My ten year high school reunion is on June 28, 2014. That was quick. I feel old.
(M would say “How do you really feel?”* or something, she’s been away two weeks and I’ve already forgotten her speech pattern, what words she uses. I play a complicated game of semantics, choose this word for her over this one. Nevertheless we would agree, I, who did not feel old when I dreamt I found a grey hair, do not feel old now. Melancholy, a bit nostalgic, and unaccomplished, yes.)
We started high school, an indeterminate number of us—because although Josh encouraged me to guess at how many were in our graduating class, I was never good at guessing the jellybeans in the jar, and always, unfailingly, demurred—days before the twin towers fell. Perhaps that was THE sign to watch for that we would struggle. Labor Day was the 3rd of September, we started school days later, days after that I walked into what would be Ms. Tynes’ English class, to find the substitute, Maynard, I think, frenzied. The air was frenetic. Her parents were in the air, were they on one of the planes?
The idea that planes could be maliciously flown into buildings was new to me, had it occurred to the class? The school? Did we even know what terrorism was? Did the word itself experience an upsurge in usage in the wake of 9/11? All of these things preoccupy me now.
I watched the towers fall, and people jump—why wasn’t that censored from our media? Was it to say this happened?—on loop. Turned the TV on in the mornings flipping through the Daily News, and eating breakfast, or more often, not eating.
(I remember walking out to the edge of the driveway after Rick drove me home on September 11th, 2001, it was so quiet, the sky, the street. Unsettling.)
We ate lunch on the slopping, grassy hill at the front of the school that first year. I ate with Jess, who eagerly pointed out Josh. She was smitten. Did I meet Adam before or after September 11th? I remember him in his football jacket, gesticulating wildly, his large grin, his long hair, standing up in the throng.
(When I met Adam, Jess imagined double dates, she would eventually be with Josh she knew, and me with Adam.)
High school felt like the start of something. What exactly, I wasn’t sure, I’m still not, but something.
I wrote Olga who I wouldn’t meet for years yet, recently that “Things are… not how I expected them to be. I think I could write a book about heartache, heartbreak, sorrow, and oh god, grief, but I sit down… and nothing.” Add to that dashed dreams and expectations. What were my dreams that first year, in grade 10? Did I have any better idea what I wanted to do with my “one wild and precious life”** in 2001 than I do now in 2014. The summer between grade 11 and 12, I think, my expectations were that I would live the life Josh had imagined for me, much better than anything I’d imagined for myself. Live in a sparsely furnished condo, write, be artsy (pretentious, as well? I never asked.), cook elaborate dinner parties. Play Frida Kahlo in my own culturally appropriative story of Frida and Diego. I still can’t cook much.
Olga writes back something about hoping to have everything on track by thirty, what she’d hoped to have on track by now. Does anyone ever have it all figured out?
I don’t tell her that this train of thought echoes M and mine over our last brunch at Estia, (oh god, she doesn’t know Estia’s closed, so much has happened these last two weeks that she knows nothing of), or what M said. She would find it depressing, I tell myself, I tell her.
Reunion was the name of a TV show that aired briefly in 2005. It was good. The Class was also good, that started the year after. I watched the first episode staring out into the darkening street through the screen door waiting for Josh. Waiting was as much a part of my life then as now.
I take Kim to YouTube and we watch the stop sign hit the blonde girl in the face, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, before he was on Modern Family. Maybe The Class ending was the best thing that could have happened to Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
Maybe separating ourselves from high school is the first best thing we do for ourselves.
You either find yourself, or you don’t, in high school amid the rigid confines of cliques and petty grudges and teasing, and classes, did you choose the right ones? Are you doing what you thought you’d do? Are you at least on your way? The first step counts!
I have an urge to read Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which I don’t own, and The Year of the Gadfly, which I do. They’re making a broadway show of Heathers. It’s been ten years—can you believe it?—since Mean Girls.
