How Trevor Pitzman Became Prom King
It’s not that I don’t love my sister, I really do love her. It’s just that I really, really don’t want her to be Prom Queen.
Yes. I admit it. I want to be Prom Queen.
Unfortunately, overweight, four-eyed, brace-faced, mathletes like me do not become Prom Queen. I’ve seen all the movies. The ugly girl getting a magical transformation (by her fairy godmother or gay best friend), everyone suddenly noticing her, loving her––as if they all have amnesia and forgot how bad her breath smelled or how big her pimples were––the captain of the football, basketball, and baseball team immediately falling for her––
No. That does not happen. That is not reality. Reality is that I stay fat, stay ugly, and my twin sister becomes Prom Queen.
Can you imagine anything more depressing than having an identical twin sister and being the ugly one? The uncool one? Looking at my sister Kim is like looking at what I can but never will be. I know that when she looks at me, she sees the unattractive side that would be a part of her if I didn’t exist. It’s like, me being her twin, God or the universe or our parents sacrificed me by giving me all the bad genes and giving Kim all the good genes. We look exactly the same, but we really are each half of one person.
That being established, it would mean that me winning Prom Queen is as likely to happen as Pakistan giving Israel a hug.
So, here I am, serving punch in the fiery orange dress my mom wore to her high school prom twenty years ago (it had to be altered for my fat ass, of course), while Kim dances with one of her dates in the center of the gym.
Yes, one of her dates. I think tonight she’s averaging five.
Me? No, don’t even ask.
One good thing about having an orange dress bright enough to land a plane is that it matches the color of the punch. I’m clumsier than an infant learning to walk. It’s only an hour in and I’ve spilt four cups of punch on me. The blemishes on my face glow an even brighter red in embarrassment, accenting the orange. Luckily, no one has really looked at me, because no one cares. Everyone cares only about my twin sister.
But tonight, at Prom, I have a little plan.
You can probably guess that I have something rolled up my puffy orange and sequined sleeve. I––the bitter, worst-half twin––will be Prom Queen tonight.
See, there’s no beating the system. The popularity system is what I’m talking about. The Prom system. People will always love the prettier girl. The skinnier, the more glittery, the one who laughs the loudest, people like that type most. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention the girl who puts out.
Listen, I love my sister, I really do, but she fits the profile. Beautiful, glittery, laughable, and easy.
Kim is the system and the system loves Kim.
In order for me to get that sash and gown, I have to cheat the system. I’m definitely not above it and I can’t break it with any unconventional good looks or witty sense of humor, but what I can do is cheat.
“Hey, Kyle.” It’s Matt, the one guy desperate enough to talk to me. He’s wearing a powder blue tux and yellow bow tie. It’s clearly the tux his dad wore to his prom forever ago. His gut hangs over his belt and the bottom of his pants barely reach his ankles, making him look like a cartoon.
I hand him some punch and go back to searching for Kim. I assume she’s doing just about everything but making a baby with date number three out on the dance floor, and everyone loves her for it.
Matt clears his throat, covering his mouth with his free hand. He says, “You seem pretty busy back here.”
“Someone’s going to spike the punch if I’m not here.”
I see Kim move out of the crowd with date number three. Captain of the swim team, gorgeous, his hands all over her.
“You look really nice, Kyle.”
“What?” I’m not listening. All I can hear is Kim’s perfect laughter and see her perfect pink dress. She took a limo here. I had to drive the old Volkswagen, nearly killing myself when my dress got caught around the gas pedal.
“I said you look really nice,” Matt repeats, wiping sweat from under his chin.
He’s just saying this to get my dress off; to get me to kiss him. All I am to him is an object waiting to be conquered. That’s how all boys see girls. Objects waiting to be conquered. Matt, being the homely specimen that he is, only has a chance with a disgusting girl like me.
As the music gets louder, he moves closer to the table. “Do you need any help back here?”
“Hey, I was wondering…” He finishes his punch, clearing his throat again like it’s some nervous reflex. “I was wondering if, maybe, sometime tonight, when a slow song comes on––”
“Can’t you see I’m busy?”
He flinches as though I just smacked him. This is the first time I actually look at him tonight. He’s not wearing those glasses that are too small for his head (probably the best choice he’s made in a long time). Despite that, though, he looks like a pig stuffed in a tux. I don’t pity him, I only pity myself. Instead, irritation burns behind my eyes.
“I’m sure someone can cover for you for one song,” he says in that quiet, scared voice of his.
I raise my voice so I can be heard over the music and so he doesn’t misunderstand me: “Listen, Matt, I’m not some object that you can conquer. I’m not going to let you, or anyone else, even attempt to get to second base with me, just so you can go blab about it tomorrow. I do not want to dance with you. Look at me, I look hideous. I’m the walking sun––I’m even round enough to resemble a sphere. No, Matt, I will not subject myself to that kind of public ridicule or embarrassment. Haven’t you had enough yourself?”
“I don’t care what other people think. I think you look nice, Kyle. I like y––”
“Wait! Wait! Shut up, they’re about to announce King and Queen!”
