Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I have vivid memories of high school—good and bad. I think that’s one reason that I write novels for teens. To paraphrase Flannery O’Connor, any writer who survives adolescence has more than enough material to last a lifetime. I remember high school as a fever dream juxtaposition of the highest highs and the lowest lows.
So it is with some trepidation that I prepare for my first high school reunion. To my knowledge, my class has held only two reunions—a tenth, that I was not able to attend, and this one. I have a lot of catching up to do.
I spend the afternoon studying up on the yearbook. Some of the people I want to see will not be there, because some of them are dead. Some never made it out of their twenties.
It is time to go, and I have five outfits laid out on the bed, trying to decide what to wear. Flower child throw-back? Sleek, sophisticated black with heels? Literary goddess?
I choose black and white and heels. My husband looks me up and down. “You look kind of dressed up,” he says, this man who would wear a sports shirt and khakis to a wedding. “But don’t change now. We gotta go.”
On the way, I develop an unpleasant queasiness—maybe the aftermath of clothing anxiety. Wow, I think, you are nervous about this.
We arrive at the country club. As we cross the parking lot, I’m feeling light-headed. It’ll be all right, I tell myself. Cocktails, dinner, dancing. Well, maybe not dancing. We’ll see how it goes.
In the reception area, I give my name and they hand my husband and me name tags and a CD. Someone taps me on the shoulder.
“Cinda? It’s Debbie Weiner. Remember me?”
Of course I remember Debbie Weiner. I cling to her like a buoy in an uncertain sea, since I seem to be getting seasick.
“I saw you were in publishing,” she says. “I’m in publishing, too, since right after I graduated from Kent State.”
“Well,” I say, “I took a more indirect route.”
Someone else greets me. It is Bob Good. We were in the Drama Club together, and the a capella choir. He was Sir Pellinore in Camelot (I was in the chorus.) And here’s Mike Bezbatchenko, one of the many Bezbatchenkos.
I chat with Debbie in the photography line. She has worked for a series of academic presses. I am eager to hear more, but my digestive turmoil increases.
Maybe not cocktails. Or dinner.
I break into a cold sweat as I realize that I need to find the ladies’ room—and fast. I charge off, abandoning my bewildered husband in the photography line.
As I thread my way through the crowd, other people greet me, volunteering familiar names attached to unfamiliar faces. Everyone is very friendly. I’m actually a high school reunion success! Except…
I huddle in the restroom stall, dripping sweat, hugging the porcelain goddess. I’m there a considerable time, in a miserable limbo.
The outside door opens. “Um—Cinda?” It’s Debbie. “Your husband sent me in to see if you’re all right.”
“Well,” I say, as surprised as anyone, “apparently I am ill.”
“Can I help you?” she asks kindly, this woman I haven’t seen in forty years.
“Well, maybe I’ll just stay here and see what develops,” I say.
And, of course, I am violently ill. Also mortified.
Debbie brings me a glass of water.
Now my husband comes in. “Are you all right? Debbie says--”
“No,” I say, hoping for a quick and merciful death.
Some women enter the ladies’ room, and my husband beats a hasty retreat.
A few minutes later, he’s back. Debbie is guarding the door. Temporarily defused, I emerge from the cubicle.
“Let’s go home,” my husband says.
“Well,” I say, bravely, “maybe I could get my picture taken anyway. For the memory book.”
“I’ll bet they would take it really fast,” Debbie says.
My husband takes in my pallid face, my stringy, sweaty hair. “Let’s just go,” he says, deciding that this is not a moment we want to preserve.
And so we leave, never having made it past the foyer, passing other classmates just arriving. They make eye contact with me, smiling, hoping I am someone they once knew—from choir, from band, from the senior class play. Even though just now I’m looking like the undead. Or a child of the 70’s who never successfully completed rehab.
It’s looking more and more like the only way I’ll return to high school is via fantasy fiction and fever dreams.


Anonymous said...

Aw, sorry, it didn't work out, and I was hoping that you were at least going to be able to stay until midnight, until the magic wore off. That stinks, especially since you weren't even able to leave a glass slipper to let your old classmates know that you can still be found. At least you were able to see that Mrs. Debbie. I hope you feel much better, and that everything's going well. :)

Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

I have my 20th high school reunion coming up in little more than a month. It is the first - high school or college - reunion that I've ever been to. Where on earth did the time go? I'm excited to see my girlfriends who are strewn across the eastern seaboard, but am nervous about what I'll have to say to anyone else. I don't know my place in this world!!! I'll make sure, though, that I take some travel sickness medicine and some Pepto! Thanks for sharing, Cinda.