FRESH YARN presents:

My Prom Date's Name Was Bubba
By Romie Angelich

Depressing But Funny is the genre I call home. I would prefer to live in the neighborhood of Funny Ha Ha, but life's realtor assures me Depressing But Funny is the place for me.

I grew up in Austin, Texas, and as you might expect, I went to the prom with a guy named Bubba. His real name was Alfred Paul Curcoe the Fourth, which, believe me, is just as Texan a name as Bubba. Saying and hearing the name Bubba makes people smile. One believes that a Bubba is someone you already know: a simple person who might laugh at fart jokes or racist humor. But my Bubba, as if you can own one, didn't make racist jokes. His humor was more John Belushi meets Monty Python, and he had a smile that rivaled Dennis Quaid's. He and his sidekick, Matt Belew, alternated from speaking in mock country accents to high falutin ones. They liked to show up at parties with cans of generic beer and parody the Coors commercials that were popular at the time. "It ain't city beer. Heck it's not even country beer. It's just beer."

Bubba was handsome, charming and athletic. He was the kind of guy who didn't study but did well on tests anyway. He could also on occasion be brooding and intense. His father Alfred Paul Curcoe the Third, died of a brain aneurism when Bubba was eleven. Complaining to him about the behavior of my living, breathing parents never lasted long.

He had a loving mom, a sweet sister, and a step-dad who taught him how to rebuild classic cars. Bubba's first vehicle was more an elaborate model car kit than a mode of transportation. He worked on it for years before he ever drove it. It was a vintage 1960 Jaguar XJS sedan, silver with red leather interior, with a push button ignition. The kind of car you'd want to stop in traffic and ask, "Pardon me. Do ya'll have any Grey Poupon?" If I recall correctly, Bubba kept a jar of mustard in the car for just such occasions, because I gave him one.

Bubba Curcoe was not only my prom date, but he was the only person besides my husband with whom I was ever in love. Not that Bubba was ever in love with me. He liked me a lot. We bonded in junior high over pinball at our friendly neighborhood 7-Eleven. We made each other laugh, and he loved that I grew up in a house with a pool, a hot tub, and beer on tap. To be fair, he didn't hang out with me for just those things. There was also unlimited food and a big screen TV.

By the time my brother Leon and I, the youngest of our family of six kids, had become teens, my parents had pretty much retired from parenting. They just wanted to be "friends," and thought giving us cool stuff they bought on credit made up for the fact they didn't attend school functions, or go to our sporting events. It worked on certain levels.

In junior high and high school, I toured the classrooms at Back to School Nights with my friends and their parents. Bubba's mom Lynda and his step-dad Del always gave me extra attention, seeing I toured alone. Lynda and Del never seemed to miss any school-related event for Bubba or his sister, Kerry.

It didn't bother Bubba in the least my family couldn't afford the six-bedroom house we lived in. In a way, that made it cooler. Enron didn't invent the idea of pretending to have money that wasn't there. Texan families like mine had been doing it for generations. My alone time with my dad was often spent going to the manager's station at the Safeway Grocery Store on late Friday afternoons, where he wrote checks to Cash. I would squirm with embarrassment knowing our mission was to rush the money to the bank to float the next set of bills. If we timed it just right, the check he'd given to Safeway wouldn't go to the bank 'til Monday and wouldn't be processed until late the next week, when we could go back to Safeway and cash another check. That Del, Bubba's step-dad, was the manager at Safeway, it seemed to me the whole world knew my family lived on the edge.

For Bubba's sixteenth birthday, I sprung for a kid's birthday party for our crowd of friends at the McDonald's on the corner of Barton Springs Road and South Lamar. A Ronald McDonald impersonator in white make-up, clown nose and giant red shoes led a small brigade of smart-ass teenagers, as we held hands and did the kitchen tour where we Oohed and Aahed as we saw the fries, burgers and shakes being made. We tossed beanbags shaped like burgers into the mouth/hole of a cardboard HamBurgler and laughed like we were so brilliant for being teenagers having a children's party.

