It’s Saturday night, and my best friend and I kick things off by smoking a bowl in his parents’ backyard– because since high school, on through college and into adulthood, that’s how most good nights start. (And bad nights, and mediocre nights, and nights when I wake up at 4 the following morning on the couch with the TV blaring and cake in my mouth.)
The only preparation I’ve made for my 10-year high school reunion is buying a pair of skinny Seven jeans (earlier this afternoon). I’m not successful, I’m not feeling particularly sociable or witty, I’m just gonna look the part. If I get laid tonight, better believe it’s gonna be for all the wrong reasons.
Actually, denim isn’t my only preparation. I’ve also armed myself with a fresh pack of smokes, gum, and a condom hidden in my blazer pocket. Because you never know, especially when you’re me. I usually don’t even know after the fact.
Then there are my buddy’s chocolates. And by “chocolates,” I actually mean “mushroom chocolates,” but that’s just too many syllables. And less catchy. So, there are chocolates.
Having agreed that arriving at our reunion stone sober is a bad idea, we meet up with a half dozen girls from our class at a bar on Main Street; four of whom I’ve spoken a collective dozen words (if that) in all of high school, one I’ve already told my buddy I’m planning on sleeping with, and one who, understatedly put, has blossomed. Holy shit. How–and WHEN–did she get that ass?
Since I’m already baked, not successful, and not feeling particularly sociable, I nurse a $10 beer for a half hour and stick to my game plan: innocent chit chat with my target, a few “you work in entertainment too?!” moments with the duckling-turned-swan, keep my career word total below 20 with the other four. No offense, ladies–I’m already planning on taking this one home, and–look at her, she just can’t stop kissing my cheek! What, do I have some peanut butter on there or something?
Before I can verbally cockblock myself, we’re back in the car and headed to the Moose Lodge. Have I mentioned our reunion is at the FUCKING MOOSE LODGE?! We park, spark another bowl for good measure, and take our first crescent moon-shaped bite of chocolate. (Final reminder: mushroom chocolate.)
– – –
Walking around the corner of the building, we realize it’s only been 45 minutes since the doors opened. We have zero desire to be the first ones in, let alone in the first third. Thankfully, a small crowd’s already smoking outside. Oh yeah, we can do this now! No detentions for smoking ciggies! We’re greeted with handshakes and fist bumps from a few immediately recognizable faces: the druggie skater donning the same baggy sweater and cargo pants I last saw him in ten years ago, the half-black dude with the perfect smile who’s legitimately cool enough to pull off the leather jacket/tie/baseball cap trifecta, and the ambiguously ethnic loudmouth with a waxed chest and two too many shirt buttons undone. The latter can’t stop talking about how he’s got five bottles of Dom and Veuve Clicquot waiting inside. See? Told you there’d be bottle service at the Moose Lodge.
Before we can finish our first cigarette, one of our classmates pulls up in a shiny black Maserati. No valet, homie– it’s the fucking Moose Lodge, not Mastro’s. He scrapes the bottom of his car violently pulling into the parking lot, eliciting a hearty cackle of “Ohhhh”s from the whole smoking section, as if he’d been caught passing notes in geometry. Perhaps this won’t be so bad, after all.
– – –
We suck it up and head in– down a narrow, dusty hallway with Warren G’s ‘Regulate’ blasting on the other end. After filling out the obligatory name tags and receiving three drink tickets apiece (my heart sinks at this reality; no open bar?), we proceed through a curtain of cheap streamers and it hits me– I’m standing in a transplanted cafeteria of the last group I actually referred to as “my peers.” (Well, if anyone had actually hung out our school’s cafeteria, that is.) I deserve a hemorrhoid for making the reference, but there’s no better way to put it: this is straight out of Napoleon Dynamite.
No one’s dancing, and the only people sitting at tables are the plus-ones: husbands, wives, dates. Remember the kids’ table at Thanksgiving? It’s like that, without all the enjoyment of being a kid. Instead of chasing the family dog with a turkey leg in his mouth and tracing crayon outlines of your hand, you sit with the other misfits and watch your significant others being eye raped by their entire graduating class. If you’re lucky, she’ll turn around once every few minutes and blow you a kiss– but it’s gonna be a long night. There are many things in life I’ve never wanted to be: a meter maid, an amputee, and now a plus-one at a reunion.