We never found out about Ms. Maynard, were her parents on one of the planes? To the best of my, possibly faulty, recollection, we never saw her again, either. The next day Ms. Tynes was there, she who would be there for the entire year, and also teach African Canadian Studies, which I also took, and our first assignment [in English 10] was to write a poem about the catastrophe.
I remember lying in my grandparents’ bed, watching the rivers of French wine run down the streets, and freedom fries, and drawing shitty Pinky and the Brain-inspired political cartoons starring George W. and Stephen Harper. (Now I also remember watching the flood of people celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death. I found the mob scary, like anything could happen in this moment of frenzied patriotism.)
Our high school experience in any case, was surrounded by world strife. A sign, perhaps?
I tell Olga I understand her reluctance not to go to her graduation, although we’re no longer talking about high school. Olga is in university, becoming a writer. I am proud, as if I have any right to be. Even so, she does not want to go to her graduation—is this universal?—and I write that I understand.
Most of my friends graduated in 2004, I stuck around an extra year, took Sociology 12, and Geology-whatever, and talked to Mrs. Jack, the librarian at lunch and on off-periods, and skipped class as I always had. I was not a committed student. I wonder if there is a book on apathy.
I attended my graduation even though none of my friends were there. Saw Adam talking to his brother, who was graduating with me, walked past my mother in a blind haze as she tried to take a picture. Ms. N. mispronounced my name, I did not shake her hand. I walked past her, shook the vice principal’s hand. He was a nice guy, I wonder where he is now. Afterwards I talked to Ms. Bowlby who had been my favourite, gave my mother my cap and diploma, stood looking at the quad a few moments one last time before leaving.
(I remember standing in the quad while KD was above us, staring out the window, would she jump? We sang Sarah McLachlan’s I Will Remember You.
She didn’t jump.
I remember laughing so hard and suddenly chocolate milk went through my nose, in the quad, over a card game. It’s happened twice this year, laughing so hard and suddenly. Hot chocolate this time. Is that a sign?)
I did not attend my graduation from college—career college. I put my foot down, refused. Felt that same good riddance relief exiting the school for the last time. Am only occasionally nostalgic. Chris hugged me before I left, we went for coffee days/weeks/months later, was I still on my work term? More or less lost touch afterwards, are Facebook friends now.
I wrote Edward a few years ago, do you know it’s been ten years? Ten years! he said, I don’t feel older, do you?
When I met Edward I was 11, I was 21, of course I felt older, but I still felt promise pulsing in my veins, the world still felt like my oyster.
(Incidentally, in The Sims 3 University, my student always starts a blog I call “The Oyster” or “My Oyster” or “The World Is My Oyster”.) What is it about age and time that makes us forget our infinite potential?
Kate messages a group of us, “Given that you all probably know about the reunion…” I didn’t, what reunion, she messages me the Facebook group privately, she didn’t want to add me but I should feel free to add myself. Asks if we’re going. No, I say even before she sends me the group, wondering if M will be game for giving me my choice of restos, Halifax, Dartmouth, Truro, on June 28.
Have we talked about reunions, M and I? Or have more important things always got in the way, existential things, life or death, tarot, laughter? Does she go to hers? She’s had more, does she question her accomplishments before each one? Or is she more secure in who she is than I am in my flighty sense of self?
The things I am most proud of are not the things you will find on a resume, or that you will parade out in an interview, or at the mall in front of a former classmate or teacher, even someone like Ms. Bowlby. The things M would understand, and Olga, maybe Olivia too, but few others without extensive back story. I am proud of blogging for TheBody.com, I wish I could think of what to write now.
The group implores us not be self conscious of where we are, or aren’t, right now. No one is where they expected to be. I wonder where they are, if they are at least on their way, probably, and if anyone else has these questions.
I won’t ask, though.
* A mutual somebody to M and I lamented that her life would be over when she turned thirty in six months, this in a room full of women over thirty. Six months later, of course her life did not end.
** That’s Mary Oliver, y’all.