“I was never cool in school, I’m sure you don’t remember me… And now it’s been 10 years, I’m still wondering who to be… And I’d love to mix in circles, cliques, and social coteries …”
– Ben Folds Five, “Underground”
Ah, mortality. I felt a little old when I turned 25. It took some getting used to when I started working at a high school and all the kids called me “Mr. Sutton.” It kicked me in the face and took my wallet when I got an email telling me that my 10-year high school reunion was coming up.
Flash back to 1985: I get a Saturday detention for having a flare gun in my locker. I bond with the weirdo, the princess, the sporto, and the dirtbag while Simple Minds plays in the background. Wait, that was The Breakfast Club; high school was nothing like that.
Flash forward to last month: the night of the reunion, an hour before it starts:
ME: You really going?
NIKKI: I dunno. I just got out of the shower,
and I’m laying here on my bed deciding whether to go.
ME: I’m not going. I can’t deal.
NIKKI: I wish you’d go. Melissa and I are
gonna at least check it out, and if it sucks we’re leaving.
ME: Well, call me later if you go somewhere.
Tell everyone I said hi. Yeah.
So by now you’ve made the jump: I was not cool in high school. I wasn’t exactly Anthony Michael Hall, but I was by no means part of the “in” crowd. My first two years were spent in geekdom, the second two found me underground. I went from bad outfits and glasses to leather jackets, bandannas and combat boots. I stopped pining for the girls I’d never get and started scrawling anarchy symbols across all my notebooks. I stopped riding my bike and began riding a skateboard everywhere. The present day Chad? I’m not sure. I’ve changed so much, I’m not sure anyone would even recognize me. I’m still a geek, though now I’m proud of it, and I’m definitely a lot hipper than I ever was.
And what of the rest of the outsiders? Surely we’ve all kept in touch, right? Hmph. Somehow I’ve managed to stay in this town for the last ten years, and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. Those that got out will have trouble recognizing it when they come home. The actual high school we went to was torn down about two months before the reunion; the new one, built overlooking the bay, resembles a mall more than an institution of higher learning.
I became friends with Nikki and Melissa, who were cheerleaders in high school, years later. Here’s my chance to finally be cool, to show up with one of them on each arm and have everyone wonder what the hell they’re doing there with me. So why not go, and throw my newfound coolness in everyone’s face? Call me crazy. I blew it again, but fuck being cool. The last thing I want to do is spend three hours pretending that I give a shit what anyone is doing now, that I remember everyone’s name, and that memories of high school are something to be reminisced about. For my money, if I haven’t seen you in ten years, there’s probably a reason for it.
I spend that night at home, watching TV and sulking. I keep my phone near me, in case Nikki and Melissa call. It never rings.
me, 9th grade/me present day