I start debating. Finally, I decide to go. After all, if everyone is still a bunch of assholes, I can simply bail. This ain't high school. Nothing says I HAVE to put up with them. Besides, I still have my Cloak Of Anonymity. Everyone there knows me as the kid from high school who wanted to be a political cartoonist. No one knows me as Peter G, Renaissance Man struggling valiantly against his own insignificance.
Well, there is one more factor -- the price of admission. I get to the entrance, and am informed its ten bucks. I throw away more than that on bad movies. I pass over a tenner, get my wristband, and head on in.
Just outside, between the doorman and the room proper, is a woman who recognizes me instantly (I've been informed my appearance has not changed a great deal since middle school). She tells me her maiden name, and I recognize her. She was one of the ones who treated me decent. She introduces me to her boyfriend, which indicates she's been divorced at least once. She is delighted to see me. I guess the surprise registered on my face. I mention to her that I didn't get the impression the other kids thought much of me.
"Oh, that's not true!" she tells me. Oooooookay....
I go inside. I'm very bad with faces and worse with names. Everyone in high school knew me, but I only knew a handful of them. One guy is sitting at one of the tables and spots me. He can't wait to shake my hand. It was one guy who, sometimes we were pals, sometimes we were ready to throw down. He seems relieved to see me, someone he can talk with. He's going through his second divorce, and unlike the first, this one is apparently the furthest thing from civil. And single women think something is wrong with me for never having been divorced once at my age.
Another guy comes up. I don't remember much about him, but he's being very social and chatty. I crack a joke involving a command line instruction for Linux. He gets it. Well, sort of, he learned some Unix programming in college. We begin talking a language that completely loses everyone else listening.
A woman comes up that I knew back then. When meeting people, I follow their lead. I let them set boundaries they are comfortable with. If they wave "hey" or shake my hand or whatever, I respect their space and don't intrude. She wraps me in a hug and gushes about how great it is to see me. She still rocking sort of an 80's look, although whether that's just for the theme of things or if she's comfortable with the look and has maintained it all this time, I couldn't say.
Run into another guy, who was pretty much my best friend in school, the only one from the time I came here in the third grade to graduation who treated me like an equal. I recognized him right away, he hasn't changed much. He asked what I was up to, and I said office work. Life didn't go the way I planned.
"It didn't for anyone here," he tells me.
At one point, I step off to the side to people watch. I stand by the section with raffle prizes for the night. It includes T-shirts and other apparel with our school name on it, some Chicago Bears stuff, and booze (which gets filed under the, "What did you expect?" header). As I snack on some pizza (kind of doughy, skimpy tomato sauce, the air in my mouth had more flavor) and keep an eagle eye on my drink, I look at the crowd. There is still a common thread to everyone's appearances, although it has evolved through the years. Reality and the effort of maintaining some looks has set in. Lots of laughing, but I also detect some...I don't know. Lots of the conversations I'm overhearing are talking about things that are interesting now. Not a lot of talk about the past, those dreams that never happened, and where the road of life went through. Current occupations are told, everyone nods, and the subject changes to something away from themselves.
When my buddy Max was living out here and throwing great parties for the holidays, he kept a close eye on the attendance. He had seating for a little more than half the people and set the food and drinks on opposite sides to encourage people to move around and mingle (he was an expert). This little shindig that I thought would not attract a lot of people is growing. Soon, the place is getting packed. People are gathering in their little groups and sticking together, unable to move on if they want to. Even getting refills is nearly impossible.
The crowd is getting too thick for my tastes. The lack of free movement is starting to annoy me. The speakers are playing 80's music, but you can also hear the live act from the other room, creating a mash-up that sets my nerves on edge. And everyone is stuck in their own little groups. I've been there for two hours, I decide to bail. Curiously, several women ask if I'm going to the reunion dance the next night. They wouldn't give me the time of day in high school, now they want to know if I'll be at the dance. I tell them I haven't decided yet, which is true, even as I write this.
As I drive home, I noticed that the more annoying classmates weren't there. Everyone there seemed at least genuine. Was it because they continue to see no reason to mix with the Proletariat, or have their lives not worked out either and they are more ashamed due to the position they put themselves in above everyone else? Can't say, and not sure it's worth finding out.
I sit here, typing this, surrounded by various things I am working on. My notes for the new pitch for Hard Way Studios. The latest Stress Puppy strip. Notes for program routines. The newest batch of Sound Waves comics. My Mighty Mouse watch. My Straight Dope books. My Chinese water color brush that I haven't put away yet. A CD of music I made for a game project I did a couple of years ago.
And I think about the others at the class reunion.
And I wonder, am I accomplishing more than I have a right to?