Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your outlook, there were only about 35 of us at the reunion that first night. That’s a lot of wine per person, but we were the Bishop’s Knights, champions of the Division 4, eight-man football league, and what we lack in numbers, we make up for in willingness to make bad choices. Everyone diligently downed their designated half bottle and trekked to the next destination. The bar we ended up at never knew what hit them, and college hookup stories were swapped with the same reckless gusto as the people involved in them. The night had reached a pinnacle of revelry and showed no signs of relenting until my aviators, stored carefully on the neck of my shirt, were crushed in a most glorious chest bump.
As the frames shattered, so too did my confidence. The only reason any of this was going so well, the only reason my former classmates had been inspired by my speech and were treating me with hitherto unheard of dignity, was my new look, and the aviators held the disguise together. They were the duct tape of my self-esteem, the superglue of my success, and without them, I was nothing. I was blitzkrieged, so I believed this.
I glanced around in panic, but luckily no one had yet noticed my apparel mishap. In desperation, I fled to the bathroom to contemplate my options and quickly determined there was only one possible course of action: I had to buy new glasses. With covert determination, I surreptitiously recruited Oli, the fashion prodigy, to come with me on my needless quest of little import, and we wandered into the heart of downtown to recomplete my outfit. After a great deal of searching, we happened upon some pharmacy that, like all pharmacies, for some reason had sunglasses, and I proceeded to try on literally every pair. The place was empty, so the employees all gathered around and started giving me advice, each bickering over which pair looked the best. I finally settled on one that was the least painful (I have a big head), and snuck back into the reunion, where, thanks to my once again complete outfit, I was welcomed with open arms, though this time I guarded my glasses whenever someone went in for the hug.
Though the rest of the evening is now nothing more than the haziest of memories, I do know that everyone was so absurdly messed up that an unheard of level of bonding was achieved.
The second night is a whole different animal. We’re all crammed into a tiny pub and there’s not even a whiff of free wine. Plus, we’re all just-out-of-school poor, so no one’s buying drinks. In the cogent misfortune of sobriety, everyone remembers their rightful place and sublimates back into cliques.
Then a chill settles on the crowd, the lights flicker with latent anticipation, and with mood-crushing finality, the ex thunders onto the scene. In tow is her lanky, doe-eyed, American Eagle Ad of a boyfriend, who proceeds to sit in a corner and not make conversation with anyone. In the rush of whispered rumor, I find out that not only was this guy the reason she left me, but that after spending 3 weeks together in Paris, they’d proceeded to date long distance from Nor Cal to Florida. This new guy may have lived 3,154 miles farther away than I did, but despite the odds and the geometry, they stuck it out.
That, my friends, is true love. Man, I really need to go to Paris, or even start speaking in a French accent, or maybe just watch Beauty and the Beast over and over while shoveling down tubs of French vanilla ice cream.
The reunion becomes increasingly awkward as we both go to lengths to neither speak to nor avoid one another, and all the while people are asking me whether it’s difficult to finally see Klaus again. I tell them it wouldn’t be if I weren’t so sober, but I only get a couple pity drinks—not nearly enough. I decide this is for the best; perhaps my lucidity will allow me to handle the situation with some ephemeral imitation of maturity. So though I’m now having way less fun, I take it in stride. Klaus on the other hand, decides the suitable way to deal with her crippling guilt is to get obliterated, and since she’s a millionaire, she pounds drink after drink, rubbing her overworked liver in the faces of those less fortunate.
The reunion wears on and eventually draws to a close, at which point what used to be (and probably still is) the popular crowd decides to extend the evening by going to a club. In the name of all the bonding we’d experienced the night before (see above), they invite us nerds to join, though they stop short of waiting for us to close our tabs. About fifteen minutes later, the less cool second wave, which somehow includes Klaus (why is this happening to me?) follows, but when we get to the club, there’s a $20 cover. Nobody wants to pay that, but everyone else is already in there, and because it’s the only first high school reunion we’ll ever attend, we cough up the dough.
Turns out the first group had quailed at the cover charge and had gone elsewhere without telling us. Popular kids—they never change.
We try to back out of this “paying” thing, but upon making no headway with the obstinate cash-register girl, Brian (the roommate) demands that a manager be summoned. His gangly charm apparently works this time, because said manager immediately appears with a puff of smoke. He removes his cigar long enough to tell us he can’t refund us—it’s against Policy. And Policy, as we all know, cannot be summoned to argue with. As recompense, he puts on a slimy smile and offers us free drinks. We decide to cut our losses and head inside, where Klaus, who’s managed to get blitzed beyond all reckoning, starts dancing up a drunkenly shameless storm.
She’s shakin’ her booty, backin’ it up, and grinding all over this guy, who, I forgot to mention, doesn’t drink. He looks supremely uncomfortable as he attempts to manage his girlfriend, but she’s having none of it and continues to dance the night away. The boyfriend is obviously woefully aware of our judging eyes, and Klaus is either completely oblivious or is actively feigning happiness in an attempt to make me explode with jealousy. Either way, she’s moving with such rhythmic aggression that her dress keeps slipping off, revealing her gazongas for all to see. Didn’t think I’d ever be laying eyes on those again. The boyfriend obviously hates this, and the way the edge of my mouth is starting to twitch does little to improve his mood. He’d been trying to make a good impression on everyone from Klaus’s past, and here we were, casually observing his utter inanity and inability to either have fun with his girlfriend, or, if he’s not into the whole fun thing, to rein her in and keep her on his level.
I start to remember all the problems Klaus and I had, like the fact that she would call me five times a day or the amount of life I missed out on because I visited her so often, or how whenever we went out dancing her top would come off. Suddenly I can’t help but laugh. All this time I’d been bemoaning the loss of the girl of my dreams, never acknowledging that my dreams are usually about dinosaurs and video games. I had outgrown Klaus, and suddenly the night turned from painful to comical before my very eyes.
From that moment on, I was a free man.