It was the Spring of 1983 and I was bristling with failure. Having spent most of my Sophomore year lettering in Truancy, I found myself masterminding a cover-up and flinching every time the phone ring. How else was I going to support my lifestyle of academic leisure - than to deceive my parents into thinking I was doing okay in school - when in fact I was rarely ever there. Oh, I'd roll up in the morning with halfway good intentions, but it only took about three syllables to convince me my time would be far better spent tooling around town in search of intoxicants. More often than not, we found them. It was, after all, the early '80's and while my crowd wasn't yet part of the burgeoning yuppie class, we were already partying like rock stars. At least during school hours. Afterward, I'd slink back home or to my ratty fast food job, usually under the false pretense I'd just wrapped up a hard day of class. It was not so. Still, I'd erected one hell of a facade and I managed to hide behind it until late in the school year...
Then I got caught.
Let's just say my car was spotted out and about during school hours. I wasn't even in it that day, but the fact that a classmate was cruising the strip in it on a Tuesday afternoon was more than enough to tip off my poor Mother, a Godly woman who didn't deserve a reprobate for a son. A day or so later, the loudspeaker summoned me to the library. I walked in to find Mom sitting at the head of a long table with every teacher I had that year flanking her sides. A most painful intervention ensued, one ending not in rehab but the equally sobering news that I'd get another crack at tenth grade when I returned in the Fall to do it All. Over. Again. Now, I can't fully explain what I was trying to accomplish with my year of living dangerously, but repeating the sophomore experience wasn't it. Still, I left the library that day a broken soul, knowing that I - a kid with a reasonable intellect and a highly developed sense of self-doubt has just failed the tenth grade.
A word on failing the tenth grade: I don't care how clever, hip, insouciant or permanently stoned you happen to feel, getting 'held back' in high school will wreck your social standing and plunder your soul. Not that I didn't deserve it. I did. In the months that preceded my spectacular flame-out, I pioneered new methods in vagrancy, sloth and stupor. I no more should have been promoted a grade than the wino down the street, but unlike him, I still had my own teeth - if not a modicum of teenage ambition. So, I hunkered down...NOT. To be honest, I stayed pretty much the same - an occasionally clever young man who read every book he could find - minus the ones assigned him. Sure, I learned a thing or two about managing frivolity, but I remained a slacker with a massive vocabulary. A few years later, I wormed my way across the stage to pick up a diploma I'd just barely learned and fled the area. I'd like to say I never looked back, but you know me better than that. To this day, I dream of being in high school, lost in the hallways with no idea what grade I'm supposed to be in that day. Whenever I find myself slinging a lens around a classroom, I look past the pretty people and find some awkward soul to fill my screen. It may do them no good, but it makes me feel better...
So why am I telling YOU all this?
Well, in just a couple of days I'm attending a most unlikely event: Eastern Wayne High School's Class of 1985 25th Reunion. I do so as an expatriate of sorts, for if you'll do the math, you'll find I graduated a full year later. Still, the organizers of said reunion have graciously invited me - and after much consideration, I've decided to go. Why? To see some long lost friends, of course. I may have logged an extra year in high school, but many of the classmates I fell behind were souls I've known since kindergarten. Being the kind of guy who likes to drunk-dial old pals, this kind of commiseration is in my wheelhouse, so I'm putting my pride in a suit coat pocket and wading into the fray this Saturday night. Will there be some awkward moments? Perhaps - but truth be told, that second helping of Sophomore year made me who I am today and I'm not the least bit ashamed of what I did to get here. Sure, it helps that I get to squire around my pretty wife, but this particular evening will be about more than ego. It will be about reconnecting with characters from my past, catching up with folks who remember me only for my beat-up junker and flare for idiocy. Don't get me wrong: I make no excuses for my (lack of) high school performance and while teachers and classmates may be surprised to hear I'm semi-succesful despite myself, I'll try my best NOT to totally come off like George Costanza.
Wish me luck.