Reunion

I get an invitation in the mail to my high school reunion.  I get my one suit pressed for the occasion. When I arrive at the hotel, an eager woman with frosted hair pins a tag on my lapel that says, “Once a Husky, Always a Husky.” I fill my plate with shrimp and crackers and weave in and out of conversations. After a while it’s pretty clear that no recognizes me, and I don’t recognize anyone, either. I realize that I’ve shown up at the wrong hotel–this is some other high school reunion. But since I’m here I decide to make the most of it. I go up to a guy with patches on his elbows who is gesturing wildly to a couple that that keeps straining to smile.  I cup my hands behind his eyes.

“Guess who,” I say. As if he has been waiting for this all night, he starts rattling off names. He seems to go through the whole graduating class, increasingly baffled but determined. I get bored, though, and cut him off. I tell him who I am.

“Oh right, right,” he says. He turns around and greets me with a vacant stare. “So hey, well, so how have you been?”

I tell him prison was good for me, that I learned some important things in ways that were none too pleasant. I muter something about legal loopholes and tell him he’ll have to read my book to get the whole story. When I’m done he starts to tell me about his twin daughters and the symphony they have written. “See you around,” I say and slap him hard on the back.

After refreshing my glass at the punch bowl, I spot a woman decked out all in gold, with hips that swing like a wrecking ball. I sneak up behind her and pick her off the ground, but I get an awkward grip, and after a few wobbly steps I drop her. An uneasy silence falls between us. “You used to wear a retainer, didn’t you?” I think to say.

When the band takes a breather, I jump on stage and take the microphone. I tell everybody about how great it is to be back, to see old friends. I say I now realize that everything I was taught in my history classes was just a pack of lies, but that this is no occasion to hold a grudge.  “Not counting all the stuff I’ve blocked out,” I say, “those were the best days of my life.” Tepid, scattered applause follows. “Let’s all have a good time,” I say, “and forget, if just for this one night, all the misery we inflicted on each other.” By now the musicians have sauntered back on stage and picked up their instruments. I count off and the band leaps into overdrive. I jump down and grab the first lady that walks by. She is startled, but I move her into a fancy two-step, and after a minute or so she settles in.

“I’ve been wondering whatever happened to you,” she says. She bats her long eye lashes.

“I was never one to hang around,” I say.

“Don’t I remember,” she says.

We dance a little more, then slip outside for some fresh air. There are things she clearly wants to say, but she seems unsure where to start. So she asks me if I remember our old Geometry teacher, the one with the nasalish voice.

“Remember her?” I say. “I’m still trying to forget her.” Just for measure I talk out of my nose, and we both bend over laughing.

We catch our breath, then get comfortable on the hood of a car.

“You were always a loner,” she says, now serious and even. The moon just catches her face.

“And you were always a dreamer,” I say. I reach out for her hand and slide my fingers in between hers.

“Would you have believed it?” she says. “The two of us, back here again like this?”

She is misty eyed. Her lips quiver. We let the rest go unspoken. We lean against the windshield of the car and watch a guy get sick at the other end of the parking lot. A friend of his is with him, trying to help out.

“Oh, man, are you all right buddy?” the friend says.  “Are you going to make it or what?”

After a while the drunk guy staggers back inside, weaving all over the place. The friend tries to steady him.

“Now that’s a page right out of yesterday,” I say.

A light autumn breeze nudges some dogwoods. We turn to each other.

“You and I have a lot of catching up to do,” she says. She reaches over and plants one on me, lingering a while before she pulls back.

“Hey, how about doing that little cheer you used to do?” I say. “You know the one.”

She offers me a mischievous, knowing smile, then looks around to see if anybody is watching. She gets up, takes a few paces back, and tests the loose gravel under her feet. Then, as if a switch had been turned on, she starts to shout “Huskies Huskies High, Huskies Huskies Low!” Her voices gets louder and louder, bouncing off the glass windows around us. She kicks her legs out with a frenzied, almost violent motion, and her arms, sleeved in white satin, twirl through the night air like propellers.

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