Perhaps I have watched too many TV shows and movies about the much-anticipated high school reunion. They usually come in increments of ten years and essentially function as a way of absolving any regrets or residual anger. Most of us say we have no interest in attending, but we all know that is a lie. We claim we have let go, but the poison is in the wound as the protagonist from “Lolita” once stated in that literary masterpiece. We want and deserve a second chance for redemption. A second high school prom, if you will. I move forward into the holiday chaos and look back on that date just one day after Thanksgiving on Friday, November 26th, 2010.
I asked a high school acquaintance whether she was planning on attending and she responded without missing a beat, “What for? To show everyone what I have not accomplished over the ten years.” I looked into her eyes and saw the beaten down gaze of someone who had been tossed around by the post-high school Gods. Like a single soul relentlessly thrashed about by waves commandeered by a vengeful Poseidon. I spent most of my post-high school years taking a perpetual holiday in Loserville, but things eventually fell into place in time for my return to the metaphorical halls of Arlington High School. There is solace in knowing that some of my 600-plus classmates who sometimes referred to me as a loser lack a published book to brag about. High school reunions are about vindication and closure.
I just mentioned that high school reunions function as a second prom resurrected like a phoenix sprung from its ten-year dormancy. But…reality has a different agenda and I’ve been watching too many TV and movies about the glamorous reunions when those bitter pieces fall back into place. And even by reality’s standards, my reunion was totally lame.
The invitation informed me the event started at 8:00 p.m. and being a typical individual on the autism spectrum, I showed up a few minutes before eight without any concept of being fashionably late. The room at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel was too small and I was the first one to show up. Slowly people began to trickle in and compliment the balloons and stars smothered with pounds of glitter. One by one. And then the traffic stopped. Barely thirty people chose to attend my high school reunion and not all of these guests were even from my high school. My foreign date was Shannon Lashlee who became my devoted friend after she hired me to work at her funeral home while conducting the interview and preparing one of the “clients” at the same time.
I told people that I could have just saved about $140.00 by skipping the whole affair and just made an appearance at one of the local bars where there were more high school acquaintances than at the actual reunion a few blocks away. But that is not the point. I enjoyed the people I was with and it could have gone the other extreme. We regret the things we do not do and are haunted ten times more. Even in these desperate economic times, money is still a replenishable entity as opposed to skipping.
I could have been practical and assumed the reunion would be lame like the 550 classmates who wisely chose to skip the expensive night. Then…I would grovel for what I wanted to hear and be told how magical the night turned out by a well-meaning classmate. “You should have attended, Jesse! At least eighty percent of our class showed up and some people asked about you. They heard about your book and are very proud of your accomplishments. I am so glad I chose to go myself because the bitterness I had nursed for ten years melted away. Don’t worry, though. There will be another reunion in about ten years and you will have another chance…” The few people who did show up had fiercely augmented the magic of that night and this was enough.