Jeanne Marie's 30th Reunion . . .
DEAR ("CLASS OF 1976") SUZY,
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to answer your e-mail about attending our 30th high school reunion. The truth is, I'm ambivalent. So ambivalent, in fact, that I am now suffering from insomnia, up all night, night after night, obsessing about the idea and discovering in myself a most holy terror. Now that I think about it, I guess that's not ambivalence.
I'm so glad you wrote. I was wondering where you were. I sent you a Christmas card two years ago, but it was returned. The twins are good? I'm sorry to hear about your latest divorce but loved your sister-in-law's line: "Maybe she'll just be like Elizabeth Taylor and get married a lot."
I miss your sense of humor. I miss making trouble with you in Sister Mary Hyde's class and, obviously, Mr. Messina's. There is no way you can convince me that all of that happened three decades ago.
Listen, I'm kind of stunned that you, of all people, are leading the charge for a class reunion. That's not the Suzy I remember. It's so . . . establishment. Did the alumni office get to you? Is someone holding you against your will in the dungeon of the convent? Oh, I just remembered the time we snuck into the basement and saw the nun's underwear hanging on the clotheslines. Remember that?
I see at the top of your e-mail here a list of all of the people you have cc'd. I am assuming you have sent another e-mail, a less personal one, to the whole class, and that this one is just to our little group. I do note that almost none of the cool people are on the cc list. They were not part of our group, correct? You and I were too cool to hang with the cool people, correct? We preferred the outsiders. It never occurred to me, really not until this very moment -- or more precisely, during last night's insomnia session -- that we were, in fact, just not cool. Could that be? Regarding oneself as too cool for cool is probably just a disguise for: pathetic.
Oh, high school. Oh, I am spiraling down.
Ceil is on your list. She was in our group, but she was also in with the cool people. How did she manage the duality? She dumped me, you know. We were (outwardly) best friends in freshmen year (Jamie was my real best friend), and then in sophomore year she got that Datsun B210, and she dumped me. This baffled and depressed me. Now I look back and wonder: Could it have had anything to do with the fact that I kissed her boyfriend, Ricky Scarf, at her 16th birthday party? Why did I do that? I didn't even like Ricky Scarf. And he was the featured event of that party, and there I was kissing him under the pool table, where Ceil found us, all entwined and desperate. Why did I do that? I went home and wrote, "I hate myself" with lipstick all over the bathroom mirror, and I made sure to report this to Ceil so as to demonstrate the full drama of my remorse. Apparently, this had little effect.
That memory is so distant that I question now whether it really happened. I had totally forgotten about this stuff until I got your note about the reunion. Now I'm flooded. Was this your intent? Hey, that was charitable of the nuns to let us be altar girls, wasn't it? Do you think they knew we snuck into the sacristy and ate the Communion wafers? Why did we do that? To our credit, we wouldn't have done it if they had been consecrated.
You were such a great partner in crime. I don't know why we waited until junior year to become friends. I still worry that Jamie thinks I dumped her. I didn't. I never wanted to subtract, I wanted to just keep adding friends. I still worry, 30 years later, that she never understood that.
How can it be possible that all of these feelings are alive after all this time? Do relationships ever really die? I am beginning to think that bodies come and go, but people's connections live on, in some other frequency -- a buzz or an echo or a howl of emotion forever resonating in the trees. But, as I said, I haven't slept, so my brain is not screwed on real tight right now.
The people I miss most are you and Jamie. If I think long enough, I'll come up with others, but you are the ones who have never really left my life, despite 30 years of virtual absence. Explain that one.
So about your invitation. A lot of people love going to reunions, I know; but there are those of us who know only the agony of whiplash. Going back hurts. For me, it's simply too hard. Nothing will be as it was. The colors will be off. The joy will be gone. The melodrama will be muted and replaced with cocktail party talk. The idea of sneaking into the basement to see where the nuns wash their clothes will not even occur to us. And the cool people, God love 'em, will be standing there looking great.
Thank you for writing. I've attached a picture of my daughters and also one of me holding a duck. Will you send me some pictures? Can we move forward instead of backward? I'm going to write to Jamie now, too.
Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.