Thursday, November 10, 2011


I drove far too fast to get there. At first I credited the freedom of travelling solo. I had no worries about snacks or potty stops. There was no peacemaking from the front seat. Instead I turned on the radio so loud the windows shook and I rocketed through the sere landscape. For once there was solitude to marvel at the bare bones of the earth revealed by twisting golden draperies of vegetation and contrasted by the endless cerulean sky. I overtook a storm and flew through it, a Valkyrie dodging cars like they were standing still. The chill rain flew in through open windows and I tasted the greys and pinks of the clouds and flew even faster. I drove more than 300 miles in four hours.

Later, at the outskirts of town, I pulled to the shoulder, shaking and sobbing against the steering wheel. I finally acknowledged that my urgency came not from joy but anxiety and the pathetic fear that no one would remember me. Once my tears dried I debated running away, but instead went forward through the sheer mists of memory overlaying the landscape in front of me.

At the front desk I stumbled through the first greetings, relieved slightly by awkward hugs. I searched for beloved faces, and the warmth of embraces offered first through Facebook, and then in person. Yet, as always, I felt as if no one knew what to do with me – including myself.

And so it was for three days. I've never been good at small talk, and what is a reunion but chit-chat? I did find some old friends, and we explored our new selves together. I basked in their company. I spent a great deal of time with other people's children, enjoying being an auntie. I caught up with people I probably should have befriended twenty years ago. But the only time it was easy was a night meander through the grounds, chasing ghosts with someone who once owned my heart. We walked, and remembered, and I surreptitiously searched for the source of my loneliness, as if I could turn off a tap from twenty years before and retroactively find happiness.

During the day I practiced polite smiles and inept escapes when the silences grew strained. I was baffled by pronouncements of great friendship from a man I had barely known, and unnaturally hurt by the woman who refused to speak to me despite two decades of distance. I hid at night in my room, staring at the ceiling and listening through the window to drunken declarations of love and undying friendship, and longing to belong. And still I searched, but by then I didn't know what I was seeking.

I caught it on my last night, for just a moment. We danced, as we'd done so long ago, in a darkened room to music that had beaten its way into my bones and heart. I swayed alone, forgetting propriety and how to protect myself and for a brief, fleeting time I felt the limitless possibilities of being 16 and surrounded by brilliance and excitement and joy – a sense that just by being there I was changing the world for the better.

I left the next morning after a few brief goodbyes, relieved that I had faced my fears. I still love the school and cherish my two years there. My memories are deep and strong and vivid. Yet I have a lingering feeling that I failed somehow to truly live my time there, and that failure has followed me since. I drove home more slowly, mourning what could have been.


  1. Wow, this is a beautifully written post. I have never done a school reunion - my academic career was broken up too much, so there are both multiple schools I could reunite at and no schools. My husband has done one, and I alternate between wishing I could do the same and being thankful I am unable to do so. Honestly, I don't think I'd know what to do at either of my high schools, if I were to attend a reunion. Just as well that circumstances have kept it from being a choice.

  2. I read this the other day and am just now getting back to tell you how lovely it is. I only went to one high school reunion, the tenth, and found myself disenchanted, still a pretender and an outsider, longing to belong...

    P.S. (Love your header photo! Looks a bit like South Table Mountain above Golden.)

  3. Are you really this good a writer? Oh, my. Yes you are.

    I am your new biggest fan. Beautiful, poignant, heart wrenching, liberating--so much all in one post.