Monday, April 14, 2008

Booger Baseball And Bobby

Very late last night, I was thinking about a former high school classmate, and I started googling her name. I found her on a reunion website: the reunion I failed to attend and have consistently failed to attend. I went to a large high school in the Washington, D.C. area, and I've taken flak for not going to these things. A D.C. hair salon owner (and high school classmate, but not the same year) goes to his reunions and would nag at me saying "What are you avoiding? They're FUN!" I told him I never saw it as avoidance, per se, but rather high school had been a prison sentence for me. I couldn't wait to be free of it. I also pointed out I had never attended one college reunion (and I attended several universities) again, just no interest in walking memory lane. Luckily, I don't have to hear that anymore. I stopped going to him after years of watching him focused on his own head in the mirror instead of mine. I remember stumbling in there one Saturday and he was doing a former cheerleader's hair, and then she started nagging at me, "You've got to go." Rah, rah...."no."

I am sure my high school friends for the most part would find this odd. I did have friends, quite a large circle, and expanding every year I was there. I didn't limit myself to "same age group" in getting to know people. Of course there were cliques. I made friends in every clique group. Still do. For this last reunion, I knew several of the people on the committee. They sent me the paperwork. I ignored it. A childhood friend, from babyhood really, had written on the back of the envelope, "I really want to see you." I thought, "Fine. Call."

In my own defense, I consider myself a very good friend, and I also sustain friendships. I have many that go back from the time of my birth. There is one photograph where my mother is holding me in her lap when I was six months old, and one of the little girls (who was then two or three) is looking at me, the baby, and I'm reaching out to her. We are still friends. The other little girl in the picture, I've lost touch with, but I'm still in contact with her brother, who was even older.

Insomnia had set in, and I was immersed in this website, and all 194 images from the reunion. It was...disturbing. It was frightening how few faces I recognized. I had to really study their features and usually I could pick out "something" in the eyes or a smile that seemed familiar, but it was appalling how much I had blocked out. I am not talking about strangers. Some people portrayed grew up on the same street with me. We had known each other since birth.

I saw Helen, a quiet, shy girl and I thought, "She still has a sweet face." There was the captain of the cheerleaders, another neighborhood girl. Unlike most of us, she got pregnant right out of high school, married a twin, gave birth to twins, then (and I heard this later) started up an affair with her also married ex-boyfriend from back in middle school days, and that was the last I heard. There she was with an even different name from birth, husband number one and ex-boyfriend. "Still a tramp," I thought. JOKING! Not.

One girl's picture I saw amazed me. She was painfully plain, awkward, speechless with shyness, and I have a distinct memory of her being tortured by a gang of girls in gym class. There she was smiling, sophisticated, polished, and I thought, "Wow." Seemingly no psyche damage done. All is forgiven." There was Janet, another neighborhood girl, but with crappy rings on each finger, a top cut way too low and tattoos on her breasts. I thought, "What a slut you've turned out to be....and you still can't put on eyeshadow."

This picture viewing was getting brutal. One girl was present whose father was murdered in his store, while she was still young. She was beautiful, but sad around the eyes. I wondered what her life had become. Another good friend, still so pretty, pretty, but sad eyes again. Ouch. And the men. The men. Some with obviously younger women. "Mike and his lady friend." I thought, "Uh huh." And then one mug that hadn't changed at all, if anything, he's the one who looked exactly the same, only it was a boy I couldn't stomach. We sat next to each other in 7th grade. I thought, "You were a nasty, arrogant, bullying creep then, and you still look like one." I also thought, "When you aren't around these people from your past in such numbers, it's easy to ignore the notches of years. Ten years? More? What's to keep the years from appearing seamless and lacking the drama and punch this bunch could land on you in ten minutes."

Then I saw Bobby. Bobby was this freakish boy I had known since elementary school. He was tall and painfully thin. His skin was that pale fish underbelly white and covered with freckles. Freckles on top of freckles. The hair? A Toni gone bad. Red afro. He looked like a normal man now. His wife looked pleasant. But, oh that horrid memory, which Nabokov worshipped, and I usually voice as a blessing and a curse. I remember too much, and I remember in detail.

In sixth grade, Bobby's desk catty cornered mine, and one day he took out a white handkerchief and laid it out on his desk. He then drew a baseball diamond onto the white fabric with a pencil. Then...stick with me here...he started picking his nose and putting the boogers into the diamond and using his finger, or a pencil, he was flicking them into the outfield or the baselines. I said, "Bobby! What on earth are you doing?" "Playing Booger Baseball." I'm laughing even as I write this. Booger Baseball. Sports is ignoring an entirely untapped resource of talent. Thank God he didn't hit one out of the ballpark, because that would have been "me," and that would have meant more punishment.

One last memory of Bobby. I had a horrid sixth grade teacher. The worst. She drove a little sports car, and you just knew she was killing time until she became Mrs. Dr. So and So and the rock on her hand and the right zip code to prove it. I loathed her. She loathed me. One day at the end of school, we stood by our desks, waiting for the bell to ring, and Bobby pulled his gray cable knit sweater over his head (he even wore ugly sweaters.) As he pushed his arms through, both sleeves fell off. BOTH. I cracked up. Who wouldn't laugh at such a thing?

