. When I was sixteen, all of my vigor and zeal and enthusiasm was mainly directed toward Sarah.
She was short, bold, direct, and witty, with a kind of fire that burnt through any condescension. We were meant to go to prom together. And of course, she said yes.
It started three days before prom. I remember getting home after school, unloading my backpack, checking the pantry to see if my mom had stocked it with, of course, after-school snacks. The next thing I remember was lying on the floor in my room.
I was dizzy, but conscious, though I couldn’t remember how I’d ended up there, or why I hadn’t grabbed an after-school snack and descended into the basement to watch reruns of that TV show that I always forgot the name of. Dizziness took an angry grip in my mind and my eyes spun. I’m still not sure if it was minutes or hours. I stood, concentrating hard on staying balanced, with my feet upright, and my body in the air.
I figured out how to walk straight, and by the evening, the dizziness passed as though nothing ever happened. I thought it was probably dehydration or stress or fatigue, and so I didn’t think to bother about it further.
At school the next day, Sarah showered me with her excitement and anticipation for the dance. She had everything planned: Where we were going, what we were doing, what she was wearing. As we walked down the hall to our next class, she buzzed beside me, energetically forecasting the time we would spend together at the dance. And that’s when it struck me-
A creeping dizziness crawled up my spine and wrapped it’s talons around my eyes until the world spun, violently. I paused, abruptly, put my hand on the wall, and took a deep breath.
“Are you okay?” She asked.
I hesitated. I didn’t want to tell her that something was wrong with me. I didn’t want to stutter or fall or whine. I concentrated really hard on looking at her, and said:
Then stumbled away, to the bathroom.
I sat down on the floor, beside one of the sinks and breathed, slowly. Minutes melted and slipped past me, until the last class period was over and students trickled out of the school. Finally, as the last students were leaving, I felt well enough to stand, and I walked out.
I sent Sarah an AIM message that night, telling her that I didn’t feel well that afternoon, but I was looking forward to prom tomorrow. I saw her the next morning, and her enthusiasm hadn’t dampened, but her confidence in me had. We went to the dance, just like we’d planned. I thought that the dizziness was gone, but I was wrong. Sarah had stepped to the bathroom, I paced near the bowl of punch, and felt the dizziness seep into my head in that terrifying pattern. I stumbled to the bathroom and sat down.
A few minutes before I truly felt well enough to stand, I lumbered to my feet and out of the bathroom. I found Sarah, alone.
“Where did you go?” She asked, with an implied swear word and a venomous tone dripping from her tongue.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t feel well.”
“Fine. It’s fine.”
I asked her if she wanted to dance again, and she said no. The night slowly drew to a close, and we walked back to my car. We had planned to go out, to a late night diner, one of the ones with an old jukebox and a waiter or waitress with a strong southern accent. But she said that she didn’t want to go anymore, that she felt tired, and that we’d better just plan for a different night. I said okay, and took her home.
We arrived in her driveway, and she opened the door.
“Have a good night,” She said, as if she was puzzled and confused by her own words.
I watched her walk into her house. The lights on the second floor flicked on, stayed on for a minute or two, and then flicked off. I drove home, concentrating so damn hard to not be dizzy.