My buddy taps on my shoulder. “We’re about to get drunk in a real life Facebook group.” He couldn’t be more on. Facebook has changed everything. Even if I haven’t seen you in person over the last decade, I do know what you look like, I do know that you got married to a disproportionately hot girl, and I do know that you ate lunch at Bay Cities yesterday. All I can think is “I’ve defriended so many people in this room!”
First up, the girl who couldn’t have been more than a few months away from becoming my stepsister. Her mom was my dad’s first girlfriend after my parents split, and her family moved to Santa Monica to be closer and make things work. They didn’t. I would’ve hit it back then. Not much has changed.
There’s the cheerleader I ended up going to college with, who complained after I didn’t take advantage of her the one time we hung out and killed three bottles of Charles Shaw. She’s a single mom now. Savor small victories.
There’s the kid who paid me $500 to do a semester’s worth of world history homework in tenth grade. (I loved history, it was a labor of love. Not to mention the fact that I was only copying mine verbatim.) He’s some sort of financial consultant in DC. You don’t say.
The worst thing about reunions? The moment you see someone you’re genuinely excited to catch up with from across the room, you’re charged with navigating a sea of familiar faces and handshakes just to get to them… and that’s assuming they don’t move on their own. Thankfully, my buddy’s got a reasonable size advantage on this portion of the crowd, so I call an audible and follow him through the crowd like a running back behind his trusty lineman.
And there she is, the closest thing I had to a long-term crush in high school, pint-sized and barely looking a day over 19. (We also met in world history; naturally, I did her homework for free.) We’d actually grown close after college when we both found ourselves back in Los Angeles, but nothing ever became of it, as I’d convinced myself my salary was less than half her prerequisite. She tells me she’s just broken up with her boyfriend in New York, and for the first time all night, I realize I should’ve driven my own car. But since I didn’t– to the bar!
Disappointed in my lack of foresight, I finally make it to the watering hole, wrestling for standing space next to an unidentifiable cue ball who looks better suited to be on the other side serving me. Before I can order, he’s on my shoulder: “What we drinkin’, son?!” Boy, this may get awkward when I can’t remember who you are. There’s a reason people write both their first AND last names on their tags, you know. When he offers up his name with a handshake and a double whiskey rocks, it all comes back. When he tells me he’s “livin’ the dream, producing porn in Texas and ridin’ a redhead with double-D’s,” I’m reminded why I didn’t have much of a reason to talk to him in high school, and tonight is no different. Thanks for the whiskey, though.
– – –
A handful of smokes, shots and Nate Dogg tracks later, we’re liberally slapping fixings on tacos by the food table with our good friend’s ex-girlfriend– the one we haven’t had much (if any) contact with since they broke up after 8 years together– since sophomore year. While he had the option to attend tonight, he declined. (Likely in that for the past few years, he’s found a different girlfriend who’ll likely be more than a girlfriend someday, and who’d want to deal with any of that nonsense?) I’ve bumped into her a few times already tonight, each time muttering something along the lines of “Thank God I’m high for this,” each time slightly less coherent than that which preceded it.
“You two smoking any more tonight?”
My boy and I lock eyes like we’re in a beer commercial; there’s understanding in our gaze.
God, yes. A friend with weed is a friend, indeed.
We step outside again. Ciggy, bite of chocolate, stare at the sidewalk for a hot minute.
“Not really, to be honest.” You haven’t been accidentally feeding me just chocolate chocolate, have you? These jeans are so tight my balls are asleep, I don’t want excess calories unless they’re fucking me up.
“Alright, I thought I had an Optimo on me. We need papers.”
“No sweat, we’ll walk to the market right down the street.”
We walk down to the market right down the street. Closed. No biggie, we kill the last of the chocolate, hop in the car and drive to the nearest liquor store, back so fast we don’t even lose our parking spot.
I should mention I finally started losing my shit while waiting in line at the liquor store. I should also mention we were the only patrons in the liquor store. Must’ve been those lights on the ice cream freezer I couldn’t stop staring at. I should’ve gotten some ice cream. Ice cream sounds good right now.
In order to keep inconspicuous (and not have to share our drugs), the three of us stand a good 30 feet from the door and spark our blunt. Before it’s made a full rotation, two more have joined, but they’ve also contributed a joint. This has to be how the whole Occupy movement got started. While they’re moving in opposite directions around our mini-circle, I keep ending up with both the blunt and the joint at the same time. Plus, I’ve lit another ciggy, so I’m smoking like a goddamn factory at this point– a factory with a busted assembly line, sleeping employees and a faulty emergency system. My knees get wobbly and I can’t feel my right foot. Always a good sign.
