We met in a bar named after one of the snarkiest authors still occasionally banned by marauding groups of public library picketers. Twains, in downtown Decatur, hosted the first night of our class’s twentieth year recognition that despite our occasional efforts to the contrary, we did, in fact, graduate from high school. We left Decatur High School, but as you know, dear reader, reunions find a way to remind that some of high school still hasn’t left us. Over the weekend, I found myself visiting with various ghosts of myself: the girl with the weird conversation topics, the girl who takes advantage of her parents, the girl with no curfew, and the girl who picks the cute guy on the couch rather than a night out with friends.
Since conversational stall-outs comprise my special brand of social ineptitude, I brought along a bag of tricks to Twain’s bar and brew pub to rev chatter whenever needed. Anything to avoid the “so…um…how have you been,” routine. I dragged out my senior yearbook from a box in the attic. Husband had to come, of course, because he generally excels at banter and has been known to keep it going, single-handedly, for hours. Just in case, I also decided to drag out both sons as some of my favorite conversational props. And, for insurance, I invited my parents. Plus my sister. And her husband.
This worked well. We took up a table for eight, creating our own party no matter who else turned up. My family dispersed through the crowd like kindly deflector shields, absorbing most of my awkwardness and spinning it off into the dark corners of the bar. The night progressed, sister and her husband took the boys home for bed, and Mom and Dad offered to be our designated driving team. I no longer depended on my human props, as copious microbrews convinced me of my wit and grace.
We told all your high school stories, dear reader. You know, the one about the accident, or when the party got busted by the cops, or when she dated him or he dumped her. We told the one about the cheating incident, or when Mr. so-and-so got fresh, or when you drove your parent’s car as fast as you could up and down that cut-through street in order to destroy the senior float and now you feel a stab of guilt whenever you pass drifts of white paper trash along the side of the road. Okay, maybe we didn’t tell that one.
At some point someone ordered shots in flavors circa 1987. My dad passed along the message that he’d be asleep in the car. It was time to go home, but hey—I really enjoyed the evening.
Which made the next day that much harder. I woke up feeling thick-tongued and dizzy—that was to be expected. But I also woke up feeling like in general, I was done; I felt even more alienated and distant from my high school persona, like a picture of yourself you don’t remember being taken.
Another event loomed for that night—another night in a bar in downtown Decatur, this one formerly owned by a perverse, obese restaurant owner who chastised me for wearing loose jeans while serving his lonely, perverse customers back in the 90's. It all seemed like too much—too much of me, too many different me’s, all in one place, vying for my limited attention.
Curled up on the couch under an old family quilt, I polled the family for guidance. To stay in, comfortable in my 38-year-old skin, wearing my sweats and comfy bra? Or to go, try another night of social skills, and put on the push-up deal? They tried various angles. My sister, always the belle of the ball, thought I should go early and do the just-staying-a-minute routine. My mother thought I might should go later so I could enjoy dinner with the family first. Dad, ever the realist, pointed out that no matter which option I choose I would regret my decision. So helpful.
“Well, what would you have done in high school?” asked my astute brother-in-law. “If this is to be a true reunion experience, you should act now as you did then.”
Of course. Perfect, I thought. I pulled the warm quilt up over my shoulders and snuggled in closer to Husband on the couch.