To pay for things like the McDonald's party and to have money of my own, I worked an after school job. Bubba occasionally picked me up on his motorcycle. More than once we skidded on wet pavement. Sliding underneath the back of a car and staring up at its exhaust pipe with Bubba on top of me, my life flashed before my eyes. It was as close to sex as we ever got.

Bubba was in love with another girl. That didn't stop him from coming to my house and drinking beer and, occasionally, making out with me, as if it was a "mistake" each time. (It was the Natural Light talking.) His obsession was (someone I'll call) Ann Nameless. She was two grades older than Bubba, and one grade older than me. His birthday was September 23rd and mine was June 7th. I was only 109 days older than he was. Ann was 473 days older. Not that I cared that much. Helping Bubba pick out jewelry for Ann and listening to the poem he wrote for her on Valentine's Day were really only small blips in my adolescent angst. Being the designated driver in my father's van, while the two of them made out in the back on the way home from a party at the Lake, listening to them moan, whisper and laugh, is hardly worth remembering.

After Ann Nameless went off to college, Bubba and I would swim, drink too much beer and sit on my parents' screened-in porch off the house that bill collectors built. He would often say such romantic things to me as, "Why don't you take your top off?"

I'd reply, "Why do you want me to take my top off?"

Hoping for, "Because I love you."

Bubba would offer up, "Somethin' to do."

Which just wasn't enough.

I was raised Catholic. Plus, my oldest sister Zeta got pregnant when I was in the 8th grade. I had been changing diapers and babysitting for free for far too long to fall for "Somethin' to do."

Bubba and I went to the Austin High Class of '82 Prom together. Ever the feminist, I invited him. My mother managed an expensive dress shop, which loaned me a $5,000 sequined gown. Del lent us an emerald green Jaguar that looked amazing with my dress. We got food to go from an Italian restaurant and set up a table and chairs on the grassy median where Austin's First Street Bridge meets up with Cesar Chavez. Everyone going to the prom passed us on the way to the Hyatt. The only photo I have from Prom night was of Bubba and me, with a homeless guy, who came out from under the First Street Bridge to drink beer with us.

I was class president and helped run the prom. I was dealing with school business when the room I rented with friends at the Hyatt was taken over by Bubba and the rest of the football team. They managed to get us kicked out of the rooms I had helped pay for. With no place to go for the night, I dropped off the immaculate $5,000 dress at home. I changed into jeans and drove an hour and a half away (sans Bubba) to eat breakfast in historic San Antonio with close friends from my graduating class.

I was an awkward third wheel to the prom couples who still wore their formal wear while eating Huevos Rancheros and Migas.

Bubba and I drifted apart when I moved on to the University of Texas and started doing stand up. I wanted him to meet my comedy friends and, most specifically, my husband Pete, but he stopped returning calls. I missed the transition when my friend crossed over from being a fun-loving party guy to someone with major drug and alcohol problems. I hadn't heard that drug and alcohol abuse were ways to cope with symptoms of schizophrenia, and that Bubba had been diagnosed with it and was in a really bad way. I didn't know how bad things were until years later I learned he'd killed himself. After I heard, I called his mother and told her how sad I was, and that Bubba had been one of my favorite people in life. We laughed and cried about a lot of things and promised to keep in touch. I have made it a habit to call Lynda every year on September 23rd, because I know Bubba's birthday must be so hard for her.

Just a few days ago, I called. Bubba's stepfather Del answered and said he and Lynda had me on their minds a lot lately. They'd adopted "a sweet little girl who's part German Shepherd and somethin' else with big feet," and they named her Romie. They hoped I wouldn't be offended, and I'm not. I was like a puppy dog following their son. Naming one after me is right up there with the way the name Bubba makes people smile.

I live at the corner of Depressing But Funny, right down the street from "Somethin' To Do".

Bubba's mom Lynda with the puppy named Romie

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