Just Like I Remembered: High School Reunion

When my old boyfriend came through the door of the hotel where my 40th high school reunion was being held, three girls, wait, three 58-year old women scurried over to quick give me the 411.  “Clark’s here.” “He’s right over there.” Shushing and fluttering like starlings after the same bug, they gathered round waiting for my reaction. My reaction?

Clark had broken up with me in 9th grade.  Apparently, it was no secret that I’d carried a torch all through high school.  And I thought it was so well-concealed.  Ah, like so many things about high school, the reunion left me exposed, mute, and hapless.

I’d only gone to the reunion in the first place because I’d reconnected with my high school best friend, well, my best friend until about 10th grade when she dumped me because she had decided that I’d gotten ‘strange.’ I went through the rest of high school fairly friendless except for the stunning hunk of a strange boyfriend I snared in senior year. Still, despite the rupture in our relationship, I wanted to see her.  And I did, coming out of the hotel elevator as I was going in.  Thirty-five years, five husbands between us, four kids, several college degrees, careers, hobbies and a shared love of hot cars (some things don’t change) – that’s what we had to work with.  It would have to be enough for the next 24 hours.

She thought we should drive to the reunion together.  This was against my better judgment because I always want to have my own getaway car.  But it seemed unsporting and unfriendly to say so.  At least this way, I would have an escort.

Successful, accomplished, not bad looking, I was a wreck walking into the reunion, finding my name tag with my high school picture on it, and trying to figure out how to have a conversation with anyone besides my friend. She remembered everyone, I remembered no one. There were times during the evening that I wondered if we’d gone to the same school. The girls who were ‘in’ in high school still were, wearing white pants and trim tops, doing the Electric Slide, and tossing their hair while I sat glued to a chair talking to a not even remotely remembered woman who had married a movie producer and was living happily in L.A. She remembered high school as a nightmare. We had that in common.

After a long hour where the ‘in’ girls shot me little looks with raised eyebrows indicating his current location, the now pretty old and very beat-up looking boyfriend, #84, the tight end of the Bloomfield Badgers, he of slow dances in the gym and long summer letters sent from his uncle’s Iowa farm, the infidel who left and never came back but never stopped hinting and suggesting oh maybebaby, yes, that one, he strode over and sat down beside me.  On my bad side.  The side with no hearing.

He talked.  I nodded.  That’s what hearing impaired people do when they have no clue what anyone is saying. They nod a lot.

He told me the story of his life. I heard the words tools, moving around, and it didn’t work out five or six times in the course of a 20-minute conversation the whole while of which I kept glancing at his nose – big and red with huge pores – the same nose I’d seen on the alcoholic building inspector I’d worked for during one college summer whose nose after lunch blinked like Rudolph’s with the words “I drank an amazing amount of alcohol before coming here.”

By then I was sweaty and tired and incredulous at how 40 years had dissolved and I was once again the slightly off, not cool enough to be quirky, complete misfit, grateful for the attention of a man still full of himself and his stories of his tools and his truck.  Even without hearing 50% of what he was saying, I knew 9th grade had been a lucky year for me. I wasn’t sad when he got up and left. I sat there for a long minute looking at the tight knots of the old high school cliques and Larry Whathisname leading a new variation of the Electric Slide trying to remember who it was Clark went to Prom with when we were seniors.   It had to have cut me deep – you’d think I’d be able to locate the scar.

But no.  It was gone.


Reposted from August 2012

13 Comments on “Just Like I Remembered: High School Reunion

  1. Sorry to hog the comment section, but one more thought comes to mind. It amazes me that four years out of all our accumulated life experiences can leave such a lasting impression.

  2. Oh, and as a PS, you’ve left me with the following questions. What happened to the stunning hunk of a strange boyfriend? What made him strange? Did you go home with the friend you rode with? Did you decide to keep in contact with her? Or did you decide that seeing her once every forty years was sufficient? Inquiring minds, you know!

    • Broke up with the stunning boyfriend after the first year of college. He was gorgeous but very unusual. Spent a lot of time at the racetrack betting on harness racing, belong to the John Birch Society, and was a scuba diver. Pretty out of the high school norm. The friend I see occasionally on Facebook but that’s pretty much it. Oh well.

      • Thanks. It fascinates me how relationships end up. How people enter our lives, impact us, and then either remain or move on.

  3. As always, your posts pull me right in. And as always, there are one or two sentences that just sucker punch me with how powerfully written they are. In this post it’s the last two sentences. Those words create moments of ‘wish I’d written that’ and ‘why can’t I come up with something like that’ and ‘I’m going to keep trying’. And of course there’s awe that you actually went to one of these hellish events.

  4. You had me at the opening line. Brilliant. Reunions can turn women into girls the way going back home for the holidays can turn us all into 5-year-olds again. I love the epiphanies you had. Love that you didn’t turn to your good ear and hang on every word. Love that you accepted who you are rather than reverting back to teen angst. None of that is easy–even at 58:).

  5. It seemed to me that at my 50th reunion, everybody’s scars were gone. Age, weight, sorrow, illness, poor choices, and gravity had caught up with all of us, and we just seemed happy to still be around and to see one another. It was totally different from the two previous reunions I had attended at the insistence of my best friend. I hope to back to the 55th.

  6. I’ve never been to a high school reunion, somehow I imagine if I went my experience would be pretty similar. I would like to believe that the scars I carry from high school are gone too, but mine might still need the experience of a few more years.

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