Monday, May 14, 2012

THE REUNION

THE REUNION
Fred Shelton

My wife leaned forward in her chair. “So, are your going to your high school reunion?”

“This is the second time you have asked me that. I still haven’t decided.”

“I went to mine and loved it. I don’t understand why you are hesitant to go?”

“If you really want to know, most of my classmates made me feel like I didn’t measure up to them. Like I was inferior.”

“And why would they think that?”

“Because I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.”

She pointed her finger at me. “That’s just your imagination.”

“Hey! I was there remember? They were some of the most arrogant and snooty people I have ever met.”

“People can change in twenty years. Don’t you think?”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” I shrugged.

“This may be the only reunion they’ll ever have. I think you should go.” She gave me an annoying look.

“Okay, okay. I’ll go just to please you.”

When I arrived at the historic McCormick Hotel, a light rain had begun, so I ducked under the canopy while I got myself “psyched” up to enter. When I stepped into the lobby, two attendants pinned on a name tag with my high school photo attached. They encouraged me to enjoy myself and eat and drink all I wanted.

But when I entered the ballroom—where the crowd had gathered—feelings of inferiority overwhelmed me. I felt like a peasant in a room full of royalty. This is just like twenty years ago. I’m leaving! But as I walked to the door, I remembered the promise I made to my wife. I decided to stay and deal with it.
Looking around, I couldn’t recognize anyone. Age had changed us all. I started scanning name tags, looking for a familiar one, when I spotted some guy lying on a sofa in the corner. Several women were attending to him. I eased over, picking up bits of their conversation: “too much to drink…he lives on the juice.” As they helped him out the door, I tried to read his name tag but couldn’t decipher it.

Then I spotted an old friend, Johnny Burnett, who had almost doubled in size since graduation. After our greeting, I explained my reluctance to attend, and he stated he had been bothered with similar feelings. I felt more comfortable knowing we were in the same predicament.

“Is the class president here?”

His eyes widened. “Haven’t you heard the latest?”

He spoke before I could answer. “He was convicted of embezzling over one-million dollars from his employer. Now he’s serving time.”

“How do you know all this?”

“I’ve kept track of everyone in our class.”

“Who was that guy lying on the sofa?”

“He was our star football player—Ron White. He’s wasted himself on alcohol.”
“So, did our entire class turn bad?” I grimaced.

“Oh no! Far from it. Some were very successful. But probably the most tragic one was Terry Kreger.”

“The one voted most popular?”

“The same. He got on drugs early in life. Became a homeless person.”

“I find that so hard to believe.”

“I have several more unbelievable stories. Do you want to hear them?”

I nodded.

Most of the people he told me about were the very ones who had given me the most “static.” And they were the ones in the most trouble. The more he talked, the more confident I felt. I had not embezzled money, used illegal drugs or abused alcohol. Why should I feel inferior? Like the sun dissipating the morning fog, my aura of inferiority began to disappear. I decided to stay another hour, but the socializing, delicious food and vintage music were too satisfying to leave. At midnight, I still had not departed.

I stepped out on the veranda for some fresh air, and as I watched a full moon emerge from behind the clouds, I noticed the rain had stopped and stars were visible.

How analogous the weather is to my own situation tonight. Had I been looking at my classmates through a clouded perception all these years? Had the clouds of my mind moved away and I see them now as they really are?

Harboring resentment against them seemed futile. I decided to enjoy myself and maybe tonight would turn out to be a meaningful reunion after all—in more ways than one.

©fred shelton

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 Fred Shelton has written non-fiction articles for The Washington Times  and The Burg.  His fiction has appeared in Eskimo Pie and he is preparing to begin his first novel.  He lives in Roseland, Va. with his wife and six dogs.

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