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Knock-knock doesn’t really work on car doors. The sound of the knock doesn’t sound right on the driver’s side glass of a Kia. And really, knocking on a car door seems pointless, because I’ve never once been in a car and not noticed if a person walked right up to my window, the same way I walked up to that silver Kia Rio.

But Kim didn’t notice. Or maybe she didn’t want to notice. Either way, I already spent the previous night painting “PROM?” on my shirt so she was going to notice.

My knocks worked, but instead of rolling down the window, she weakly tried communicating through the glass like I was some kind of creep.

But you have to understand: I’m 17 years old and have yet to ask a girl on a date, so I don’t just have that kind of confidence. How could I? I never earned it, much to my mother’s disappointment, as her desperate quest for grandmotherhood falls deeper into jeopardy every day.

Just two weeks before this “promposal” started, I sat in Kim’s car for nearly an hour after school talking about the “Snow Ball”—a winter-themed semi-formal that I saw as a pre-prom warm up—and how the two of us could’ve gone together if I weren’t already roped into taking someone else. Even when I did have a date, it wasn’t like I asked her out; it was just a friend-of-my-friends deal. So, it’s no surprise that sitting with Kim in her car two weeks ago, alone but for the radio—I still didn’t ask her to prom. But I thought if she was so into me then, she’d be into me now. I’d liked her for about 2 years now, and the phrase YOLO was still new then, so why not?

After what seemed like 3 hours of silently gesturing through this car window, I realized why not. Maybe my winning, fresh out-of-braces smile was so captivating that she couldn’t look down six inches and see the giant letters on my chest. No, even 17 year-old me knew better than that.

Finally, her brother sitting in the passenger seat came to my relief, pointing at my shirt and ruining her act of pretending not to see. She put a surprised look on her face, slowly cranked her window down halfway, and answered the question my shirt had been asking all morning.

She said “yes,” but not the excited “Yes!” I’d imagined. She masked the disappointment well, but not well enough. I had expected the excited hugs and screams I’d heard tale of, but instead she stayed seated. We talked for maybe a minute more, and then she rolled the glass barrier back up. The symbolism. Woof.

I walked away confused, but not rejected. Still a win, I thought.

After a painful month of not communicating, I realized being rejected might have been better. I finally managed to corner her to find out what color her dress was so I could at least look like her date, even if it felt like we were now complete strangers. After that we managed to not see or talk to one another until the day of the prom. Probably, only then because I had the tickets.

We took group shots around her friend’s pool, but I’ve never felt less like a part of a group in my life. The girls were all friends with each other, giggling and reveling in their excitement and anticipation of the night to come. The guys were all friends with each other, and they didn’t really bother to extend any enthusiasm in my direction. I waited to leave, but the dance wasn’t much reprieve.

She got bored of me again about halfway through prom night. As our group left the dance, another guy needed a ride and I made the mistake of offering him a ride. By the time we got back, it was as if they had both forgotten that I had even taken her to the dance.  I sat next to them in the back seat as they flirted in the car, sitting in my own painful silence as I watched her get swept away. I didn’t stay for the afterparty. As I started my truck and started home, I couldn’t help but think, “they’re going to have sex.”

I didn’t have to knock when I got home. My family was out, allowing me to be alone and in peace, to forget the night had happened.

Kim played my already injured heart one last time on graduation night. I asked her on a date that later fell through. She left for Europe 4 days after graduation and came back engaged, two weeks later. When we see one another now, we both pretend we’ve never met.

But at least now I know not to knock on car doors.

Jake Cantrell

11 in a 21-year old body with an 81-year old soul. Just trying to follow God, wear neat socks and be 1 percent less worse than yesterday."

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