The obligatory name tags were laid out on the table in the front of the gymnasium. In the corner of each, next to the name spelled out in bold black letters, was their yearbook picture from ten years ago.
Darryl’s name did not appear on the table so he was forced to create a makeshift one of his own.
Every president of every student club and organization was in attendance. Most of the vice presidents did not make it. Perhaps one secretary would trickle through the doors over the course of the evening but the treasurers were well accounted for.
What else did they have to do?
Like everyone else there, Darryl was waiting for a former-ugly duckling to come waltzing in as the swan and make everyone’s jaws drop but as the night grew later and all the ugly ducklings had waddled in just as ugly as ever, hopes began to sag.
The prom queen had packed on a few pounds and later Darryl sat with her inebriated husband and talked. He told him that she hated underarm hair so he slept with his hands over his head every night and endured the constant dreams about being held up in return for her staying on her side of the bed.
If one more person walked up to Darryl and shook his hand while casually scanning his nametag, he thought he’d start swinging. The eyes went back and forth from his tag to his face to his tag to miles beyond him and the sweet release from the awkward conversation that beckoned only yards away.
By the punch bowl perhaps.
It was hard for Darryl to imagine a bigger collection of jerk-offs was ever assembled in one gym. Even at a Pistons game. He steeled himself and took a good look around.
There didn’t seem to be any correlation he could find between what kind of person you were in high school and how successful you ended up. The people who seemed to be doing well were split down the middle between the former asshole jocks and the dweebs. The mean kids and the nice ones seemed equally represented in both healthy relationships and the “sorry to hear that” departments.
So much for karma.
And the field of sociology.
The spouses were the real entertainment. In any marriage there is one person who is better looking than the other and nowhere is this more apparent than a reunion. Half of them being paraded around like show ponies and the other half being tucked away in corners. A man could make a fortune setting up an “ugly spouse coat room” at high school reunions.
“Don’t lose that receipt, Mr. Thompson, or you won’t get her back,” to which this hypothetical Mr. Thompson would get a faraway smile on his face. It would literally take a full twenty seconds to crawl from ear to ear.
Darryl stood alone and looked back over the past ten years. The victories that seemed now so fleeting and the personal defeats that still lingered. All the while people laughed and pretended that they were having a great time. A blur of handshakes and reminiscence. Revised histories and inaccurate portrayals of current events.
“Those were the days.”
Well, they were days.
The time of their lives.
He didn’t miss these people. He missed being ten years younger. The bittersweet feelings that threatened to bubble over into sincere emotions had nothing to do with the people that milled around and tried to dance to songs that were well past being cool but not old enough to be enjoyed as retro. The fact was that Darryl didn’t even know these people. Not in a deep meaningful sense but a very real he had never met them sense.
He hadn’t gone to this high school.