I was talking with Joel Harrelson, and was pondering how thankful I was that I hadn't married him (not that that had ever been a serious consideration), when a new arrival caught my eye. Joel must have noticed that I wasn't paying much attention to what he was saying, for he said "Well, nice to see you again", and wandered off, leaving me alone. I sipped my drink as I wracked my brain trying to remember the name of the guy who had just walked in. Oh yes, Dennis something-or-other. He looked pretty much just the same, except that he wasn't the scrawny kid he'd been in High School.
It was funny how many of the guys who had looked mature in school now looked downright old. Dennis, who had always looked too young to even get his learners permit, now looked ten years younger than the 38 he must be - that we all were. Meanwhile guys like Phil and Joel looked closer to fifty.
And most of the women looked horrible (God, I hoped I didn't look as bad!). Jayne, the Homecoming Queen, was especially far gone. Sure, she was a success (junior executive, two kids, a rich husband), but she was a good thirty or forty pounds overweight, her hair was short, spiky, and died a rather unattractive yellow. Her earrings were too big, her makeup too thick, and her clothes too tight. All those guys who used to jerk off over images of her back then... What a thought.
I watched women come up, recognize each other, and hug and squeal - women who I knew had hated each other's guts in school, and who had constantly been cutting each other down like the bitches they were. Now they were all lovey-dovey, the cats.
As I mused over those attending our 20th High School reunion, a voice interrupted my thoughts.
I looked over to see Dennis standing near me, smiling. He did look just the same as he did in school, really, except that now he looked good (and he definitely hadn't then). I smiled back and said "Dennis, it's good to see you again." I stuck out my hand to shake his, and I sensed a real warmth in his eyes looking back at me.
"I was hoping you'd be here, though I never expected you to remember me," he said.
It was true that we'd not spent a lot of time together in school, but he'd been in many of my classes, and he'd moved in circles close to mine.
"Why did you want to see me?" I was genuinely curious.
He looked around the room for a minute before answering. "I guess I always felt you were one of the more real people in school. I knew I didn't care what happened to a lot of the people in our class. You were one of the ones I did want to see."
"I'm flattered," I said in reply. "I'm also hungry. Want to head over to the hors d'oeuvres table?"
With that, the two of us set off across the room to the buffet, and then to a table. I related to him what had happened in my life in the last 20 years - a music degree from Concordia College, marriage to an older professor, his sudden death of a heart attack three years ago, my career playing in orchestras and doing private music tutoring.
He then gave the five minute summary of his life: a degree in computer programming from the U, marriage and no children by her choice, then her running off with another guy to raise a family, Dennis building up a successful business developing software for railroad management, and finally Dennis's selling of his company last year for enough money to retire on. "I was done," he said. "I'd felt the need to prove something after Janet ran out on me, I guess. Once my company was a success, though, I started getting interested in other things, so selling out seemed like the thing to do."
I was about to ask him about his new interests when an old friend, Carol, came over fairly shrieking "Beth, Beth, Beth!" Carol couldn't stop talking, and barely gave Dennis a glance as she tried to get caught up with me. After a while, when Carol finally took a breath, Dennis excused himself and took his leave. I was sorry to see him go. It was almost an half-hour before I extricated myself from Carol - it wasn't until she saw Jayne and rushed off to see her.
When dinner was called, there was a mad scramble for seats at the tables. Some people had planned things out and reserved chairs next to friends, but I found myself standing there with a full plate eyeing all of the full tables. I wandered around, trying not to look as out of place as I felt, when I heard a voice from behind me call out, "Beth".
I turned, and saw Dennis waving me over to a seat at his table. It was especially great. since everyone else there was part of the artsy and druggie crowd I'd spent a lot of time with in school. I was surprised Dennis was sitting with them, since he had not been part of that crowd at all.
Dennis was sitting almost across the table from me so I did not get much chance to talk with him during dinner. I did have a chance to catch up with several friends, though, and it was amazing how many of the "outcasts" from school had gotten degrees, gotten (and stayed) married, had kids, and were generally happy and well adjusted. Maybe a couple of our friends who hadn't showed for the reunion had never gotten it together, but most of us had.
After dinner (which included quite a few drinks for all of us), the band started up and at least some people started dancing. Dennis, taking advantage of the newly-empty chairs, scooted over next to me, and we resumed getting reacquainted. His highschool tendency to splurt out stupid nonsequitors, which I remembered quite well, had been replaced by a very quick wit that had me in stitches several times. We watched some of our classmates dancing, and Dennis was full of catty observations that probably cut very close to the truth. I was glad he wasn't skewering me.
When the band started playing a Tom Petty song that had been a favorite of mine in school, I dragged Dennis out onto the dance floor. His old awkwardness was missing, replaced by some very creative moves. I asked him about it, and he replied that maybe all of the Grateful Dead shows he'd been to in the intervening years had changed him somewhat. The Grateful Dead! That put Dennis in a different light. Dennis was turning into the best thing happening at this reunion!