"I wish this banana was a biscuit," I said, scowling at my so-called breakfast as I
settled crammed into seat 7A of the Barbie Fun Jet set to take me from O'Hare to Kansas City International.The man next to me, wearing a red Ohio State polo and tearaway pants, doubled over in laughter. This was going to be a good flight.
TC — shortened from Anthony because he grew up in an Italian neighborhood where everyone was named Anthony — and I became fast friends; before we even pulled away from the gate, we were already annoying the people trying to sleep, our shrieks of laughter bouncing around the tiny plane.
His niece is getting married this weekend in Kansas City, and tonight I'll be attending my 10-year high school reunion.
Most people I've talked to recoil at the mere mention of high school. I'm not like that. I loved high school. I had incredible friends, liked my classes and teachers, got good grades and will still sing the alma mater. With the exception of a few people who shall remain nameless but will never. be. forgotten. for what they did. — excuse the brief Carrie moment — I'm sort of looking forward to the opportunity to see who shows up, who's gotten married, who's had babies, who's gotten fat, who's lost their hair. Sure, it's a pissing contest. And I'll show up with a full bladder. Okay, that was gross.
Granted, I did opt for the banana over a biscuit, passing the airport McDonald's with a petulant pout, because I've put on a few pounds since high school. Okay: I went to college, lost weight, moved to New York, got in shape, put on muscle, softened up when I got to Chicago, got in shape again, and basically feel like I've let myself go since then. The process doesn't matter at the 10-year reunion. The end result is all anyone sees. And really, in the end, I look pretty good, despite slightly more dangerous curves than I'd planned for at 28. (Which has absolutely nothing to do with the cranberry-orange scone I put away as soon as I got in my mom's car to head home. Really.) Big-city style — as far as I can afford — and much, much better eyebrows.
Mostly, I like myself. I've lived since high school. After chickening out and staying in-state for college, I snapped out of it and got the hell out of Dodge. Not because I hated Kansas City or had to get away from my family, but because I knew there was something else out there. There were a lot of something elses out there. God, what adventures I've had. And will still have. It's not ideal that I lost my job less than a month before the reunion, but I'm not embarrassed. I never settled again after college. Not for long, anyway. Boyfriends haven't lasted; jobs haven't lasted; cities haven't lasted because nothing has stuck that's made me happy. I know what happiness feels like, and I won't go without it for long. I get sad about being single sometimes, but it's becoming less about my age and how I feel like I "should" be settling down by now and more about…knowing some of these adventures would be better with someone else. (Someone…special. Cringe.)
Back on the plane, somewhere over Iowa, TC and I started talking about receding hairlines. He described with glee going to his high school reunion and finding that all the boys who carried around combs and groomed themselves incessantly were the ones whose hair fell out the quickest. "Just wait for your 20th," he said with a smirk. I think TC is the sort of guy who can take a snark tangent anywhere in the span of about five minutes — like I said, fast friends — but I think the conversation stemmed from my recent revelation that a boy I'd liked in high school, who really wouldn't give me the time of day, had positively ballooned since high school. He went off to Baylor, drank his freshman 15 and probably ate another 20, and never bothered to take it off. He's squinty and swollen, and when he crosses my mind every few years, I think, I really dodged a bullet there. We didn't have a bullying problem at my high school. That I knew of. As far as I know, kids didn't get shoved into lockers. No swirlies were given; nerds never had to pre-score their underwear in preparation for mega-wedgies. But if I felt for even a moment like there were kids who were better than me — for any reason, even without physical manifestation — I can't even imagine the emotional effect high school had on some others.
The Facebook friend requests have poured in during the weeks leading up to the reunion. I've ignored them all. People who didn't want to talk to me in high school don't need to see my wall now. Or know that I'm writing about them. Still, I'll look forward to the fake hugs and the perfunctory questions, and the memories I'll keep for years to come of kids turned grown-ups, drinking themselves into a stupor. It'll be surreal, looking at them as they are today but remembering them as they were.
They'll be drinking themselves dumb, digging deep into the past and their glory days, because it's what everyone else does at high school reunions. They've always done what everyone else does. I'll sip my gin and tonic, then I'll come back and blog about it. And drink myself dumb with my real friends — because I want to.