Biblical Numbers

I see here where my high school class is having its fortieth reunion later in the fall. There is something majestic and Old Testament about this number — forty years in the desert, forty days and nights of the Deluge — that for half a minute almost lured me to go, but I think I will leave these people alone. They never did talk to me that much anyway.

I don’t even recognize most of the names on the guest list, though I’ve surfed Facebook to look up some that I can remember; a few of the current images of bloat and decay moved me to slump forward and put my head between my knees. There are a couple of guys whom I count among my mille e tre, which discourages my initial temptation to put on my badass red dress and walk in there challenging anyone male or female to a dead lift contest. Rampant teenage males have their points when you are a teenager yourself (even when they are the guys who would not be seen actually dating you, because only certain girls are cool enough for that). Middle-aged, beered-up men eager to recapitulate their teenage rampancy, especially if their wives are in the same room, are just a biohazard.

The main organizer of the event — once the curly-haired All-American stripling who wore a snarky sign on his mortarboard : “I never let school interfere with my education” — appears to now practice an obsessive hobby of taking signs out of local rights-of-way, at a level of fanaticism that has repeatedly landed him in court. Overall I would consider him on the side of the angels but it sounds as if someone needs to get a life. I definitely do not want to have a conversation about this kind of thing.

The guy who co-plotted my first foray into thriller fiction — an alternate history full of political intrigue and personal vendettas, like high school — is apparently going to be there. I imagine talking to him about the story, which is still in notebooks on my shelf, but suspect it would be like talking to Susan Pevensie about Narnia.

The News-Press guy, whom I can’t remember ever saying one word to me when we were both actually in high school, pursued  me zealously to attend ten years ago when the 30th reunion was coming up and I had the dubious cachet of my own local newspaper column. It was kind of like someone looking for the tenth for a minyan.

I wish them all well, in a formal, whatever-the-fuck way, but Thomas Wolfe was right — you can’t go home again, especially when you never really belonged there in the first place. I can’t deny feeling a pull toward those days, but it completely bypasses high school itself; it has to do with cups of tea, deep recesses in the stacks of libraries, light that once passed through branches just so at sunset and that is halfway to the edge of the galaxy by now.

I did local politics. I think revisiting high school would be superfluous.


24 thoughts on “Biblical Numbers

  1. I can’t imagine going to one of those things. Like you, I was always on the outside, and I didn’t mind that either. I’m not interested in reliving a life I never did, nor even desired to live. I must have tossed four or five invites and reminders to attend my 25th.

    I’ve very close friends from my high school days, one of them avidly attends these functions. Good for her. She enjoys them, and keeps me informed about people I once didn’t really know, and now I never shall.

  2. I wish them all well, in a formal, whatever-the-fuck way

    Oh man, that killed me.

    I’ve never been to a high school reunion, and cannot imagine any reason to go, except perhaps to show off the Amazon — la grande maestosa — to the legion of my classmates who apparently regarded me as either gay or entirely asexual. Not that being gay would bother me…in fact, the other day a client of mine told me that when we had originally met, she had thought I was gay, to which I replied, “No, unfortunately I’m nowhere near cool enough for that.”

    • Yeah, the showing off thing sounds like fun — for about two minutes and then you know you’d be eyeing the room for exits. I think Paul’s got the right idea.

  3. I was invited to a 25th anniversary reunion. I thought why not even though as everybody here I had been an outsider in that group, in an all male school. So the wife and I arrived and saw a bunch of dark suited solemn men readying themselves to walk up to the chapel. Of course the chaplain let us know that my wife would have to go.
    We both went and had a very good lunch in a fine restaurant. Never was tempted ever again to attend these functions..

  4. I love the line “current images of bloat and decay.”

    I’ve never been to a reunion of any kind. My philosophy is if I wanted to see those people I would have kept in touch with them. And I didn’t want to keep in touch with them.

  5. You have persuaded me that my trip home in a matter of days, after 30 years absence, will be yucky.

    I succumbed to the (thoroughly high school) temptation to show up in a badass red dress and bought a train ticket. Too late to back out now. Maybe I’ll reserve the badass dress for the train ride. Amtrak–isn’t it just like the trains in North by Northwest?

    I thought the reunion might be like THE BIG CHILL (but with our goofier soundtrack): a bunch of us renting a cottage for the weekend, and me, not being the dead guy. But, all of the folks I chilled with back then hedged and hedged (“I’ll go if so-and-so goes.”) and then opted out.

    I’m now feeling anxious about it, but let me say this, Sled: You wouldn’t have liked me in highschool–in fact, I cringe when I imagine how you might have characterized my teenage self in this post, but if we met at reunion now, you might.

  6. I’m pleased to say that the women who were girls with me at school fall into two categories: 1) those that I liked and have stayed in touch with, even if its not terribly regular touch and 2) those that I didn’t like or couldn’t care less about with whom I have no desire to be in touch. So, I don’t bother with reunions.

    But the turning up in a bad-ass red dress and showing off yourself and your cute engineer, that kind of thing could seriously tempt me. Especially since I have been single for sooooooooo many years that most of my friends from university seemed to accept that I would always be single and so, now that my VS and I are an item and given that he is so completely gorgeous (no bloat or decay there), it would be extremely gratifying – if somewhat superficial – to prove them all wrong.

    In fact, let me confess it: while I’m over in the UK with him later this month we will be staying over with friends of mine from uni… ostensibly this is because I am godmother to their daughter who I like and who I try to see whenever I’m there because they grow up so quickly and I don’t want us to be strangers but… let’s face it, I also want to show off my VS, knowing that they will spread the word amongst our mutual acquaintance, including at least two of my ex’s who are since married with kids and living the suburban nightmare… 😉

    • The Cute Engineer actually has shown signs of liking the idea, but I retain an allergy to the idea of walking into a room full of the people that seemed to constitute an irrelevant imposition on my teenage life. Do you know I was mercifully naive enough not to grasp, until a remarkably late date, that a certain proportion of my school contemporaries despised me because my parents were not well off and did not outfit me in clothes of a particular brand or brands? I truly did not comprehend that such things could matter.

  7. I enjoyed HS reunions 10, 20, and 30. I was very alone in high school and graduated with but two discernible friends, but I was known for my trumpet playing and had a good-looking girlfriend for awhile (one of the two friends, actually), and so somehow obtained a positive if unsubstantial reputation. The reunions were pleasant if large gatherings of people with a few unique things in common related to place and time, bound by a weak but sincere affection based on the fact that we were once children together, and I would not hesitate to go again so long as they don’t schedule it during Burning Man. This year would be 35 if they had one.

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