Nerd Prom

Dearest Rachel –

It never fails. You’d think that the convention would fill up the entirety of the Hyatt, where everything is based out of (or at least was, back in the old days. Nowadays, I suppose the convention center proper is the real hub for all the goings-on). Considering that the event books up all four hotels in the main area months in advance, there’d be neither time nor space for any other events.

But somehow, you’d be wrong. Even as I finish the trek from the Loews hotel to the Hyatt, where the members of the fanfic panel are to gather this evening, there are a number of fancy cars pulling up, and young people in glittering gowns and crisply pressed tuxedo suits getting out of them. In the middle of what might be termed ‘nerd prom,’ there is an actual prom going on.

Yeah, those dresses aren’t cosplay. Or maybe they are, after a fashion.
Now, there wasn’t any weird dichotomy to this picture, with some absurdly giant costume coming down the escalator. But can’t you just picture it, even as this group poses proudly for their parents?

I have so many questions about this. Where is this happening? All of the ballrooms are being taken up with one programming event or another, aren’t they? What do these ‘beautiful people’ think about being surrounded (and outnumbered by) this crowd of oddly-dressed and sweaty (yes, I’ve just walked from the Loews to the Hyatt carrying a box full of soda syrup, so I count myself among the latter crowd) otaku? Are we a nuisance, an amusement… or a threat?

Or do they even consider us at all? Maybe they’re just so focused on the fact that they’ve survived one of the most chaotic and fraught school years anyone will ever have (apart from last school year, but that one was largely either cancelled entirely or remote learning via Zoom, so I’m not sure if it should even count) that they’re barely aware of our existence, despite the fact that we outnumber them by orders of magnitude. It certainly sounds like how the pretty people at high school behaved in our time, so I’d almost consider it reassuring that human nature hasn’t changed from one generation to the next.

Almost; it’s not really a commendable attitude to foster, when you come down to it, after all.

Alternatively, there’s the possibility that they’re just focused on each other as opposed to just themselves. Getting a date to the prom was always a big deal, and one of the more special nights of one’s life. I still have those photographs of you and I at what amounted to your junior prom back at college (I don’t know why there’s nothing from spring of ’92 – maybe you were too busy studying to make sure you could graduate on time?). I can imagine a sketch of one of those poses being the sort of thing I’d like to see on our tombstone; we were at our prime, young, beautiful (well, as much as we could be), and clearly in love. We looked our best at that moment, and it showed.

So maybe that was where these kids are, and they’re not phased by their weird surroundings. Of course, if they want to get a room afterwards for post-prom, they’re going to be simply out of luck. Hmm… maybe that’s a brilliant move on their parents‘ part to keep the kids from doing something they’d regret.

Probably not, though… odds are, if these kids were gonna schtup each other, they’d have already done so by now. I doubt anything’s actually being prevented at this point, aside from just this particular evening. I will give the parents mad respect for the attempt, if an attempt it is, though.

Of course, whatever these kids are doing (or plan to do) is little of my concern. Even where they expect to find an available dance hall (since I doubt they’d be any more interested in the anime stylings of tonight’s featured headliner Demondice already being lined up for outside the Hyatt’s main programming room) doesn’t really matter to me. I’m here to meet up with the old guard of fanfiction, like we used to do all those years ago through the last time in 2019. Doc said to meet at 5:30 – where is everybody? I can’t even see him here – to be sure, it is rather crowded, what with the promgoers and all.

He seems to have the same though, as my phone rings at that moment; it’s him asking me where I am. It strikes me as a silly question, as I’m right where we arranged to meet – although it does cause me to look up and spot him across the entrance lobby. No wonder he doesn’t see me, sitting down about as far from him as possible, but still in the general area we were supposed to meet. And, admittedly, I’m not wearing the purple ‘Ucchan’s’ shirt and cap combination that was practically a uniform for us for this particular event – I was a block from the hotel when I realized I hadn’t changed, and decided I had no desire to turn around and change at that point. No sense in getting a second shirt all hot a sweaty from the lugging effort. So yeah, I can see why I might look unfamiliar to him, even if he were to turn around and actually face me.

And it takes a bit of time on the phone to convince him to do so, at which point I hang up on him as he walks over. We’re joined by one of the other panelists, and we wait for others who might show up. Gary is expected at the panel, but Doc wasn’t confident that he would be at the meetup. A new female panelist asked if she and her friends could join, to which he assented as long as they would pay their fare share for the pizza.

But they don’t – evidently, that’s too much for them?

I probably shouldn’t be too hard on them; it’s a crowded, busy place. For all any of us know, there are enough other panels going on that they might be participating in one or another of them, and forgotten all about the little get-together.

And it is little. Once we get back to Doc’s room, there are only the four of us, since his roommate is also a panelist, having come all the way from the DC area to participate in this convention. I confess, I don’t recognize his name, though. I guess each of us are in our own little worlds and genres these days.

Anyway, it turns out that a single large pizza is enough to feed us. Granted, it has to be a meat-lovers specialty (yeah, we’re all guys here), but the fact that this is enough – more than enough, in fact – says something. Not sure what, exactly – maybe, it’s just that we’re old?

As we wait for it to arrive, Doc passes around the handout he’ll be using as his panel outline to the others, and then begins showing videos. He’s still into that channel with the celebrity interviews over hot wings, but he’s also found an animated version, where the host interviews Skeletor from He-Man. You’d think a villain whose face had been burnt down to his skull already wouldn’t be phased by something like this, but I suppose that wouldn’t be particularly funny if it followed that kind of logic. This animation channel also has a short where he finds himself dealing with tech support – or rather, tech support dealing with him.

Doc also screens a few episodes of ‘Spy X Family,’ which I’ve been hearing about several times already this weekend. I’ll have to look into it, I suppose. At the same time, I promised myself that I would watch those last episodes of Kino’s Journey and Shimoneta that we never finished before the accident (well, I kind of forbade you from watching that episode of Kino’s Journey, as I knew it was going to be that kind of tragic ending that would leave you crying yourself sick. Don’t know just how awful it might be, though).

And with that, things come to a close. The other panelist leaves, and I begin to pack up the stuff I’ve brought. There’s still seltzer in one of the bottles I’ve brought, so I mix up the rest for one last drink. Doc has some as well, and offers a toast.

“To absent friends.”

Yes, indeed.

I won’t go so far as to say I killed the moment, but I’m pretty sure that, if you were there, you would have gone along with me in giggling at the wording, since it’s used in that one scene in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. What, Meatloaf again? I apologize, but I’m fairly certain you would have gone along with me in my mirth. It’s one of those cases where the cliché of “[you] would have wanted it that way” would apply.

Despite being dark and cooler at this hour, it’s still an effort to haul the box back over two blocks or so. And wouldn’t you know it, by the time I got back to the room, I realized my badge had either blown off or been knocked off by the box scraping against the lanyard. At least I’m able to get back to the registration service desk before it closes so I can get myself a replacement. It costs $30, but that’s better than having to repurchase it, I suppose.

Now, I’m off to the Anime Hell screening; probably the first time in ages that I’ve been able to attend the whole thing (since the get-together would usually stretch into the screening time).

Keep an eye on me, honey.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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