The principle, Mr. Meera, takes the stage, signaling the DJ to cut the music. For a second the crowd on the dance floor looks like a group of epileptics. Eventually everyone quiets down and turns their attention to the stage.
(Before anything else happens, I would like to dispel any predictions about buckets of pig blood being in the rafters above the stage, waiting to be dumped onto the King and Queen. I am neither that cruel nor that barbaric to plan such a thing.)
Mr. Meera fumbles with the mic, which wasn’t turned on like he thought when he tried speaking into it. This produces giggling and tasteless jokes that cause me to roll my eyes. When he gets the mic on, a high-pitched whine carries throughout the gym, producing a student body full of groans.
“Sorry about that,” Mr. Meera’s booming voice says into the mic. “No more old people jokes after that.” Of course, no one laughs at this.
“Kyle, what I tried saying a minute ago is that I really––”
“Are you still here?”
His face turns beat-red. My irritation blossoms into anger.
“Don’t you want to know who wins?” I ask him.
“I don’t care who wins.”
“Hmph. Well, since you don’t care, watch the punch for me for a minute.”
“I’ll be right back. Sheesh!”
I make my way backstage, where Mrs. Clempsy, the school office manager, and Ms. Orion, the French teacher, are counting the votes one more time.
“There you are,” Ms. Orion says when she sees me. She tells me I’m beautiful but I know she’s lying. She’s your typical pretty, single, sympathetic high school teacher. I bet if I asked, she’d tell me she was Prom Queen when she was in high school. She’s always liked me a lot. I know it’s because she pities me. She’s never been fat a day in her life. She can never truly understand, but she thinks a hug and empty truths are good enough for insecure girls like me.
“Mrs. Clempsy is almost done counting the votes. I’m going to check the bathrooms to make sure there’s no foul play going on. When she’s done, she’s going to make sure last year’s King and Queen are ready to present the winners. What we need you to do is pull the rope that let’s down all the balloons and confetti once the King and Queen are announced.” She points to the rope behind me.
She grabs me by the shoulders and smiles. “Isn’t this so much fun?”
Once they leave, I find the card that contains the names of the winners. In symmetrical block letters are the names: Weston Michaels (date number five; captain of the polo team) and Kim Trader. How perfect. A match made in Heaven. Literally.
I pull a different card out of the top of my dress. It’s the same card stock white and the same symmetrical block letters, but inside it says: Trevor Pitzman (coincidentally, date number one; captain of the basketball team) and Kyle Trader. I throw away the original card and hand the new one to Mrs. Clempsy when she comes back for it.
“Ready?” the old crow grins.
Grinning myself, I nod.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if I can have your attention,” Mr. Meera brings the gym to order. “Please welcome last year’s King and Queen, who are presenting the results, Mark Chevron and Becky Fisher!”
The perfect, beautiful, easy high school graduates step behind the mic. Mark Chevron opens the envelope and hands the card to Becky Fisher. I’m back by the rope, acting like I’m so excited to let loose the balloons and confetti.
Becky Fisher opens the card, lowers the mic, and says, “This year’s Prom King and Queen are Trevor Pitzman and Kyle Trader!”
You can hear a pin drop in this gym of five hundred people, it’s so quiet.
From two miles away at Old Man’s pond, you can hear crickets.
Complete and utter silence caused by shock.
I pull the rope. Confetti and balloons rain on history’s most bewildered Prom.
Becky Fisher looks at Mark Chevron who looks at Mr. Meera. He looks just as confused as everybody else. Slowly, he grabs the mic off the stand.
I look over at Kim, who is whiter than a ghost. Expressionless. Catatonic at the results. Uncontrollable laughter swells in my gut. I glance to the punch table. Matt seems to be the only person not in awe. In fact, he looks a little disappointed. Ignoring him, I look back to my twin sister, who is now crying, date number two wiping her smeared makeup with his sleeve.
As Mr. Meera takes the mic, another high-frequency wail echoes throughout the gym. This time no one groans, no one even blinks. Mr. Meera chuckles into the mic.
The last remaining balloons fall into the crowd.
Chuckling, Mr. Meera says, “Obviously there’s been some kind of mistake.”
Some kind of mistake?
He takes the card from Becky Fisher, saying, “How many time have we mixed up those two girls’ names now, huh? Ha. Ha. No, this is a mistake. A simple, classic mix-up.” He tucks the card inside his blazer. “We can all agree that this is a mix-up. Kim Trader is this year’s Prom Queen, we can all agree on that!”
Uproarious applause and uncontrollable cheering responds
“Can we all agree on that?” Mr. Meera says, still chuckling.
A classic mix-up?
“Come on up here, Trevor and Kim! You two earned it, come on up!”
The cheering gets louder. Now Kim’s tears are tears of joy. She looks around as if surprised, but everyone knows those tears are tears of relief. Her world is going back into the order. The chips are falling back into place.
And me? I’m still holding onto the rope, silent, in shock. Mirroring the faces of the audience mere seconds before. Ms. Orion rushes up and hugs me. I don’t hear anything she’s telling me.
Everyone goes on cheering, whistling, shouting. I crawl back into the shadows to cry.
And that is how Trevor Pitzman became Prom King.