Apparently, it's been fifteen years since I've graduated high school, or so the idle tongues tell me.
Back sometime in the middle nineties, I remember cruising down a street while driving way too fast with someone who, at the time, I thought was possibly my best friend. We were laughing and drunk on the fact that we were in our early twenties and carefree and probably filled with alcohol as well, and CAKE's "The Distance" was playing on the radio (oh, I know… the radio… how quaint, you say to yourself).
I remember wondering aloud to my friend if that song would be cool when we were older, and her reply of extreme certitude made me happy to be her friend, and happy to have that moment.
And so, when I found myself standing in the middle of the 9:30 club last Saturday and singing along with that song twelve years later or so, it was hard not to wonder if it is still cool, or if your early youth and all that is contained within it will always be cool to you, no matter how much time may have elapsed.
I didn't think it necessary to attend my 10-year reunion.
I wondered then, as I wonder now, if anyone with whom I have not kept in touch would really want to see me, or if it just would be a case of morbid (or even just passing) curiosity– "Oh look, there is what's-her-name and she looks about ten pounds heavier Yawn. Next."
Of course, even if I'd wanted to attend, a nasty bout of food poisoning made sure I stayed put, dry-heaving in my own house and enjoying my newlywed bliss by sharing a bucket of sick with poor Monsieur Meow.
I must admit, however, that I am curious about that great, big, giant IT that is Life After High School. And Facebook only makes things that much intriguing.
If you go spelunking for former acquaintances, what you get is a collection of microscopic snapshots and names. Some profile pictures have children figuring prominently (as mine currently does, for instance); an intensely artistic shot graces the FB of some– a beautiful sunset or a snowy mountaintop, or a somber profile telegraphing sharp cheekbones and perhaps some élan vital as heretofore unseen in any other profile photo; others are appropriate, straightforward shots of the person in question. These last shots appeal to me the most, because they speak of a person who has nothing to hide and who can live with his or her own face. If I were not so hung up on not looking at the camera, I would probably post a picture like that.
And some, of course, are ugly– why sugarcoat it? Some are grotesque poses, perhaps meant to be attractive in some other alien dimension; some show people chopped off gracelessly, causing what I have come to think of as bad chopped-up-person juju; others feature extra, odd things in the background, as a subliminal Rorschach; some are pure deception, featuring an older glammed-up version that no longer contains much of the person's truth; and yet others show a washed out face, not only displaying a sore lack of photographic understanding (the flash washes you out and makes you look oddly featureless if it fires too close to your face, for instance) but also displaying possibly those things that the owner of the picture possibly sought most to conceal in said picture.
So as the preparations and the fanfare go on full-tilt for the reunion and I turn those virtual pages, straining to remember some names and faces and remembering others far too well, I wonder about how much we've all grown and grown apart– after all, high school in some cases is a bit like Stockholm syndrome, where instead of falling in love with or pledging allegiance to your captor, you seem to develop these oftentimes sick bonds with people you knew for only a few years but with such a claustrophobic intensity that their relevance to your life seems heightened to the point of ridiculousness.
A friend recently went to a reunion and found it puzzling that formerly unpleasant people from her school were only too glad to see her and found themselves apologizing to her over incidents that were oh-so-dead and buried that an apology lost its relevance and found itself closer to the comedy section.
I thumb through Facebook and some names make me cringe. All these years later, and I still get a small uneasy pit in my stomach, and why?
It's inexplicable. As inexplicable as is the desire to revive friendships that had an expiration date in the nineties.
As inexplicable as realizing that, no matter how you rationalize it, those high school people –some of which you remember and some of which you rather would forget– still somehow matter in your former-teenager zeitgeist.
Inexplicably, somehow, that pimply and overdramatic part of yourself with the crazy bangs still matters.