I wasn’t exactly going to be the Prom Queen when I was in high school, but on this particular day I was even less attractive – and that was the day Danny asked me out. I was on the city bus, coming home from the dentist, having just had a root canal. My mouth was numb and stuffed full of bloody gauze. I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t really talk when he came up from behind me on the bus to try and chat me up. At first, I thought it was some cruel joke – like a dare from his friends or something. I tried to get him to leave by telling him, “UK OO”, which was the best I could do with my stuffed mouth. He laughed at my agitation and continued to be very persistent – I noticed there was something pathetically genuine in his eyes.
He finally wore me down and I said, “O-A! I ill agee oo go ow ish oo ish oo omise oo eave e a-own eyet ow!” (Translation: OK! I will agree to go out with you if you promise to leave me alone right now!) I guess he understood and was pretty proud of himself. I don’t know why – I wasn’t exactly first prize that day.
Danny was on the local hockey team that was hosting the dance to which he invited me to go as his date. Obviously, my mouth had recovered by that night, and I was feeling a bit better about myself. Everything was pretty much within walking distance in our town, so he called ahead of time to let me know he was on his way to get me and we would walk to the arena from there. Of course, all my siblings jeered and snickered when he called – as I didn’t often get calls from boys. They were so annoying!
The dance was really fun and for the most part, we had a great time together. He was definitely a goof, but innocently charming in a sweet and bumbling kind-of-way. The only weird part was that his parents were there, chaperoning the dance. His father was nice enough, but his mother looked me up and down with a disapproving frown which only got worse when she spoke, “I can see you mustn’t be Italian. Are you Catholic?” To which my answer was, “No.”
Danny piped in to attempt to defend me. “MA! Seriously?!” And his father added his stern two cents as well, “For God’s sake, Maria!” Well, it didn’t take me long to understand the family dynamic that he had to deal with, but I couldn’t exactly criticize.
When we walked back to my place, I suggested that we part ways before we arrived, but he insisted on coming in. I wasn’t exactly proud of my family, so I hesitated, but he was already half way through the door. There was my mother, three sheets to the wind and on the phone; she seemed upset and completely disregarded the fact that I had just brought home a strange guy.
“Oh, I’m glad your home honey! Someone’s gotta go to the pub and get yer father – he’s gone and got himself passed out again! Your brothers are both out though! If no one goes to get’im, they’re gonna call the cops and throw’im into the drunk tank for the night!” She finally paused her intoxicated rant and focused on Danny and then continued, “Saaaaaay, you look like a big, strapping fella! You wouldn’t mind poppin’ over to the pub to help us out, would’ya?”
OH MY GOD! ARE YOU FOR REAL? I wanted to curl up into a ball and die in a corner somewhere – anywhere but there. My first date with this guy and he is going to go bring home my alcoholic father who’s just been kicked out of the local pub. He quickly replied with a huge smile on his face, “SURE!” Apparently any drama that was different from his own repressive home life was extremely amusing. Well, always glad to entertain!
One other thing I need to mention was that Danny actually worked part-time at this pub as a bouncer, which was another reason he had no issues completing this task. On the way to the pub he asked me, “What’s your dad’s name anyway?” I replied: “Donald” He kind of looked around for awhile in silence, as if the act of thinking made his brain hurt and then his eyes widened, “DONNIE? YOUR DAD IS DONNIE SMITH?! He’s our favourite dr....” He stopped mid-word.
“No, it’s OK. You can say it... he’s a drunk! THE TOWN DRUNK – yep, that’s my daddy dearest!” Once again, he thought the entire situation was hysterical, whereas I wanted to cease to exist. Over the years I had gotten use to the fact that both my parents were drunks, but at that moment I realized that it wasn’t normal and I was deeply ashamed.
I don’t remember much about actually collecting my father, but I remember the long walk home. Talk about a train wreck ending to a first date! I walked beside Danny in mortified silence as he carried my passed out father like a baby (he was a small man at 5’3” and easily weighed less than 150 pounds). I just wanted that night to be over. I wasn’t even religious, but I remember even praying on that walk home for something to put me out of my misery. I guess I worried too much, because not only was Danny amused by the entire situation, he actually called back the next day for a second date. I don’t know how we were going to top that one!