Alum Fie!

Surviving my 20th high-school reunion.

When an invitation to a 20th high-school reunion arrived, I thought it must be for my father—and had somehow been mistakenly mailed to my address. There was no way in hell 20 years had gone by since I graduated high school. That would make me . . . well, old.

The Mercer Island Class of ’82 Reunion consisted of three main events: a drunken, spouseless affair on Friday night, followed the next day by a Screaming Children Picnic (not doin’ it) and a more formal and spendy affair at Safeco Field that evening.

I arrived at the Roanoke Tavern late and a bit trepidacious: This was basically a room full of people whom I go to great lengths to avoid seeing in Seattle. Over 100 classmates were huddling in the same cliques they always had: Jocks and cheerleader types in one corner, above-it-all intellectuals in another, Mohammed and Jugdish near the jukebox, and the stoners outside getting baked.

Across the room, there was Anne—the first girl I’d ever kissed (second grade)—looking radiant and youthful. Monica (Most Likely to Tie a Bed to Her Back) was still a knockout, and my childhood friend Mary—four kids later (triplets!)—looked better than ever. In fact, most of the women did. As for us boys, we hadn’t held up so well, with massive hair loss, belly growth, and general slovenliness dimming that youthful shine.

Entering with my head down so as not to make eye contact with the Most Likely to Suck You Into a Conversation for Four Hours, I found my best high-school buddy, Mike Schiller, alone at the end of the bar.

“These people don’t care,” Mike moaned. “‘Mike! I remember you!'” he faked in an obnoxious-guy accent. “‘How ya doin’? Where do ya live? What do you do for a living? Are ya married?’ If they cared at all, they would have asked me these questions over the last 20 years!”

The main challenge at reunions is creating exit strategies to escape bad conversations. A close second is lying about “getting together sometime before the 30th reunion.” My high-school friend Rob had a more straightforward approach: “Y’know Mike,” he said, looking at the business card I’d just handed him. “My life’s pretty busy—I work long hours, get home and play with the kids, and that’s all I’ve got time for.” Wow. That is busy.

I made my way over to Alice, who had improved with age and now looked like J.Lo and then some. After pouring out my best four minutes of material, she smiled and simply walked off—talk about yer high-school flashback.

Wanting to save my voice and some energy for the next round of schmoozing, I headed home kicking myself about my opening line and wondering if there was any way Alice would ever go steady with me.

Day Two’s festivities were held in the Third Base Terrace Club at Safeco Field. For $80 you got to wear a name tag with your senior yearbook picture on it (ouch), eat bad chicken skewers, and stand in line with non-classmate spouses at the no-host bar. The slide show was quite impressive and revealed a more naive generation with an endless amount of time to sit around against lockers and look bored.

In retrospect, 20 years is a mighty long time: The space shuttle was launched in ’82, Reagan was president, M*A*S*H was on TV, Chuck and Lady Di got hitched, and a loaf of bread was . . . well, I don’t know how much a loaf of bread was. I asked a bunch of people if they’d go back to ’82 if they could, and—to a classmate—they declined, though a lot of us wouldn’t mind being dropped in at 25 and having a “do over” from there. (And, of course, the eight classmates who passed away in the preceding decades would clearly like a second chance.)

Most of my classmates have procreated wildly (two to three kids on average), married (at least once), and seem to be confident, albeit boring, grown-ups. The creepiest among us became a gynecologist, the dumbest a physician, the class clown a managing partner in an accounting firm, and one alum is doing 5 to 10 for stealing jewelry and throwing a victim in the trunk of his car.

The night was almost over, and there was one person in particular I wanted to see: Lila, a cheerleading goddess with a perfect button nose and the daydream aura of teenage fantasies. I approached slowly (she was surrounded by the other dweebs in our class)—my yearbook in hand.

“Lila,” I meekly interrupted. “I just wanted to show you something you wrote in my yearbook if you have a second.”

I opened to a yellowed page in the dog-eared section: MI Cheerleading Spirit. Under her stunning photo was a signed note, referring to my failed attempt at taking her to the prom. “Michael—sorry about not going with ya. Maybe some other time. . . . Look me up in 20 years! (Ha Ha).”

“Well,” I asked. “How ’bout it?”