Local Banking

Barrie Miller Kirby

I didn’t want to know, but she told me anyway.

“My son is graduating from high school and wants to move his savings,” I said as I sat across the desk from the oversized woman at Benchmark Community Bank. What was her job title, anyway? She wasn’t a teller if she worked at a desk. But was she a banker? An associate? The woman smiled. Her curly bleached blond hair, excess weight, and pale skin reminded me of Miss Piggy.

I continued, “He opened an account at Bank of America when he went for orientation at William and Mary.” My explanation wasn’t really for Miss Piggy. It was for the bank president whose mother lived down the street from us. He stopped by our house with his business card to welcome us the day we moved from Baltimore to South Boston, Virginia. We had been banking at Benchmark ever since. I felt a twinge of guilt about closing out the account had I set up for my son when he was born.

“My cousin’s boy graduated from Brunswick High last year and was accepted at William and Mary,” Miss Piggy said with a thick Southside Virginia accent. Her face beamed with pride. When she smiled, lines crinkled around her eyes. Her mascara was too dark for someone with pale skin and bleached blond hair. It made her eyelashes look fake. And her blue eye shadow was too thick. Instead of drawing attention to her eyes, it made her eyelids look heavy. And it didn’t quite match the blue of her dress. “But then on prom night he got his girlfriend pregnant, so he got married instead of going to college.”

My chair squeaked beneath me as I shifted and crossed my legs. I didn’t want to know this. Surely the young man would be appalled if he knew that his mother’s cousin was sharing his sexual exploits with her customers at the bank. How many others have heard this story? Was it a free benefit of banking with Benchmark? Open an account and get a toaster or a soap opera. You can choose.

Miss Piggy’s pearl necklace peeked out from under her double chin when she leaned toward me. Her scooped neckline fell open to reveal the tip of a purple butterfly wing tattooed on her left breast. I wondered if butterflies often light on pigs.  My eyes stung from the scent of her talcum powder. “One of their friends had a house on Lake Gaston and they all went out there for a party after the prom,” she said. “That’s where it happened.”

Does his entire family know the details? Do they know which room the two teenagers were in? Were they on the floor or on a bed? Or were they outside in the grass? In a boat tied to a dock? Did it rock on the water with his thrusting? Was it the first time they went all the way? Were they fully naked, or still partially dressed in their prom clothes? Did he have his tux dry cleaned before he took it back to the store? I wondered but didn’t ask for fear that Miss Piggy would tell me the answers. And I really didn’t want to know.

“He wanted to get into the business school. But now they have a baby girl. She’s just a cute as can be. Her name’s Ashley. He’s working at the Food Lion on 58 East.” She said “lion” with one syllable. The Food Line. “And his wife works at the Methodist Church day care in Lawrenceville while her grandma keeps the baby.”

Instead of being in business school, these kids would be perpetual students at the school of hard knocks. All because of getting knocked up prom night. How many other pregnancies have begun after a prom? How many other stories like this one have women shared in beauty salons and church parlors and while drinking sweet tea at the lunch counters of drug stores in small southern towns? Too many.

My face grew hot. I shifted in my chair again and fiddled with the zipper of the purse in my lap. I felt like a Peeping Tom, or a Facebook stalker, or at best a horrible gossip. I really didn’t want to know about the bank associate’s cousin’s son’s girlfriend-now-wife’s baby. But I did.

“Well, I wish them the best,” I said hoping that was the end of her story.

“Does your son want to leave any money in his account with us?” Miss Piggy asked. Her French manicured fingernails clicked against the keyboard as she stared at the account information on her computer screen.

“No, he wants the entire amount in a cashier’s check, please.”

Miss Piggy printed the check. I thanked her and put it in my purse. Then I left the bank and drove home, wondering if I should say anything to the woman’s supervisor about the uninvited personal story about her cousin’s son’s girlfriend’s unplanned pregnancy and subsequent change in plans. Probably not. She was trying to identify with me. She was trying to be friendly in an overly-familiar southern kind of way. I’ll just keep her story to myself as though most of South Boston hadn’t heard it already.

I took out a deep breath and let out a long sigh of sympathy, of relief, of gratitude that my son will go to the college William and Mary in the fall. Gratitude that he had the good sense and whatever else it took not to get his date pregnant after prom. But I won’t ask him anything about what happened and didn’t happen prom night.

I really don’t want to know.


Barrie Miller Kirby is a Virginian now living and writing in North Carolina. She hopes that someday someone somewhere will publish her novel.

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