As you have read afore, I am all angsty ridden about attending my 20th high school reunion. Why I should be so overrought is really beyond the scope of understanding with my nearest and dearests. Of course the people who know and love me now are far from the sorts I rubbed elbows with in my youth. Most people I associate with at this juncture are pretty well educated, interesting and world savvy. Lots of people with whom I attended high school are still in the community which surrounds the campus and have hardly traveled or looked beyond the borders of their lives. For those who did leave, the leaving was not wholly life-changing. To some degree this is a large exaggeration, but on the whole – averaging most of my graduating class – this rings true. Many of my classmates did not acquire any sense of intellectual curiosity in the hallowed halls of my alma mater. In truth, the faculty was not so encouraging toward developing any sense of wonder amongst my classmates. While I was carousing downtown and meeting all kinds of strange travelers, my classmates partied in the desert. They slagged and drank and fucked off their youthful days hardly worrying what the future had in store. Many of those same folks pine for the happiness they found comingling with one another.
I don’t recall attending a football event or another bonfire or desert party after meeting my high school boyfriend. Not that he was the impetus for the change, but once I saw what was available to me at those events…. well, it seemed pretty tamed by comparison to what I could score with my older, more worldly acquaintences. I have often wondered, as I did then, why anyone would want to waste time on everclear and soda when you could get a real high from something a little more discreet. Not that a high was what I was after. Real life posed enough challenges, I did not need to mix drugs or alcohol with the scary challenges each day was likely to bring. In order to stay in the “safety” of my parents home, I had to stay away from the teenaged experimentations. Even with my policy of medicinal abstinence, my parents remained long convinced that I had just outsmarted them. They are bitterly pissed to have never caught me in partaking of substances that I was too damn much of a control freak to do in the first place.
That is what really leads to the heart of my angst about attending my high school reunion. Whilst my classmates were playing away their time at SRHS, I was hiding. To be sure, it was an unsuccessfully hiding, but I was trying nonetheless to maintain some semblence of normalcy during my days there. I was an outrageous dresser and a loudmouth troublemaker, but I was hiding the truth of my daily life. I didn’t want anyone to know that my older brother hurt me in the night. That my father beat the crap outta me when he got chance and that my mother took her turns when no one else was around. Even to those whom I spoke of the horrors I faced everyday, who could do anything about it? I was entrenched in that prisonlife where the only escape was tied to curfews and pee tests and mental hospital evaluations to make findings in fact that I was normal – having appropriate behavioral responses to the experience of my dailiness. It was sick. It was ugly to live through and it was soul crushing.
In response to my terrors, I was not a kind or generous sort of girl in high school. I did thoughtful and courageous acts, but they were the kind no one wanted to talk about. Passing the number of the local abortion clinic to a cheerleader on a scribbled note that had been passed to me with the question for it could have triggered a whole lot of trouble for everyone at my school. Ditching class to take a ‘friend’ to find local birth control information was the kind of nicety that no one wanted to cop to my having done for them. Sharing the knowledge that I had about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and rape crisis counseling was not the sort of thing that made a girl part of the in-crowd. That I even had that sort of information at such a tender age is fairly infuriating to me now, as it was disgusting to my classmates then.
During all ths time, while I mostly lived across town from many of the people I went to school with, no one looked me up or cared about my well-being. Even those for whom I had taken risks – I was an undesirable companion. One friend had the nerve to un-friend me after her ex-boyfriend died in a gruesome alcohol-related carcrash where another boyfriend of mine tried to save her former lover. As if I caused the crash – as if I had anything to do with the addiction he couldn’t shake that had been grown over the course of his academic career while he played rather than studied. And what could I expect? I changed addresses time and again with books that all my ever-revolving friends moaned about helping me move – in and out of rooms, apartments, rentals and flophouses. I didn’t have a car, couldn’t afford to drive, but I could enlist the army of fairweather friends to help me lug all my stolen milkcrates bugling with knowledge all across the city and the country and back to the city again. These along with my sparce clothing and living supplies were the bulk of my life before I finally got to settled into college.
And when some of my youthful friends got the opportunity to attend college, I jealously hated them for having life so damn easy. I had saved pennies everyday of my life since I was 9 years old and it paid for only the first year of college. I hated that my friends had parents who didn’t hurt them. Parents who expected them to be better. Parents who invested in their futures! But those friends were few and far between. I graduated from high school when the last of the sexist pigs still had tenure enough to kick me and others like me out of college-placement mathematics and science courses. The valedictorian went into the military for chrissakes! That was her way out. The military is where most of my classmates learned anything about the world – on the trigger end of a weapon. By the time I got through high school and had scored a small scholarship to a good school – I didn’t know the first thing about moving out of my hometown to even get there for the first day of classes. In response to my anxiety then, my school counselor encouraged me to stay put, because afterall I could get a good job without college. I think she was trying to be sincere and even nice when she said that to me. Because up until that era, it was possible for trashy girls like me to at least earn my keep without having to attend school beyond my high school diploma. Little did that counselor know that I desperately wanted to go to college. How could I tell her? She knew my family hurt me, she had even tried to intervene on my behalf – making herself the target of my mother’s fury and angry violence. She certainly didn’t want to incur that kind of barrage ever again!
So I’ve spent the last 20 years on my own. I’ve fended for myself under the most bizarre and sometimes horrific of circumstances. What kind of relationship could I possibly expect at this point from my former classmates? I’m thinking not much. But for the few, I would’ve ignored the whole event altogether. Yet it is the select few, some really great and funny people whom I used to know who have managed to cull me back. And so I’ve done it. I have purchased the tickets to attend the party-present to celebrate the parties-past that I did not attend. To toast the times that were so godawful for me and ‘just the best’ for my classmates. To joyously appreciate that I am no longer there, helplessly and shamefully mucking through my days. Maybe while I’m there I should return the books I stole from the library so long ago. There might be another kid like me who needs to know that the world is big and the road is long and that one day it is possible to remember the falling tile in the hallways and the pitiful teaching as something that has been gotten over instead of trapping. Though I felt stuck then, I did not stick to the life that was laid out for me. That is the idea I plan to raise my glass for.