New night. New people.New experience. My social gears were already primed.But how long could I maintain this level of energy? I wondered.I had been awake on my gig back in LA for 48 hours even before I arrived at the reunion.Add drink, high-level socializing, flirting, and a half-eaten 4am omelet to the mix.Lather well and top with some Ruffles and a Fat Tire to taste and you get an idea of where my mind was. For all intents and purposes I had not eaten much since I left Los Angeles International Airport, and that was a $500 chilidog that caused my stomach to bounce around like a Jack Russell.
I snap a couple photos, stopping time in a blast of light. Looking at them, I decide I’m going to have to get these people’s attention first. I’m used to taking photos with a long lens, allowing me to be outside of the moment, yet capture the expression of the subject. With Mom’s Secret Auction camera I can’t even hope for that. I begin to see the difference between taking photos for art and taking photos for Facebook.
Rachel walks in, eyes smiling. Not only did she have fun the previous night, but she’s back tonight for more classmate shenanigans. We compare notes, and our insightful impressions of the people we lost some time ago during the process of living and growing up. I express my consternation at hearing other peoples adventures and not being able to be part of them. Knowing my penchant for being a workaloholic, Rachel latches onto that comment. “Where are you’re clones? Are they back still working in LA?” I smile softly. “No, no. I had to put ‘em down.They were starting to become self-aware and began to discuss individuality and self-actualization. Once that happens, you simply can’t control them.” She laughs. “You know me better than that,” I say. “Don’t feed me material like that, I’ll run with em all night.”
Introductions commence and we keep track of the ratio between how Rachel has changed completely or not at all. Evidently, I haven’t changed much in the minds of others, despite the perception in my own mind that I am far more personable now than I was in school. Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong about that. Or maybe I just am better at hiding my insecurities now than I did as a pimply teen. Its amazing how well sparkly blue eyes and a sense of humor can hide all that angst.
The upstairs of the restaurant is a simple but interesting configuration because of the fact that there is only one way in and out. So, arrival of new people has a metaphoric clarion call. And the place is filling fast with new arrivals. I try and maintain focus on the people I’m speaking with while at the same time paying attention to the top of the stairs. Rachel and I are in the middle of a conversation with Kirk L. whose energy level in high school was somewhere between a Chihuahua with ADHD and Robin Williams on a coke binge. He’s mellowed out substantially, but the conversation dealt with lots of words intermixed with projectile shards of tortilla chips. Over his shoulder I see a friend whom I’ve been waiting to see all weekend.
Tori R I considered a good friend way back when, and I still consider her a good friend despite not having seen her for years and years. Some months before the reunion, I found her in cyber space and we’ve been bantering back and forth ever since. Nothing I could say would ever offend her, and nothing she said could ever offend me. In other words, I was filterless around Tori. She was a soccer stud, bordering on star. Her legs could crack your head like a walnut, if in fact, you ever found yourself with your head between her legs. She’s all muscle, but still gorgeous with a raspy voice that Demi Moore is jealous of. In the 20 years since graduation, she’s had four kids and an ex-husband. I look at her now and I’m baffled. Four children would cause most female bodies to go into a permanent state that could only be hope to be wrapped in a moomoo/housedress. Tori looks as astounding now as she does in the memories holed up in my neurons. How does she do it? Diet? Situps? You might ask? No, she fights fires, running around in 180lbs worth of gear in 200 degree burning highrises with a hose that probably weighs more than a ’65 Buick – and that’s before the water is jetting out of it as 8 billion gallons a second.
I swoop in around her, and she gives me a powerful hug which is as strong and warm as one could possibly hope for. She introduces me to her boyfriend of a few months. He looks like he can curl my bodyweight on one arm, but that doesn’t stop me from being flirty. Like I said, I can say anything to Tori and she won’t take me seriously – and if this guy knows anything about her, he’ll know that, too. Our circle is joined by Mike OB, and Kevin McN. Classes are compared. Who did you have? Were we in this class or that class together. I hear the clarion of another arrival and look over to see Andrea P and Amy H turn the corner onto the second floor landing with husbands in tow. They both smile and I acknowledge the smile with a smile of my own – basically saying, “I see you over there, and I’m gonna get over to you. Cross my heart.” – a lot can be conveyed with the right smile. No?