– – –
Next thing I know, we’re back inside. I slink my way next to an absolute stunner who wouldn’t give me the time of day back in high school; from what I can gather in a matter of seconds, she’s a singer now, so she still won’t. Joke’s on her, I don’t even HAVE a sense of time right now! Plus, her older boyfriend blew a load in her eye junior year and everyone’s been joking about it ever since.
Remember the loudmouth with the waxed chest? He’s roving about with his merry gang of rich kids-turned-rich young adults, all of whom have an arm wrapped tightly around their dates’ waists. (Any tighter, and it might constitute rape.) As promised, champagne has been popped, so I’m grabbing at glasses like a toddler for treats. While gorgeous, these girls are virtually identical, one moment half-struggling to separate themselves from their captors’ steely claws, the next giving up and laughing at one at jokes I can’t even hear. I wonder if they’re all sisters, but I realize it’s likelier they all have the same employer. I wonder which one’s being paid the most for her company tonight. When did the Twilight Zone take a bath in hepatitis and hair gel?
After all that bubbly, I make a mad dash (read: determined stumble) to the bathroom and piss for a solid eight minutes, though looking back, the last seven were probably just me staring at patterns in floor tiles with my dick out.
Now I’m making small talk with the tall blonde I hooked up with in my little brother’s bed the summer after graduation, when my parents were out of town and I went all Risky Business on their house for the better part of a month. (It would’ve been my bed, but my room had been designated the VIP lap dance lounge by the strippers we’d hired and I couldn’t get past the bouncer standing guard at the top of the stairs.) She’s engaged now, to a 40-year-old with an Affliction t-shirt & receding hairline; he greets me with little more than an uninterested “Yeah.” In his defense, my input isn’t much richer, so I feign interest with a flat “CongratsI’mgonnagotothebarnow” and a limp handshake. Probably better than “I put those fingers on your fiancÃ©e’s cooch for fifteen seconds a decade before you, bro.”
I run into two of my old friends from elementary school all the way up until college, formerly scrawny little cousins who look nothing alike. One’s bursting out of his shirt in muscles I didn’t even know humans were supposed to grow, drunk as fuck and bouncing off everything (and everyone) in sight with his tongue wagging freely like a dog’s. Without a doubt the most forceful hug I get all night. I jokingly ask if he’s fighting UFC, and it turns out he’s actually fighting MMA. I think back to the time I gambled $64 away from him on a putting green after school; when his aunt showed up at my house to pick him and his cousin up, she’d made him pay. Probably wouldn’t go down that easily today. He suddenly grabs the back of my head, positioning my gaze squarely on the ass of the shortest girl in our graduating class, whom, as luck would have it, I’d also gone to college with. “How good does she look?!” I’d thought the same thing when she walked in in front of me earlier.
The second of the two cousins is slightly more proportionate, but comparably trashed. He’s finally growing a little facial hair. Turns out he lives down the street from my current apartment. He hypes the fact that despite the little sex we had in high school, tonight we’re surrounded by this “pussy buffet.” (Except for “the bitches with babies.”) He points out the duckling with the sleeper ass. Dude, I know!
– – –
As far as I’m concerned, the final hour or so didn’t happen.
I vaguely remember fielding a redundant barrage of questions on whether I still play golf, how I’ve been since my accident, and if I still remember any Latin. (When I can, awesome, nope!) Another old crush’s husband whom I’d only briefly met two weeks ago at a wedding told me he’s since fallen in love with my funny status updates. There may have been a slideshow. Pretty sure they didn’t hand out an award for funniest Twitter feed. Not that I’d prepared a 140-character speech or anything, who does that?
Seeing I’ve yet to hear any horror stories about how I poured a drink on my chemistry lab partner’s chest, my blazer didn’t require a trip to the dry cleaner the next day, and there’s no reason to believe I sexually harassed anyone with my iPhone, I can only assume I kept my shit together. (Reasonably.)
I do remember leaving. I got plenty close with my original target. Call it selective memory and maybe she was only holding me so tightly to prevent me from tumbling, but she kissed my cheek goodbye for what felt like 20 minutes on the way out and her name tag ended up on my lapel. Had I been of a better constitution at that point, I likely would’ve made a bold decision or two. Crap, I could’ve left this thing with a new reputation.
On the plus side, I’m visiting my best friend next weekend in San Francisco. Cheek kisser’s up there too.
I suppose the moral of the story is this: the best reunions require no specific date or anniversary– and much like this post, they never seem to end.