It churned around in my thoughts, refreshingly not because I longed to be a dress size smaller or slightly less single when I'd meet u with some of the hundreds of people I graduated with during the days of bigger hair, higher-waisted jeans and just-as synthy music. I just wanted to see what had unfolded in the lives of all these friends I saw in the hallways, huddled over giant print shop machines as we cranked out the yearbook and school newspaper, on the dreaded track in gym and backstage before senior plays with the drama club. I wanted to see what they look like, what jobs they do, if they have children, where on earth their lives have taken them.
What was coming, though, I asked for but could never have predicted.
It would be different than the 10-year, at least that's what I hoped. There would be less pretense, less to prove on this side of our 30s.
Even if it that was all there, I assured myselfthat this reunion would be different than the last for me. A decade after graduation, I spent an evening with my classmates at Joe's on Weed Street, a big frat boy of a bar with no ambience and bad beer. But I didn't care. I was fascinated, and I was there with my boyfriend who became my husband a few years later and has now been my ex-husband for several years. I wasn't yet a mother. I was only a few months into full-time employment in fundraising and I was already desperate to get out of the business. It was humid and my straightened hair poofed up and curled so that, to my horror, I looked exactly like the senior picture pinned to my black cocktail dress.
That was then, and back then, I could have never foreseen the woman I'd be preparing for her 20th reunion -- divorced, doing a job she could not have designed better for herself, a single mother living only five blocks from her childhood home. I wonder if the picture would have made me sad, or at least bewildered, if it would have surprised me less than I think looking in the rear-view mirror.
As the months ticked off on the calendar, I began to see more and more of my classmates appear on Facebook. Whether that was coincidence or just good tech timing, it felt like the reunion party was slowly starting online, even a year out. Soon I was connecting online with twenty, forty, then more than fifty people from my class, and not just ones whose names I sort of recognized or pictures I kind of remembered from some hazy memory of World Civ. There they were -- the kids I danced next to on platforms at all-ages clubs, the ones I squeezed in next to for a ride home in some guy's half-dead 5-speed Civic, my locker partner, that cute boy from Drafting who liked Huey Lewis too.
Oh, yes. That cute boy. The one who either had a scowl or wicked smirk at all times, with floppy brown hair, throwing a frisbee across the lawn during a free period. There he was.
My surprise to see him on Facebook was tempered by a deep feeling that took root junior year when he suddenly moved far away. I knew that I would know him again one day. That one day came with a photo of a man in a life jacket, staring with crinkly eyes into the camera from a sailboat on some early fall day. He was a friend of another high school friend and when I saw that photo with his name neatly typed below, i thought, "What fun!" OK, let's be honest -- I am sure I thought something far less chipper, but still, I sent him a cheery hello message and asked him what all the sailing pics were about.
The reunion, then secured for a date nearly a year away at some hotel in the suburbs, had already started for me. He and I began emailing, sharing bits about where we'd been and who we'd been married to, what kind of poetry we read and what would happen next on "Mad Men" and which Depeche Mode songs we still like to get naked to. We laughed about mutual friends we didn't even realize we had in common all those years ago.
Our back and forth went on for a few months. He was busy in San Francisco and I was healing a shredded heart, slowly becoming a runner, starting to order and return dresses for the big prom-like buffet planned for the summer. Then somehow, it became more.
Staring at myself in cocktail dresses bought online and hunting through lists of missing classmates and smiling to see some homecoming king now looking more like my dad than a boy I longed to dance with as a awkward girl in glasses, delighting in finding out if that one couple stayed together or if the lead in the play really did go on to LA -- these are the ways I expected spend the year before my 20th reunion.
And yet, there I was, refreshing my inbox over and over to see if he responded to a message, scrambling to put together a feigned business trip to California to meet up with him in person, looking at that sailing photo and wondering if this could be something real or would be some fun way to bring a high school crush full circle for a bit.
Now, nearly a year after those first friendly messages and a few months after the reunion actually took place, I am crazy in love with this boy who teased me from the back of Earth Science class and who became the man now teases me from the other side of Skype.
We live far away from each other and have lives that keep us tied to our own cities. I can count the total number of visits we've had on two hands. It's not easy. Still, when I walked into the reunion with him beside me, it filled me up that we, so separate and disconnected in many ways and for decades, shared this small corner of our lives in the then and in the now.
I've kept it quiet until today because I needed to give it room to breathe. Like more relationships than are marked this way on Facebook (or maybe everywhere), it's complicated. Our time-space continuum is interrupted by intense work schedules and visitation hours and plane fares and what each of us wants out of this time of life. He's new to the National Guard. I'm a mother. It's complicated.
Until we are in a room together, be that where the buffet and Rob Bass are laid out for the Class of '90 or a champagne bar in Denver or at a little place in one of our cities. In those moments, it is easy and wonderful and just right.
Lil E does not know about him yet and we've not yet found reliable ways to get to the good part of seeing each other more often. I am hoping, though. I'm really hoping.
And I think the universe has its fingers crossed along with me. Before the reunion foresight began last fall and before this man landed on my laptop screen, I had a weepy but heartening call with one of my very best friends. I was trying to be done with a toxic relationship I felt very wrapped up in and having a hard time seeing my way out.
"Stop trying to figure out how to get rid of stuff," she told me pointendly. "What do you want? Who do you want? What would fill you up? For God's sake, tell the universe what you want, not what you don't."
It felt harsh to hear her demand that I snap out of it, but there was no hesitation for me. I blurted out the first thoughts in my head.
"I want to be with someone who is centered and still and laughs hard and is smoking hot and will make me dinner. I want to be done with all the crazy fighting. I want to be done cooking dinner.," I told her. And then I laughed as I yelled at the universe, "UNIVERSE! Send me a yoga teacher chef! This instant!"
Yes, that cute and tortured 15-year-old from Drafting is all of those things, a very bendy, dry-humored, dig-deep chef included. He doesn't like labels, and I roll my eyes when he'll call me his girl but not his girlfriend. Sometimes, when we are stretched out, talking intensely or taking a dirty joke entirely too far, I see a flash of that kid I knew a long time ago. It comforts the complications of our situation, of the lives we have now. If we fumbled our way through time and years and states and heartache to this place, perhaps the path can continue for us.
We shall see. For now, even when I long to see him, I'm reminded that it's a good ache to love someone new like this, to feel this much from something started over a pencil drawing of a 3-D screw (I did not make that up, I promise).
It's hard and wonderful and easy. He's serious and a tough cookie and so good for me. When he smiles or wraps an arm around me, well...I'm smitten.He might not gush it but (shhh) he is also. He has a place in my life, a newly grown bit of my heart. He's my Not Boyfriend and it's time for you to meet him, too.