The teacher kept me after school, and she made me sit and write an essay, explaining my bad behavior. What she really was after was an abject apology while using her controlling bitch tactics on me. I could write, and I wrote, but she didn't like it. "Read that!" she said. "Do you think that explains what occurred?" I said that it was an accurate explanation. She had me write again, and again, and again. Finally, she let me out of there, but it was going on six o'clock, and I had to take my little essay home and have my parents sign it. I don't remember what my mother's reaction was to such a thing, but I'm sure she saw some level of insanity in it.

Getting ready to sign off last night, I didn't think Bobby would want me turning up at the reunion to say, "Bobby! How about a few innings of Booger Baseball? " You think he remembers that?

"The charm of baseball is that, dull as it may be on the field, it is endlessly fascinating as a rehash." ~Jim Murray

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Blogger I-66 said...

My 10 year high school reunion is this year. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about it. I still live fairly close to my HS, so chances are I'll go. Still, in this day and age where everyone has Facebook and myspace pages, we haven't really forgotten anyone.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

I dunno, 66. It was a shocker. What I find very odd, and remember I grew up in this area, is how blown apart "my" crew in high school became. They are all in other parts of the country (or world.) Very few hung around. Also. Being in D.C., we got embassy kids, so there was a real cultural mishmash going on. I remember the boy who stood in front of me at commencement was from Iran. God knows what happened to him. That embassy doesn't even exist anymore except in structure over on Massachusetts Avenue. I think they call it State Department Bldg. #6 or something.

It's odd to think that for some of those people, they were in my life every day for what seemed like the longest stretch of time, and as a child, or young person, you don't envision them being gone. There were a few children whose parents were in the military who shifted, but for the most part, it was just this ever expanding group.

I've had a lot of pressure put on me to show up at these events. I'd be interested if you go to yours. I think people that do show up go for a multitude of reasons, not just wanting to catch up with past friends.

2:25 PM  
Blogger I-66 said...

That's just it... recently a Facebook group for my reunion began, and I remember everyone that joined it, and still see some of them regularly. Ten years isn't that long in the grand scheme of things. Yeah, it's a little more than 1/3 of our lives, but little has changed for a lot of us. Some of us are still in school for one thing or another, some are married, few have kids, but we all pretty much look the same, and I'd say that it's likely that few people have changed drastically on the inside too.

My close group of friends is still mostly local. The nomad of the group has moved from here to Austin to Atlanta, but everyone else is pretty much found between here and Richmond. 10 years. It ain't that long a time.

I probably will go. I'm still here, so why not? The Captain wants to go to see what popular cheerleader got pregnant and had a bunch of kids right out of high school, and which big shot football player is hanging drywall.

I wonder now where you grew up. Given the situation you describe, I think we're looking at the eastern part of Fairfax County, NW DC, or the eastern part of Montgomery County.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

66: Tell the Captain he will find the pregnant cheerleader in some variation. I remember something funny about that girl...well..several somethings funny. When we were getting ready to graduate, she was joining this group I was in, all of us out talking on the street, and she had just bought her cheerleading uniform. I remember incredulously saying, "You're joking," and she was quite defensive with me, talking about it's importance. I see her point in a kinky sex or "Oh Mickey you're so fine" moment on MTV kind of way. Once I heard she was having an affair with her old longstanding boyfriend...the one she should have married in the first place...I thought she'd wind up with him...happy ever more tongue kissing in Stairwell B (the darkest one.) I'm waiting for a friend to get on here from Delaware who was Captain of her cheer team, since she and I both have had long discussions about demerits if your saddle shoes weren't perfectly polished. She's thinking another immaculate white right now With His Holiness coming to town, I figure she's a little busy.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

Bah. Reunions. I don't blame you for not taking part. I spent part of my weekend watching old home videos from when we were babies and even that was painful. Why go back?

I've never been to a reunion yet. Well, that's a lie. I went to one reunion. My 5 year high school reunion when they had it in the basement of some club in NY. Not cool. Then I hooked up with my high school crush who dumped me for another girl, made him fall in love with me, then ditched his ass. So you could say, that I went to one reunion, solely for revenge.

4:59 PM  
Blogger WDCD/DRFS/aka Sue said...

I missed my high school reunions...and I still get crap from a few people about it. I went to 3 different high I could have gone to two other reunions. I did go to my 20 year college reunion and found that although people looked was really all the popular, clique people that showed up and they had no use for you if you weren't a part of their group. My girlfriends and I decided we'd never go again. Also...the people you'd really like to see at a reunion never show up. My parents went to their high school reunions and now that they are in their 70's...have kind of caught back up with their "gang". I think significant time has to pass AND that your friends have to be real people and not jerky or shallow.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Velvet: Leave it to you to do it up in style. I did look in the pictures for the one boyfriend who would have possibly showed up...he didn't. The boys I would really want to see wouldn't have been there: other schools, older, out of country...whatever. And as I told 66, without exaggeration, my immediate group all blew out of here...back to NYC or Maine or Chicago...or Finland....and a huge slew of them to the West Coast. I always thought it was a bit odd that so many of them left D.C....and they were from here, for the most part.

