Six years ago I came home from Virginia for my usual summer visit, but with the additional pressure of attending my 20th high school reunion – my first ever. Although I am still friends and friendly with quite a few of the people with whom I went to high school and grew up with from my very youngest years, I found that I was feeling ridiculously stressed out about this event. I had lost some weight, so I was able to get a black sundress (of course it was black) from Talbots and felt like my hair and makeup looked good that night. My girlfriend Mara picked me up first. Next, we went to pick up Trish and took a picture there with her mom – which she later gave to us in a frame. Then, we picked up Krista at her parents’ house and had another photo. Finally, we headed down to the Country Club.
I wasn’t thrilled with the location – my family never went to the Country Club and it has never been a comfortable place for me. I guess we probably had enough money to belong, but my parents weren’t into that stuff – we spent money on going on family vacations. Plus, my dad opened his own business when I was entering 7th grade – so we were careful with money for quite a while thereafter. Anyway, I had seen other classes going to Hill Top Inn, a restaurant where I’d worked while I was in college, and it just looked really relaxed and fun – a bit less dressed up, I guess. But, I could have been projecting my nerves onto the location. The reality was, I felt “less” – I felt like I was entering a party run by the cool kids and that I was an imposter who didn’t belong. At first, when there weren’t a ton of people there, it was nice to talk to some friends I hadn’t seen in years. And, I have to give the girl who’d planned the event a hell of a lot of credit – she had decorated each table with designs and cute whim-whams which represented each teacher who had had one of our homerooms our senior year. So, like for Mr. Pucci, an English teacher, who had a huge bushy mustache – there were the photo props with big bushy mustaches. For Mrs. Schnippert, an Art teacher, there were boxes of crayons.
What had me on edge from the start was that I wasn’t in a relationship, didn’t (don’t) have children, was struggling with my job… And I felt, somehow, like those things were all obvious about me and that they made me less. But, what tipped me into the blackness of shameful teenage memories – times when I had allowed myself to be treated like real trash in an attempt to “make” a boy like me or care about me or show me that I had some value, was seeing a man I hadn’t much thought about since graduation but he still looked so much like he had way back when. He looked happy and was obviously married, and I heard that he not only had a good job, but was helping people. And I hated him. I hated him because seeing him and seeing his comfort and apparent happiness, made me angry with him and myself for an encounter over 20 years prior which I’d never really gotten over.
What was it? Small and big… He was handsome to me – big and strong. He was new to me. He invited me over to his house – and I can’t recall how I got there, but I was surprised that not only was I there to hang out with him, but one of his guy friends was, too. His mom was downstairs watching t.v., as were his brother and his girlfriend. So, he and I were upstairs, in his room, sort of flirting – and I recall little about it except that he suggested we have sex and use a balloon as a condom… (Yes, now, I would have a seriously wise-assed remark about that proposition which declaimed his size and ability… but I was 16 at the time.) And his buddy kept sort of bopping by the bedroom, like he was listening to hear if we were having sex and maybe hoping to see something happening. But, the seriously oddest and worst part was when I was told that this young man was going to go and meet a girl he’d been set up with by his brother’s girlfriend – and I sat there, watching him primp, dousing himself in cologne, and then driving with them – they had to drop me back off at home – and knowing they were all going to pick up this girl.
So here was this guy – grown up – seemingly with a perfect life as compared to how I felt about my life – and that shame, stinking, ugly, cold, and wretched, slid over me and coated me like so much heavy mud. I almost ran out of there after about an hour. I regretted it later, but …when I moved back here two years ago, I found that those damn feelings were still in residence. And, from time to time, when I see him, or hear about him, or some such thing – those same goddamn feelings return, that same shame, etcetera.
I’m sick of it. I have to figure out a way to torpedo this memory. I know that I can’t talk to him about it – so how do I put this ghost and these feelings to bed… no, under ground at least six feet under?
Working on it…