“Confucius say: Just because a man looks like a donkey, doesn’t mean he’s an ass.”
“I kid you not. Here’s my card,” I say handing out my third card of the night.
“Does it pay well?”
“More than you’d think.”
I’m talking to Ricky David. Back in school, he was one of those kids who could be so cruel. He did his best to make me feel like a steaming pile of shit most of my high school existence. His goal was to make me the butt of as many jokes as possible before graduation. It’s like I always say: Never trust a man with two first names.
Ricky David is not aging gracefully. He’s got a double chin and a really bad comb over. He sells RV’s, and bought his parents’ house when they upgraded to a condo. He never left.
There is some karmic justice after all.
Our reunion is being held at a place called “Pipe Fitter’s Hall.” During the week, it’s a meeting hall for plumber’s and pipe fitter’s union number 1201. During the weekends, it houses wedding receptions and high school reunions.
The night is like Prom all over again–with an open bar. Pipe Fitter’s Hall, coincidentally, is where we had our actual prom ten years ago. The DJ is playing all of the popular hits from the year we graduated and were released back into the wild. Old cliques have reformed. Aside from the fact that we don’t have to sneak our alcohol in this time, it’s not too different.
Shitz and I split up. He’s across the room sitting at a table full of theater geeks with his shit eating grin firmly in place. I wonder what he does for a living right now. I’m staying near the bar.
When I was in high school I was what most would describe as “non-descript”. I was pretty much average in just about everything. Aside from painting, I blended in nicely most of the time. I didn’t really start going nuts until college, so most of my former classmates know a very different Escher Smallwater.
“Escher? Is that you?”
It’s Kimmie Flanders; cheerleader, illegitimate crush.
“Kimmie Flanders,” I start. “Wow. You haven’t changed a bit.” I’m lying through my teeth. She definitely can’t fit into her old uniform anymore.
“It’s Kimberly now. Kimberly Jones. Married 7 years next fall,” she says staring at my bright blue head, and ironic neck-tie. “Wow. You look, um,” awkward silence, “How have you been?”
“Great,” I reply, reaching into my jacket pocket to fish out another business card.
So far tonight, I’ve been a rodeo clown, a chimney sweep and most recently, a fortune cookie writer. I’m almost afraid to look at my next business card.
“I’m a professional assassin.” funny Shitz. “I, um, really enjoy being my own boss,” I say with as straight a face as possible.
“But enough about me. Kimmie Flanders.”
“What are you up these days?”
“I’m a stay at home mom,” she starts, as she opens up her purse. “I have two beautiful angels.”
With that the pictures come flying out–in abundance. Photo after photo, pose after pose, I look at Kimmie, I mean Kimberly’s ankle-biters. They’re cute, don’t get me wrong. But aside from what they’re wearing, they look pretty much the same in every snap shot.
And this, in a nut shell, is the majority of the evening. A parade of stay at home mommies and fatter, balder versions of former jocks and pretty boys. I would have been better off asleep on my balcony.
Most of my classmates stayed within a five mile radius of where they grew up. It’s bizarre to me. The county is so slow, and behind the rest of the world. It’s one giant strip mall. I can’t help but wonder if they stayed behind out of laziness or fear.
I take a drink of my bourbon. I’m drinking bourbon because it keeps me honest. I’m no better at drinking it than Phil. I’ve been nursing the same drink since my arrival. I need to keep a clear head tonight. The deal is coming closer to becoming a reality with every tick of the clock. My time in this world is limited; a fact I haven’t forgotten.
I think I’ve had enough time flying solo through this surreal car accident of a reunion. To my left, Ricky David is fast becoming a bad drunk, not unlike his former, younger self. I give him another 10 minutes before he picks a fight or cries.
I wander forth in search of Shitz, stopping every ten or so feet to make empty small talk with another former classmate I never hung out with in the first place. In the span of twenty feet, I’m a professional juggler, a crime-scene mop-up guy and a dentist. Surprisingly, dentist is the hardest to bull shit about.
Tags: big brother, bullshit, class reunion, corporate america, corporate charlie, fiction, generation x, high school, karma, layoffs, lies, literary fiction, literature, marijuana, mtv, nirvana, novel, rat race, recession, rorschach, strippers, vh1