Going home for the holidays is always a mixed bag of gluttonous expectations met with relationship surprises. For many, that pilgrimage back is often to the place where you spent the better part of your life, learning and losing people, places and things as if lonely shoes strewn over telephone wires. You see the people you deem the most valuable first. Your family. Your best friends. Your dog who has lost a pep in his step, but who still barks at his reflection in the mirror. But after a few days spent in that ‘burg that suddenly feels smaller than the middle seat on an airplane, you’re destined to run into people who were once chums, and are now nothing but glorified real estate brokers on your Facebook wall. This is when things get really weird.
You say hello. They oblige. You both order a drink so moments of awkward silence can be drowned as if G.I. Joe figurines in a tub of forgotten moment bathwater. Just when things seem like it can’t get any more strange or disjointed, the bombshell falls hard, much like she did in high school.
That person married the town bike (a.k.a. Loose Legs McGee, Paula Paula Peter Eater, Dickme Elliot).
That’s when things get really, really weird.
I’m all for people reinventing themselves during and after high school. You shouldn’t be defined by a period of your life when you drank St. Ides, crushed on teachers and ate your feelings in a cafeteria full of fuchsia-colored beverages. Life goes on. Some people become better people while others don’t. It begs the question: after a certain amount of time removed from high school malaise, are those memories and judgements still valuable?
But since I’ve been described as a “dickens” by more than a few folks, homecomings are fun because it’s like meeting people for the first time. The girl with the bad posture and breath that smelled like a Payless Shoe Store suddenly looks like she’s a supermodel. The guy who had bicep peaks like Campbell’s soup cans and a smile that was as vivid as a crossing guard’s sash is now a surly, sad sack with gravy stains. Homecomings are like first dates with people you’ve already seen at their bests and worsts.
Then there’s the girl in question. You learn over the years that girls and guys who were seen as “less-than-savory” in high school were in fact regular sexual creatures, they were just given those distinctions because to teenagers, everything was a judgeable offense. I get it. I really do.
This girl was not one of those people. This girl was naughty like a toddler with free-run of a spice rack. She slept with classmates, teachers, objects, theories on evolution; basically anything that had a heartbeat, hypotenuse or hypothesis. And there I was, trying my hardest not to say anything inappropriate to what was now a happily married couple.
Oh, the irony. The guy used to talk about his “wife” like she had some type of Bubonic Plague-percolation in her trousers. And either, 1) he never told her about that or 2) he did, and it was water under the bridge to her. Conventional wisdom tells us to never bring a knife to a gun fight. Similarly, you shouldn’t bring high school memories to a homecoming.
But I’m a dickens. Half childish jester and the other half a dickish/impish quality.
We talked about our lives. Salaries were explained using vertical hand gestures like fish had just been pulled from the river. The more I looked at the girl and guy, and how happy and perfect they seemed together, I was finally ready to put away childish things. I placed a couple bucks on the bar and bid the pair adieu, wishing them luck in life and in duvet covers. That is, until I heard her speak as I was walking away.
“Remember how much of a dork Alec was in high school?” She muttered.
We may get older, but the childishness never goes away.
Image via: psychologicalscience.org