In normal high school culture, the only thing that is worse than being dumped by a wonderful person is having to break up with a wonderful person. That was me during my junior year. She was a great girl—pretty, smart, clean, classy, but we just had different callings in life. I felt I had a different mission than she did, so during my junior year, I had to decide to do one of the most difficult things ever in high school. I had to leave someone who loved me dearly. I dropped her off after school one day and told her the hard news. She fell to the ground crying in her front yard, and I drove off alone—very alone.
Don’t worry. She’s fine now. She has a beautiful family and a good career.
But back to the past—it was towards the end of my junior year, and the prom was approaching. This would be the first high school dance I would attend without my ex-girlfriend. She had a date. He was a decent guy. He was actually one of our school’s better football players.
It hurt in a way. I understood everything. It all made sense. But it still hurt.
I knew what I had to do. It’s what any teenage guy would do in high school. I would ask the hottest girl I knew to be my date. Someone who would be the type of girl to wear a blazing red, tight-fitting, short dress. Someone who would latch onto my arm long enough, so I could walk through those huge, double doors of the prom’s entrance to have my ex see me for just a moment and miss me.
Now I thought, Where would I find such a girl?
Church youth group, of course.
I asked her with a folded, hand-written note during a Wednesday night service, back before text messaging. She happily accepted. I’m still not sure if it was because of me or because she went to another school and wanted to be allowed to attend my school’s prom. At the time, my high school was one of the more popular schools in town.
Bringing this girl to prom wasn’t purely selfish. I was hoping I would find something special about her and that she would win me over, like one of those 80’s movies or something like that. I knew she was pretty, and maybe there was something about her personality or character that I was missing and would discover on this magical night.
Prom night finally came, and with the financial help of my generous grandparents, we arrived in a limo with friends. She wore a short, red dress and had taken on the essence of stereotypical, high school hotness. We walked in through those double doors, and she was latched onto my arm. The music vibrated through the souls of our shoes as our eyes looked up to the flashing strobes. My school’s ASB had once again transformed a regular building hall into a different dimension.
My date and I quickly found my group of friendly peers as the young men lit up in surprise as they set their eyes upon my mysterious date. Then something happened that I’ll probably always be unsure about. My ex-girlfriend walked up to my date and said something before walking angrily away. My date’s mouth dropped in awe.
“What?” I asked.
“She just called me a skank!” my date said in her high voice while her mouth stayed hung open.
“Yes, she did!”
Now that was very out of character for my ex, but honestly, I laughed a little in my mind, and maybe a small smirk broke through onto my face. The night was going just as planned.
Just then a popular song came on, and over a hundred students rushed closer to the center of the dance floor.
My date innocently said, “I told one of my friends that I would dance with him for one dance since I’m at his school. Can I go find him to dance with him, so I can get that over with, and then we can be together for the rest of the night?”
“Of course, that’s fine,” I sent her off into the dark, teenage abyss of moving bodies.
I wasn’t really bothered by her request because I honestly just wanted to dance with my own friends. Most of them only brought friends as dates, so they could just have fun dancing with everyone.
Half an hour went by. Then a full hour. Two. Three. Still no sign of my prom date. Someone asked if I knew where she was. I didn’t.
Maybe she was nearby, camouflaged with the other countless short, red dresses that moved around, near, and on sweaty guys. Someone else asked if she was okay. I answered confused, “I’m sure she’s fine.”
I continued to dance with my friends and tried to pretend that I was having a good time as I did at every other school dance.
But I wasn’t.
I wasn’t second guessing my decision of breaking up with my ex, but I was sad. Maybe mourning in a way. And I was alone. The familiarity of the environment made me remember the first dance with her my freshmen year, and how I felt like the king of the world back then, when everything was still brand new. But I gave her up, and now she was dancing with someone else, looking happy and pretty as ever. Maybe I was second guessing my decision.
As the DJ played a slow song, all my peers coupled up with each other under the moving white lights of the magical environment. I awkwardly stood there by myself. I watched time fade by like the last two years of my high school life. I felt like a fool. People started noticing that I was alone, and it was awkward, so I had to go.
But I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t just leave my date, although she left me. I looked for a hideout, some place unnoticed and safe—the restroom.
Surrounded by the cold, tall, echoing walls of the men’s restroom, I could still hear the song vibrating through the floor in muffled words of bass. The bottoms of my feet were now sore from my dress shoes. I looked into the scratched mirror and examined myself. Sharp dressed in a pressed shirt. A red tie to match a missing date. Hair still perfectly styled. But alone.
Was this going to be my future now? Were the best days of high school already behind me?
I second guessed my decision of breaking up with her. I felt wholeheartedly that it was the right thing to do at the time. I had prayed through it. I felt confirmation.
I looked back into the mirror.
“What’s up with this, God? This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.”
I felt the bass massage the souls of my shoes as a new song began—Lady in Red, the 90’s slow song that became the signature last dance at all my school’s dances. I gave a wry smile and thought about how pathetic I was to be hiding out during my high school prom. I remembered who I was.
A child of God.
Someone bought with a great price.
Someone loved unconditionally.
I straightened up my posture and walked out of that cold restroom with a confident smile to see my world turning together in slow motion to the magical mood of the music.
I stood there hoping for a miracle. Waiting. Even enjoying the happiness of others.
Then, I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I turned to see Britney, a friend of mine. Not anyone I ever flirted with. Not anyone I ever considered dating but just a friend. She said, “I thought you might be feeling alone there, stranger. Want to dance?”
We slow-danced together at a friendly distance for the rest of that song, and I wasn’t alone.
Although we are friends on social media, Britney and I don’t talk much. We don’t comment on each other’s posts really or even “like” each other’s photos, but there will always be an element of gratitude connected to any thought of her. Although there have been many forgotten dances with many different girls, that one dance will never be forgotten.
After the lights came on and people rushed to find their purses and jackets, I finally found my date. She told me some dramatic story about searching all over for me. I didn’t believe her, but I wasn’t upset. I knew she wasn’t the girl for me.
I really didn’t give her much thought after that night, but I did think about Britney. I recalled how she was involved at her church. I remember visiting her youth group from time to time, and she was always there and involved helping with something. I can never remember hearing her say anything bad about anyone, not even once. She was never the center of attention. She mostly just blended in.
I believe the Holy Spirit gave her discernment to see what I was feeling that night. I can imagine her noticing my out of character prom date. I can picture her watching me glance through the crowd at my ex-girlfriend every now and then. I can see her searching for me during the last dance of the night and feeling a bit of relief when she found me.
The Spirit leads us to notice the lonely and seek after them. To have empathy even when their pain is from their own decisions. To be there so people don’t have to be alone during the last dance.