Sue: One thing I could tell from the photographs was that a cross section sorta/kinda showed up. Oddly enough, many of the kids that wouldn't have been considered popular, but not all. Only a few that I had any friendship with showed, and when I reflected was a big school, and it was surprising how many did NOT show. Huge number.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

That is odd. Almost everyone stayed in my hometown. I'm one of the only ones who left, save a few who checked out to Colorado during college.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

I've never attended high school reunions, though I'm in touch with several people who were in my class.

I hated high school, really hated it. Never had a desire to hang out with any of them ever ever ever again.

Thanks for the memories. Wow. I love the way people's faces and bodies reflect all they've been through. I find it beautiful, even if there's sadness or whatever. Time makes its mark on everyone, no matter how much plastic surgery they endure!

2:22 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Reunions are much like what I-66 and others have alluded to: voyeuristic opportunities to see how well/poor your former classmates turned out.

Otherwise, you're just going to hang out with the people you still keep in touch with, if any.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Velvet: Most people in this town seem to have come from somewhere me, anyway. I am in touch with a few native borns, like myself,and I can assure you we joke about the rara avis status.

Reya: High school was an odd thing. It tripled my social world, but immediately after graduation...maybe one or two years beyond, I still saw "some" of those people, then no one. And for those remaining in D.C.? I never run into any of them...VERY rare, and that strikes me as odd too.

Phil: I would expect you to show up for your high school reunion in a lime green 1959 Cadillac with a stuffed beaver on the hood and clouds of cosmic dust poofing out as your opening the door. Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe" when you honk the horn, and a whistle tip welded inside your exhaust pipe, Bubb Rubb blowing out the sound system.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous ma said...

High School was strange, at least you had boys there?

6:53 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

M.A. All of my schools were co-educational until the third (out of four) colleges. As for that third, by then, I was there strictly for attention to my studies, plow through, get the degree and move on, so it wasn't a hardship. was a hardship. Being me, if I had to read 10 books, I read 100. I wanted a true, pure education.

I doubt very seriously I would have liked going to a girl's high school or the first college, and yes, I've read the studies and heard the arguments as to why it can be beneficial to women. I'm not quite sure I agree with that blanket belief.

The last of my two schools were graduate schools, and I think I appreciated being returned into a competitive field where I had to be good with a true sampling of society genderwise: not off protected and nurtured in that cloister (literally) where I had been....not that they didn't put me over the rack.

I'll tell you a funny (true) story. In that school, a priest was the Chairman of my department. When he heard I had been accepted into Georgetown for what proved my final graduate study, he said, "Good. Now the Jesuits will get their hands on you." By that he meant, "If you thought I made your life hell, you are about to learn how to redefine hell."

Personally, I felt those professors (for the most part...not all) were there to see me push and achieve to the best of my ability. One thing I've pointed out to those in academia who complain about "tough teachers," ...They WANT you to succeed. When you gather those awards, honors and Latin words after your name? It only makes them look good and gives them more clout bringing honor to them, their tenure, the department and ultimately the school. We were there to see me work hard, and work hard I did. At times, I miss that challenge.

Don't misread that. I had a few professors that were pure poison full of their own pathologies in wanting me to fail, or finding ways to try to make me fail. Someone could have a blog of nothing but rotten experiences in academia. People would flock to it. You would think people, especially at graduate level, being intelligent, would behave better, but no. You find all of the worst in any public institution, including those dedicated to your education.

I tried my best to stick it out with the bad eggs(dropping a few if need be) and trying to not let their sickness destroy my work or distract me.

I went back to school last summer and took a lot of computer courses: XHTML (and advanced), Photoshop (and adv.), Dreamweaver (adv.), CSS, Fireworks..some other was a crash and burn summer for two months. Sometimes the night classes overlapped in when they started, and I was getting home really, really "I'm too tired to be behind the wheel of a car tired" late. Won't be doing that this summer.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Drew T said...

8:44 PM  
Blogger d. chedwick bryant said...

Wow this was a post among posts--it took me back to the very tumultuous / confusing years of high school.

I haven't looked at any of those websites. I went to 3 different High schools (located on both coasts) I didn't graduate with the either of the schools that I knew best-but with a third school where I seemed to be completely invisible (seriously!) I have been invited to attend reunions from both school #1 and #2 but never from #3, which can only mean I was actually invisible.
I briefly considered attending reunions I was invited to, but never did. One school "reunites" ever 5 years!

11:02 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

DCB: Thanks for the compliment. I spend hours writing about boogers. I give and give and give....

I think this school does an "every five" thing, too...or it did. I was telling some friends about looking at those pictures, and how they've upset me. Not just for those pictured, but the missing ones...who've been missing a long time. One friend said, "There's the devil to pay sometimes when you open certain doors," and he was right.

4:42 PM  

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