Confession Corner: The Prom Heist
A swashbuckling true story of deception and intoxication… and only half of it is made up!
Forgive me Vocal readers, for I have sinned. Wait! Forgive me again, because there is something I must do in order to be worthy of your forgiveness. Yes, it pains me so, but I must first put my transgression, my crime, my utter shame into writing. I will not omit a single dreadful detail from the egregious episode for fear of damning my eternal, online soul. I have my reputation and the view counts on my subsequent articles to think about! After years of torment, carrying around a burden of guilt like the bloke with the chains around his neck from that Charles Dickens book (the one with The Muppets in it), it shall be a great relief to me to finally open up about this subject. I also hope that this article somehow finds its way to the person my friend and I wronged all those years ago because part of me feels like this magical, storybook scenario would bring a sense of closure and catharsis to everybody involved. The other part of me would probably just be grateful for the extra click on my article to be honest (free money and all that). So, without any further ado (not adieu), I shall relay my outrageous – but unfortunately very true – tale unto you all. This, my friends, is the story of The Prom Heist.
Note: This story genuinely haunts me and is definitely, definitely, definitely not an amusing anecdote that I wheel out as an icebreaker at every single social gathering I go to. Surely you can tell from my tone so far that I’m telling the truth. I mean, who could distrust this smile?
To truly get a sense of the context, you must cast your mind back to a simpler age: an age when civility was the norm, the world was still the right way up, children had rosy cheeks and frolicked in the sunshine all day long, Game of Thrones was still a good show and a new potential apocalypse wasn’t lurking around every corner. Cast your mind back to the far-gone, idyllic age of Summer 2016. Yes, right in the middle of a year in which we lost greats like David Bowie and Prince, we observed as political divides got more and more irreconcilable across Western society and we fell out with our relatives over our newfound political differences. Okay, let’s just pretend it wasn’t an absolutely awful time to be alive for the sake of my story. What was it I said again? Right, “an age when civility was the norm, the world was still the right way up” yadda yadda yadda. “Hold on,” I hear you say, “So this story happened in an age of civility, when all anybody cared about was God King Harambe and Leicester City winning that game where they kick the ball into a net? Well, surely taking advantage of such a naïve, innocent time by doing slightly mischievous things is even WORSE than say, committing a horrendous felony in today’s hopeless, post-apocalyptic hellscape (don’t quote me on that).” Well, you’re right – I truly am a monster. And trust me, I am definitely, definitely, definitely not blowing this all out of proportion for dramatic effect!
Are you back in 2016 yet? I am. After years of hard work, and occasional light-hearted mischief, my time at school is finally over. As most of my year-group are now 18 years of age, we are legally allowed to drink alcohol in the United Kingdom (take that, Americans). What’s more, my school is hosting a fancy, black tie Prom event at an upmarket venue in the city centre to commemorate our time in education. Alcohol is readily available from the bar and a single free glass of Prosecco can be redeemed with a ticket upon entry. Not bad, eh? But, as is probably evident from my self-portrait above, I do not have a date for the Prom and any attempts at romance would likely be a lost cause anyway (*coughs* GOLLUM! GOLLUM!). So, what does one do in times like these, well, other than get blisteringly drunk with one of your best friends? My imagination is really failing me on this one. However, there is one fatal flaw in this plan and that is the ‘sophisticated’ nature of the venue. For one, the drinks are extortionately expensive here (nearly a fiver for a little bottle of beer!) and for another, this hardly seems like the sort of place that would tolerate any improper behaviour. And so, it is in this moment that my friend and I get the same idea at the same time. Our eyes are aglow with devilish intent. We shall stage a heist!
Now, to preserve my partner in crime’s façade of respectability in the real world – for we are dealing with dangerous knowledge here – I shall only refer to him by a pseudonym. Let’s say… Ebenezer (no relation to the Dickens character). Having finished our free glasses of sparkling wine and some overpriced beers from the bar, ‘Ebenezer’ and I make our way back down the marble stairs to the front entrance. Here, we find the night’s salvation, the Prosecco station is still in operation. However, two more obstacles stand between us and our goal of becoming intoxicated on ‘borrowed’ free drinks. The first of these issues is the fact that sparkling wine is actually horrid and anybody who tells you they enjoy it is either a masochist or a liar who is trying to sound cultured. Although, it was decided that drinking from these chalices of donkey urine was a sacrifice we were willing to make in our noble quest to enjoy the evening on a budget. The second barrier to success is the ticket-collecting bouncer that guards the Prosecco supply. A balding, burly gentleman who could probably render the two of us unconscious in a single move. In this moment, it all seems so hopeless.
But then, as if beamed down from the heavens, a friendly face materialises on the other side of the door. It is none other than our school friend uhm… Tim, Tiny Tim (no relation), making his way into the venue. Promptly, Ebenezer and I improvise, gesturing to our friend to keep the bouncer distracted. The operation works like an oiled machine – Ebenezer passes back several glasses as I stand behind him, filtering the drinks onto another table. It was a resounding success and even poor old Tiny got an extra glass of sparkly yellow juice for his efforts. However, if you think that this heist was the truly reprehensible act that I have regretted all these years (and definitely, definitely, definitely not laughed about), then you are sadly mistaken. The heist was merely the context for the devious delinquency to come.
