This is why I hate reunions…
It took me about six days after high school graduation to start losing touch with my former classmates, and by the second month I had pretty much broken off all contact with the people who had been such a large part of my daily routine for four years of my adolescence. It’s not that I started avoiding people intentionally, I just had other priorities once I was removed from the confines of the classroom. I can barely remember the handful of kids (or should I say less than a handful) I had lunch with or argued with day in and day out, rendering the entire experience (which seemed so important back then) kind of meaningless in the long run. If there is one piece of advise I would like to give to high school students it’s not to take the issues and dilemmas of high school too seriously, since you will forget it within hours of leaving the campus for the last time.
I currently live in the same city I attended high school in, so in the last few years I have on rare occasion run into an old classmate here and there. The encounter usually doesn’t evoke more than a casual head nod and brief smile, signalling a recognition of some bygone acquaintance rather than any sentimental camaraderie. Today was different however, as I accidentally ran into a more talkative member of my graduating class.
I was in downtown for my annual eye exam (I’ve already mentioned numerous before on this blog how much my eyes suck), when I decided to stop by in a takeout diner so I wouldn’t have to cook anything once I got home. After I placed my order, got my receipt number, and motioned towards a table to wait for my food, a man seated near the center of the diner called me by name and waved for me to come join him at his table. I recognized the guy as someone I spent four years of high school never talking to. I didn’t have any antagonistic feelings towards him back then, we just never had a reason to communicate with one another; in fact, I was slightly surprised he even knew my name, both first and last. Feeling a bit rushed, I hesitated walking over there, but I was gripped with a strange concern of not wanting the guy to look like a fool as he sat there calling to a person who couldn’t be bothered to answer. So I went over to briefly say hello, with every intention of cutting it short as soon as my food was ready to go.
“Hi there,” he greeted me when I made it over to his table.
“What’s up?” I returned the gesture as we politely shook hands.
“Not much, not much. Hey, you need a place to sit? You’re welcome to join me.”
“Thanks, but I really need to get going as soon as I get my food. I got an appointment I need to keep.”
“No kidding, with who?”
“My optometrist. It’s just a regular eye exam, but I’d rather not miss it.”
“That’s cool. So funny meeting like this, how many years has it been now? You know we should get together some time and hang.”
“Definitely,” I lied.
“You on facebook?”
“Sure,” I lied again.
“All right, I’ll hit you up there once I get home and we can see when we can hang out together.”
“Sure thing,” I said as I knew he would spend five minutes of his life searching in vain for a profile that didn’t exist.
“Lots has happened since we last saw each other, right? Hurricanes all over the place. All sorts of shit to catch up on. I mean even a black guy became President, can you believe that?”
I wasn’t really sure how to respond to that remark, so I quickly mumbled “Well, in politics anything is possible.”
“What’s the exception?”
“It’ll be a cold day in hell when a fag is elected, I’ll tell you that.”
“Really?” I said slowly, “how do you know we haven’t already had a closeted gay President?”
“Because I haven’t shot one yet.”
This is where I went silent for a moment. [The reader can see that I didn't miss out on anything by not bothering to get to know this guy back in high school.]
“You would kill a man just because you don’t like his sexual preference?” I finally said, choosing my words carefully.
“I’m just goofing around, quit being such a bitch. When did you turn into a fag to get so offended by a joke, anyway?”
“I’m not offended by jokes, not even by those kind of jokes. I don’t think I would be offended by them even if I was gay, but the problem is that I don’t believe you were joking. I think deep down–on some base level–you’re being dead serious, and that unsettles me–it frightens me–even if I am personally unaffected by your bigoted threat.”
My order was ready at this point, so I got up from the chair I had occupied next to my old classmate and turned to leave. I didn’t bother to say goodbye (and neither did he). I just got my food from the front counter and went out the door, evermore determined in my previous conviction that it’s best to avoid old acquaintances as much as possible. I have no deeper philosophical musings about this encounter, I just honestly hope I never meet this man again.