Then Tori asked me “We were in pottery together? Right”. “Mmmnope”I respond. “Yeah, I think we were”. “Honestly, we weren’t. I never took pottery.” “Well, then, what the fuck did we have?” The real answer is that we had had no classes together. We became friends simply by being classmates. I smile sideways at her. “My dear, Tori. We had us. And that’s all we ever needed.” She pushes me back. “Oh stop!” she rasps in her raspy purr.
I’m worried about my friend, Tori, cause she just recently injured her back. Probably when she was jumping out of a burning twelve story building with two children and a goldfish under her arms. Maybe not, but it was some kind of activity that would crush a normal guys legs into jellied cranberries. Not Tori, though. She can take out Aquaman in a fist fight…and that’s WITH a hurt back.
I had been close to Amy H since Freshman year. No, really. We had been in close proximity to one another for four years, beginning with being my locker nextdoor neighbor. I adore her, primarily because she’s adorable. My memories of her, however, are not like other members of my circle where I will recall entire events. Amy Memories are like snapshots, and each one should be a Kodak moment that is embedded for all eternity in picture frames at Target. Some of those snapshots:
Standing in line during Freshman orientation when I ask her the time (despite knowing what time it was).
The upperclassman with his eye on her, who sat on my head while I tried to get books from my locker – I mean, my friend’s head.
She turns around in Mrs. Tennison’s Honors English class during a lecture on Homer – I roll my eyes. She giggles.
She breaks down laughing during a game of suck-and-blow at a house party.
She enjoys a deep neck massage after a day of skiing in Whistler.
And the image of her, warmly sidelit from a bonfire with a Corona in her hand, while she asks me how I feel about my girlfriend returning from living in California for the previous year.
Along with Amy in our circle is the woman she arrived with, Andrea P.Andrea is one of the reasons why this chapter is a little delayed. I’ve been trying to pinpoint what it is about Andrea, and what is was about Andrea that struck me that night. And I think about it now, and it still remains slightly elusive and intangible. Andrea is a tall and slender woman with an immediate resemblance to Shelley Duvall, ouside of Shelley’s role as Wendy Torrance in The Shining. I’m guessing that she normally stands pretty close to 6 feet, and tonight she was in heels…which she doesn’t need. At the 10 year reunion she was pretty far into a pregnancy, and wasn’t feeling too sure of herself in the feminine beauty department, even though she had and has nothing to be concerned about. Andrea, like Tori, had four children, and still looks as if 32lbs of infant couldn’t have possibly gestated in that frame.So, I’m baffled for the second time of the evening. But there was something about Andrea that was different. Different from all the other women from the class who have families and children (which are most). I sit back for a few minutes and simply watch her – enthralled. She emits motherhood. The way she moves, holds herself, gestures, looks at you, expresses herself – everything is motherly, mother-like, mother-ish. Some may view this as a potentially negative thing. But no, my dear readers, nothing could be further from the truth. Andrea presents herself as a strong woman…a sure woman…and a smart woman…doing well whatever she chooses. And, she has chosen to be Mom – and therefore does it well. I smile at myself.
The night progresses. I’ve gotten to know our bartender. He accuses me of having fun. I plead guilty, and further declare that I would continue to commit the crime. I’ll make fun wherever I am…out of nothing if need be. I can’t make gold from straw, but I can sure make fun from thin air. It’s a tough world out there, we agree, and that there is no point in getting down on the people and places that may or may not be fun. The burden for having fun is pretty much on you.
We drink to that thought, and I give him a good tip – which will contribute to him having even more fun.