Mr. Karen and I met a high school classmate for dinner last night, someone we hadn’t seen since graduation. I was a little concerned we wouldn’t recognize each other. I think I look pretty much the same now as I did then, if you ignore the fact I’ve got a few wrinkles and more than a few added pounds, but I’m not distinctive enough to pick out of a crowd unless you already know me. Mr. Karen, being tall and dark, is easier to spot, but he’s grown a beard and given up his floppy ‘do and looks less like his senior picture than I do. I didn’t expect Bill to look like he did in the yearbook; at the very least I hoped he would have given up the heavy black eyeglass frames. Still, I wasn’t too worried about missing him, as there weren’t likely to be that many unaccompanied white males at the restaurant, and it wasn’t that hard to recognize people at the class reunion we went to two years ago.
Bill wasn’t at that reunion, but he sent Mr. Karen an e-mail after, getting the address from the class roster that was published as a part of the festivities. I don’t think they did more than exchange a few messages, but when Bill’s work brought him to our area for a few weeks, it wasn’t completely out of the blue for him to call and see if we could get together. Of course we could. Mr. Karen and I ran with the smart kids in high school, the geeky kids. Bill was one of us, though he wasn’t in our immediate circle of friends, the core group who played Dungeons and Dragons most weekends and got together for parties (and when I say parties, I mean the innocent kind, with no alcohol or drugs or sex—we were so not wild).
Mr. Karen was already there when I got to the restaurant, and the dinner rush was just starting, so we went ahead and got a table where we could see the door and scrutinize everyone who came in. One guy looked somewhat promising as he entered, but his resolute march to the takeout counter immediately took him out of “that might be Bill” consideration. When Bill did arrive, I didn’t recognize him, and it was only the way he looked around the room that caused us to wave. He’d grown a beard, too, and looked much less geeky than he had in high school.
At first, we had plenty to talk about, catching up on two decades. We talked about where we’d gone to college and the jobs we’d held afterward. He filled us in on his wife, whom he’d met in grad school, and talked about the two children they have and showed us pictures of the round blond babies who matched the round blond wife. We filled him in on our guinea pig (though we had no pictures to share) and some of our travels. We talked about other classmates we’d been in touch with (not many) and what they were doing now.
But after those topics, there was a lull. We didn’t really have much in common other than our graduating class. Yes, we’re all in technical fields now, but that’s not much of a bonding agent, especially since we all do different things at work. Mr. Karen tried to draw Bill out about his hobbies, but he didn’t seem to have any. I’m sure kids and parenting would have been a common ground, if only Mr. Karen and I had some human children. Raising a guinea pig is not the same thing at all.
Still, it was a pleasant enough meal. The one surprise was that Bill didn’t remember that Mr. Karen and I dated in high school. “How’d you two get together?”, he asked, and Mr. Karen and I gave each other an “is he serious?” look. I guess our relationship wasn’t as important to everyone else as it was to us; more evidence that the universe does not actually revolve around me. So Mr. Karen recounted the long band trips our senior year, when the football team did so well and we got bussed to exotic locations like East St. Louis to play the fight song at games. Those were good times. It boded well that we got voted “most compatible couple” in the band before we started dating, like the relationship was pre-approved. So far, it’s worked out pretty well.
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