Hours had passed since we’d drunk our fill of mule piss, but we had soaked it all up with our customary, bland Prom food; sweated it out in piggy-back jousting matches on the dancefloor (it was a rather classy event) and as a result, we just weren’t drunk enough anymore. Something had to be done. And so, I shall place you back in the action. From the second floor of the venue, you can hear thunderous quarrelling from outside. A ghastly kerfuffle, if ever there was such a thing. One of the ‘big couples’ – the mythic, celebrity, star-crossed lovers that only seem to exist in schools – are locked in a heated disagreement of Homeric grandeur. Ebenezer and I… are indifferent to all this. Greek Tragedy, Greek Shmagedy, I say (the slurring was in part down to the drink). Time appears to slow down. The Faustian flames in our eyes return – “let’s see if there’s any more Prosecco”, we seem to say in unison.
The journey down the stairs is now a much more treacherous one than before, we stumble, but neither of us can fathom why. And as we reach the bottom, alas, we are greeted by an empty, unguarded table. Our hearts sink. There is not a drop of ass wee in sight (okay, maybe ‘ass wee’ doesn’t quite conjure the same image as ‘donkey urine’ or ‘mule piss’ but I suppose we must all learn from our mistakes). Although, Ebenezer does spot one unattended drink by the side of the door. A kind of evil, crimson concoction. It might have been sweet to taste, like cranberries picked from the Garden of Eden itself, but it may as well have been the Devil’s own blood for all the shame it brought down upon me. All I had was a sip, I swear. Ebenezer had most of it! Noble people of the jury, I am not even the worst offender in all this. I am but an accomplice, I don’t deserve the same level of contempt, the same level of embarrassment. And yet, here I am, spilling my sorry guts. Is there any hope for my redemption?
Ebenezer’s cranberry potion accompanies him to the upper room as we sit, waiting for the Fates to decide who has won the awards for best dressed, Prom King, Prom Queen, kindest male and kindest female of the year. Being as I am, a moderately popular smartarse in a relatively small year group, I thought I knew everybody in my school year. And yet, for some unknown reason, a group of girls that I have no recollection of ever seeing before pull up chairs and sit with us. Note: it is not something I considered at the time, but it was almost as if the Spirits of the universe were conspiring to teach me an important lesson here. The conversation is very civil, it is going rather nicely, which is exactly what I have come to expect in this age where civility is the norm, the world is still the right way up and Game of Thrones continues to be my favourite TV show (I’m sure that last part is relevant somehow *coughs* GOLLUM! GOLLUM!). One of the girls we are in conversation with suddenly looks rather forlorn, she turns to Ebenezer and me and says, “I can’t believe this school. I was going outside to comfort the holy couple, Pip and Estella (no relation) as they were having a bit of a falling out. Then, the bouncer told me that I couldn’t bring my drink outside with me. So, I left it by the door, but by the time I got back, someone had stolen it.”
At this point, mine and Ebenezer’s faces are as red as the drink itself. We suppress the urge to erupt into hysterical laughter. But after a deep breath, we stand, undefeated by the situation. Ebenezer takes a sip of the cranberry-alcohol split in plain view. Then, soppy, sympathetic condolences pour from our mouths like succulent honey, “Oh really? People are so sick, honestly.” “I feel so bad for you. Who would do such a thing?” “Oh my God, you were just trying to be kind and then some vile opportunists took your drink from right under your nose.” Ebenezer took another sip, right under her nose.
I could have said something. I could have given up the game, but I didn’t. I was a bystander, I simply played along like the dastardly rapscallion that I was. You see, to speak out would have been to abandon my friend in an avalanche of awkwardness. He was a part of my heist crew, a brother in arms. And so, I was bound by a code of honour, Your Honour. Surely, you must see that there was some justification for my actions. Deep down, if you examine my humble soul, I’m not a bad person. All you have to do is look. Alas, the universe didn’t seem to see it that way, it just continued to shame me for my wrongdoing.
“And the runner up for kindest male student of the year is… Marco Cardoni. Everybody, a round of applause for Marco.”
The second kindest male in the year. The second kindest. This was the pathetic, ironic award I was given. The world couldn’t even grace me with the top prize to placate my ego. It couldn’t even give me the victory as a sign that my deceptive guise of kindness was convincing enough to fool the entire year group. No, the Spirits of fate let me stew in my unworthiness. The world showed me up for who I really was: a fraud who, for all his trickery and deceit, won nothing of value in the end.
And thus, I am reduced to this pathetic state. Am I to fall to my knees and beg for your forgiveness, world? Are you not content with keeping my soul in chains for the rest of my guilt-ridden existence? I suppose I must grovel.
“Good Spirits and sparkling wines! Assure me that I may yet shake these embarrassing moments by an altered way of life. I will honour the Prom in my heart, and try to keep it always. I will live by a code of better Prom behaviour in the Past, the Present, and the Future. I will not shut out the lessons that the Spirits and cranberry juice have taught me. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this shameful trophy!”
Yeah, I think Michael Caine says something like this to The Muppets in that Dickens novel. Meh, never read it.
Okay, phew, so that’s a wrap! The end of my tale. Glad that’s all out of the way. We’re done here. Tale told; redemption achieved. You can tell that I have learned my lesson by the fact that I am using this story – in which I committed terrible wrongdoings – as the subject of an article that I stand to make money from. I’m sure that everybody I have ever wronged will think I’m an absolute hero now. That’s how it works, right? You do some bad stuff, you begrudgingly apologise with a financial incentive in mind and Bob Cratchitt’s your uncle, you’re forgiven (no relation). So, without any further adieus (not ados), I bid you – and my burden of torturous guilt – farewell.
And lo, Marco lived happily ‘till the end of his days…