DDD originally meant Dead Dead Dead. I dwelt on defeat, depression and despair. Those made me sick. I determined DDD must stand for any three better words beginning with the same letter in any order. It’s my choice.
At the senior prom I took wine, a red rose and two stemmed glasses from my parents’ china cabinet in the dining room. I also took a red and white checked tablecloth, a white linen napkin to place over my arm like a waiter, an etched decanter for the wine before I poured, a crystal bud vase for the rose, a tapered candle with a sterling silver candlestick from the same cabinet in the dining room of my parents’ house where I lived with them and all I took secretly with great care and forethought. I planned to return it all before they knew anything had been taken. They tended to never use any of their valuable plates, glasses and silverware.
I put all my hopes in a wicker basket and then, oh yes, I went to pick up my date.
We drove to the prom in my father’s car. I did not have a car of my own. We called my father’s car the family car.
My date and I arrived at the prom held atop a downtown office building in a ballroom overlooking the city. I parked the car, escorted her to the top floor then returned to the car for the wicker basket. I wanted my date to be surprised.
When I rode the elevator back up to the prom I didn’t stop at the ballroom floor, but pressed the mezzanine button and made my way to a table by the railing. There I began my preparations.
I opened the wicker basket and spread the red and white checked table cloth, placed the rose in the crystal vase, added a little water from a plastic bottle, put the two wine glasses out, placed the decanter of red wine on the table and as I draped the white linen napkin over the left forearm of my rented tuxedo to find my date and escort her to our table I turned to face the off duty police officer in uniform hired by the school board to maintain law and order at the senior prom.
I knew my rights.
I started with freedom of speech.
“Officer,” I said, “I know I’m not supposed to bring alcoholic beverages to a school function and I know I’m under age, but this is my high school prom. This is one of the most important nights of my life. I’ve poured one swallow of wine for myself and my date. I’m going to propose a toast. She doesn’t know. It’s all my idea. There’s not enough wine here for either of us to get drunk, even if only one of us drinks both glasses. I’m asking you please let us do this. It’s a gesture, sir, almost like communion. It’s not intended to break the law. I’m doing this in the spirit of romantic love.”
“Which one is your date?”
“She me the girl.”
He stepped to the railing and motioned me to his side.
“There,” I said. “That’s her, the one in the pink dress.”
“Cute,” he said. “Do you love her?”
“Does she love you?”
“I don’t know. I hope so.”
“You went to a lot of trouble if she doesn’t. You think she’s going to be impressed?”
“I want to impress her,” I confessed. “I want her to remember tonight as long as she lives.”
The cop stood looking down at her, smiled and shook his head.
“They tend to forget,” he said. “They tend to forget you and the date and the reason you asked or why she said yes.”
Then he snapped out of it.
“I hope it works for you,” he said. “Go get her.”
I didn’t move.
“Go ahead,” the cop said. “Bring her up here.”
“Are you going to arrest us?” I asked.
“Kid,” he said, “you see this?”
He tapped his chest.
“It’s a badge,” he said. “It’s a gesture, almost like communion. I’m not doing this to break the law. I’m doing this in a spirit of romantic love. Go get your girl.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Don’t mention it,” said the cop. “I mean what I say. Don’t mention it.”
“I won’t,” I promised.
The cop looked at me and I will never forget his look.
“I’m wearing one over my heart,” he said. “You’re wearing one on your sleeve.”